So Google’s potential withdrawal from China clearly allows them to play the moral high card and exhibit adherence to their brand values – epitomized by their motto “Do no evil.”
Despite the significant business implications, they prioritized safeguarding the information and trust they’ve garnered from users around the world – and we applaud them for it.
But, as we all know Google’s footprint in the Chinese market was still nascent with local Chinese search brands like Baidu, Youku and Sogou established as the dominant players. Still with its proven tenacity and continuous innovation, Google would have undoubtedly expanded that footprint and still may.
Whatever the rationale, Google’s stance raises the bigger question – what will other global companies in the massive Chinese market be willing to sacrifice for the sake of business over brand value? At least 34 other technology companies including Adobe, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Symantec and Yahoo are all believed to have been targeted as well. We are still awaiting responses by most of these companies, who are looking into the allegations – although Microsoft, a common victim of global cyber-attacks, has stated that for now it’s still business as usual in China.
So has the brand gauntlet been thrown?
Are we about to see other companies evaluate the role of their brands in China and act out in response? Or, is it more about keeping your head down until it’s all blown over. Maybe their brand values are less dramatic than Google’s and their actions less scrutinized by the world. But they must consider what role do brand values play when juxtaposed with business ambitions? How will other brands balance the two under challenging circumstances?
Perhaps more importantly, this issue raises the question of what brand values really mean relative to financial performance and shareholder value. How are they prioritized among employees who are expected to deliver on brand values and business results? When a company upholds a motto like “Do no evil,” how do the employees who are asked to live by those values contribute to the debate? Perhaps when issues of ethics are involved it’s about time to start asking them firsthand.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Paul Parkin, SALT Branding
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