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Sunday, 25 February 2007



Nice post, so true. Love the coke example.

giles rhys jones

great example. search is much maligned as just a single stage at the bottom of the purchase cycle. it does that and more besides.

Jon Miller

I thin saying Google is a "reputation management system" sounds horribly jargony ... you could equally call the press a "reputation management platform" (I mention this only because I think when we talk about digital, we still have a habit of using too much unnecessary jargon!)

I love the Coke example. It shows how for some big brands, people really have strong opinions about mainstream communications.

Another Coke example: the Christmas Coke ad provoked a mini-storm on YouTube, with people doing their own edits and laying on different music, etc (mainly as a protest that the old 'holidays are coming' song had been dumped).

EG http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asps-R6NQQQ

I think this is all great for Coke. In terms of your Google example, I don't think Coke should in any way try to "manage their reputation" on-line. A brand like Coke should be confident enough to do their thing and let people make up their own minds.


Interesting stuff. i think the points you raise are spot on. Searching for an idea, place, person, or product is like sticking up your hand and saying "i might be interested in this". Businesses lose these warm prospects every day by not embracing this declaration of interest and therefore failing to manage their reputation.


Perhaps "reputation management" is not a great term. Coke's aim is to get a can or bottle within reach of every person on the planet. The same should apply to their communications and it seems they've missed a basic trick here by not giving search enough thought. I agree that Coke should be confident enough to do they're own thing, but they also need to make sure that what they do is easily accessible. Coke is also a bit of an anomaly, but for less famous brands i would argue that search is even more important.


Jon - While I agree with a lot of what you say, I do think that brands should be aware of and where applicable engaging and putting their side of the story across.
I don't think that brands ought to "own" the online conversation but they should be a part of it and effective search strategies allow them to do that


MJ - what about 'engagement awareness' then, or something similar?

Regardless of what it's called, I'd define it similarly to Amelia; being aware of the other side of the story.


Interesting and true!!! SEO SEM is now much more than a technical thing it became really strategic and that obviously a lot of brand underestimate.

Leland M

This is interesting.

On one hand there is no doubt that people are influenced by the information they find on Google.

On the other hand, people do not determine their opinions based on one or two sites. Rather than being “one and done,” people troll around the Web assembling clues. I say “clues” because online info is rarely taken at face value and clues are inherently “iffy.” They suggest a path to truth but don’t promise it – hence red herrings. People want to collect a lot of different information, compare it and then make up their minds. And, as you know, “different information” includes information on the web and beyond. In short, people are poking around for clues that give them a lead – a potential way to understand a product or question.

My point is that for people, the Web is a popular resource but it’s not the bible.

Ditto for businesses. Google may be a cultural zeitgeist, but it’s not a brand zeitgeist (for most products):
1. Aside from technology products, most people who use/know of your products probably don’t post content online.
2. Those people who do use your product and post content probably won’t talk about your product – even if they like it or not. It’s just not that important to them.
3. People who do post content about your product are probably more fringe people who do not represent a majority opinion or even a swelling one. Also, I’d be wary to call these fringe posters “influencers.” Posting content online is too easy now and having an online presence doesn’t an influential make.

Therefore, to call Google a “Brand Management System” feels a bit like we’re giving Google more credit than it deserves. For every online site Google aggregates, there are millions of conversations, thoughts and behaviors that it doesn’t.

Maybe a better term would be an “automated brand alert system.” An algorithm could be set up to comb the Web looking for certain phrases or words about the brand/campaign. It would then alert you of clues that may be of interest. In the end, this brand alert system would be an auxiliary component of a more comprehensive brand management system.

All in all, Google is a blunt tool for poking around information that can’t be taken at face.

giles rhys jones

people build brand like birds from the scraps they find lying around. so i agree with that point. a blunt tool - christ have you done any search marketing and seen how sophisticated it can be. merely the appearance in search results has an impact on your brand perception not withstanding actually clicking.


Leland M


Yes, I absolutely agree with you about SEM being precise and effective.

With said, I should have been clearer when I slammed Google as "a blunt tool." And maybe I was being too hyperbolic, which I do sometimes to stir up conversation.

When I wrote the above post, I was reacting to Clive Thomson’s statement that Google is the way to learn “what do other people think about this stuff?” It felt like Clive placed Google as the final word in assessing a brand’s reputation.

So “blunt tool” did not refer to its marketing/sales abilities, which it is obviously very precise. Nor was it referring to its ability to measure how people interact with the brand online, which, again, it is precise. Instead, “blunt tool” referred to Google’s ability to properly gauge what people think about a brand.

I feel Google cannot properly assess what people’s opinions because it is limited to analyzing what is posted online. And not every opinion posted online clearly captures what people are thinking - as shown above with me. IMHO, Google is not the final word. It’s an easy starting point that gives you clues to investigate and to determine their worth. It’s a springboard. What is found on Google must be crosschecked against other sources.

With what I know about Google’s capabilities, that’s my opinion – loosely held, of course. But I’m wrong a lot. There are a lot of smart things happening at Google so maybe I’m missing something.

Mary Lynn

Insightful and illuminating. Indeed not what Coca-cola had in mind. With as much work as they do protecting their copyrights, they need to work just as hard protecting their 'brand rights'. This is a place to start.


Great post, as a fellow nominee this is probably my favourite.


Great post, as a fellow nominee this is probably my favourite.


Brand Managers clientside have an impression of their brand that doesn't appear to be shared by many of their target consumers, as illustrated by the Coke subvertisement. The idea of using Search Relations as a way to control the brand message seems antithetical to the founding spirit of the global network.

Do I care what a Brand Manager has to say to me as a 21st Century consumer? Not really. The brand is what the people make of it, particularly online. Use search to monitor the brand reputation, by all means, but try to control dissenting/alternative voices and the conversation will move elsewhere. Let's not make the same mistakes with participatory media as are still being made in traditional ATL or you'll find some script-kiddie publishing a paid-for-search results blocker that ends up getting bundled in the next wave of browser etc etc.


The Wired article has now come out and is gathering a huge amount of interest online

Here are a couple of useful links:




Randy Allen Bishop

Yes Google search is filtered and quite strange sometimes.

Canadian Online Pharmacy

this blog is great, I really like has many qualities, for one has very good subject for discucion.

Macey Prange

You've made such good points on this article. And yes, Google is not just a search engine anymore. It can help a company or personality earn reputation. There may be some misconceptions regarding this but, overall, people still depend on Google as a search engine site.

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