I’ve always been surprised when I see Google or Facebook appear on any “top brands” lists. It’s branding 101 that a strong brand must have loyalty, awareness, positive associations, perceived quality, as well as proprietary assets, based on the model from David Aaker, and implicit in this, I always thought, was trust. You can neither be loyal to something you don’t trust, nor can you have positive brand associations toward it, nor perceive an untrustworthy thing to possess quality. According to a survey from a consultancy, Prophet, which looked at over 400 brands across 27 industries, polling nearly 10,000 customers, we don’t trust either Google or Facebook. Neither makes it into the top 50; those that make it into the top 10 are Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, Spotify, Lego, and Sephora. Google slots in at 55th, and Facebook at 98th.
To me, the Prophet approach makes far more sense, as for years—long before Edward Snowden revealed the extent of us surveillance under PRISM—I had been blogging about privacy gaffes and other serious issues behind both companies.
People may find Google and Facebook to have utility and enjoyment, yet we willingly volunteer plenty of private information to these sites. We do not trust what they do with this information. Adweek notes that in a separate survey, Facebook was the least trusted brand when it came to personal information, making it worse than the US federal government. There have been so many occasions where users have found certain privacy settings on Facebook altered without their own intervention; and I’ve constantly maintained that, with the bots and spammers I encounter daily on the social network, its claims of user numbers are difficult to accept. In fact, if you have Facebook’s advertising preferences set to reject tracking, the site will not stop doing so, compiling a massive and sometimes inaccurate picture of who you are. What it does with that, given that you have told the site that it should not use that information, is anyone’s guess. It makes you wonder why that data collection continues. At least Google (now) stops tracking advertising preferences when you ask it to.
These surveys indicate that consumers are wising up, and it opens both Google and Facebook up to challenge.
Google dethroned the biggest website and search engine in the world when it was released, so no one’s position is guaranteed. Duck Duck Go, a search engine far better at privacy, has chipped away at Google’s share; and I find so much Facebook fatigue out there that it could follow Myspace into irrelevance. When I hear those speak of these two companies’ positions as being unassailable, I take it with a grain of salt.
We already have seen peak Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter), for when it came to Super Bowl stats this year, there was a massive 25 per cent drop in activity. Interestingly, despite the trending #RIPTwitter hashtag last week, I don’t agree with those who think Twitter is heading into oblivion, for the simple fact that the site is less invasive and seemingly more honest than Google and Facebook. Those same experts, after all, said that Google Plus would be the Facebook-killer, while I consistently disagreed from day one.
The Medinge Group predicted correctly in the early 2000s when it was stated that consumers would desire greater integrity and transparency from all their brands, something reflected in our book, Beyond Branding. I don’t believe that we are so different when it comes to dealing with online brands.
In the last 24 hours, author Holly Jahangiri found an illustration depicting child pornography on Facebook that had been reported by many of her friends—only for Facebook to deem it constantly acceptable, despite what it states in its own terms and conditions. It was only when she Tweeted about it that Facebook finally responded publicly; and only when she involved a US government agency did the page disappear. The pressure of accountability like that against dishonest companies tells me Twitter will be around for a while yet.
@facebook apparently, hardcore digital kiddie porn doesn't bother you at all. In spite of this section in your "Community Standards."
— H Jahangiri, Author (@HollyJahangiri) February 9, 2016
The trend this year, I believe, is the ongoing rise of challengers to these two brands. When the tipping-point against them occurs, I do not yet know. But now, I sense that it’s closer than ever.
This blog post is an adaptation of the editorial in issue 35 of Lucire.
6 thoughts on “Google and Facebook should not head “top brands” lists when consumers do not trust them”
There is an excellent alternative for FB but is sadly under-subscribed as yet – and that is minds (www.minds.com)
I am thinking of migrating – or at least double posting.
Excellent blog by the way – thank you.
Hilary (Wales, UK)
I don’t think any of us really gave meaningful consent when it comes to how much of our private data has been given away, shared, mined, assumed by algorithm…it was a failure of the imagination, and a certain naive trust.
These companies have insinuated themselves into our lives. Utility and convenience, indeed. Stunning how quickly they’ve made themselves seem so essential. It’s going to be an interesting 40 days for me, giving up Facebook for Lent. I don’t say “forever,” but I was quite disillusioned and disappointed by their response to those reports, yesterday, and need a break. People talk about how they’re upset by the hate speech and negativity they see there – they should take a break. It’s fairly easy to deactivate your account, although I really wish I’d captured the emotionally manipulative (if somewhat comical, knowing MY friends) screen that showed about five of their profile pics and the caption: “[your friend’s name] will miss you!” Really, Facebook? They’ll find me. If they miss me that badly. But I’m sure you wouldn’t make it easy, if you could throw up obstacles to that. No doubt you’re already working on algorithms to determine what we see first and what we never see on the Internet at large.