What will do the Google brand most damage – profit slump or communications bungling?

Google logoShare trading in Google was suspended for a while when its third-quarter results were published early by mistake.

The results revealed a 20% profit slump, but what was the biggest potential long-term damage to the brand – the figures or the bungling?

Business results matter, but all companies have ups and downs. Many traditional media companies have suffered reversals in the face of changing markets – areas where Google has benefitted in the past. CEO’s present to the analysts, explain the figures, make their future forecasts, and get on with job.

Share prices suffer for the company (Google was down 9% when shares were suspended) – but that is a business fact. Investors will take a long view of performance and projections and move on. It is a pragmatic decision.

Brand damage is another thing – it is an emotional dimension. We don’t have quantitative measures such as share prices, though all are interlinked. Crucially, the brand is more likely to be damaged by the apparent bumbling and fundamental errors in releasing the results early.

The Google brand has ridden quite high, displaying sound judgement and competence, where other internet brands have skidded from error to error.

The general public is often unconcerned with corporate performance so long as the brand is comfortably between the extremes of insolvency and excess profits.  PR disasters are likely to inflict more lasting dents.

This blip for Google is unlikely to be an enduring or terminal issue. It should be a warning to all of us however not to take eyes off the details of process, especially in corporate communications, however big and successful we grow.

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2 comments

  1. Good article. The delta between the public perception of a brand and the business community’;s perception of the same brand can often be a large one. Members of the general public might tut-tut the news that google botched their own announcement. But if asked a question to which they don’t know the answer, their response will still be “google it.”

    In the long run, the brand won’t take a large hit, if any. And apart from the business community, the effects of this episode won’t be lasting. Mostly because the impact of these events don’t fall directly on the public – there’s no price they have to pay for the error.

    If each and every one of us had to pony up some cash, even as little as two cents apiece, then this story would have some legs. The uproar would be deafening, and the google brand imperiled, if not brought down altogether.

    But we’re looking at Wall Street, a place that’s almost a different planet. There, they’re using Other People’s Money. Not ours, directly. So, we don’t feel it; we’re not affected. And as long as the text box surrounded by white space keeps appearing on our screens to dispense the knowledge that we seek, we’ll keep coming back for more.

    Until they erect a pay wall asking for two cents per query….

    1. Good points! Interesting to note how Facebook’s share dealings DID impact the brand, where, I agree, Google’s are unlikely to have much long term damage.
      Thanks for your comment!

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