Google's Brand Is Not What It Once Was

The company was once the top brand in the country, but it has fallen in recent years
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Alexis Madrigal

Maybe it is the Snowden revelations. Maybe it is Google Glass. Maybe it is the creeping realization that Google is a megacorporation, and not just some quirky guys who help you find webpages. 

But over the last five years, Google's brand has fallen from the very top of the YouGov BrandIndex Buzz rankings all the way down to 19. 

The methodology behind the chart is simple. YouGov asks respondents one question, "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"

So, what we see here is a rise in negative chatter about Google and/or a decrease in positive talk.

That's the context for the recent small Occupy Google protest, which police broke up Tuesday night, arresting 10 people, according to the protesters' Twitter account. There were also multiple protests during the keynote at Google I/O, the company's premiere conference for developers. One protester was there as part of the on-going war over housing evictions in San Francisco's trendiest neighborhoods. Another reportedly said, "You're all working for a totalitarian company that builds robots that kill people."

These kinds of things happen to coal companies and Monsanto and military contractors all the time. But in 2002 or 2009, this kind of thing did not happen to Google. Googlers were the cream of the cream. Google used to be thought of as a magical place, but like Gandalf magical. They made Google Earth, basically just for fun. They tried to scan all the books in the world. It seemed like every month, there was some new Google thing that kind of blew your mind with the positive potential of technology.
 
But now, Google owns a defense contractor—Boston Dynamics—and the general sentiment about the Internet industry is more shock and awe than wonder and delight. At least externally, the company slogan of "Don't be evil," is mostly referenced with wry irony now.
 
But, so far, these brand troubles haven't made their way to Wall Street. The company's stock chart looks about as good as it is possible to look. 
 

 

 

 
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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