How Search Engine Algorithms Killed Brand Reputation

Ding, Dong Search Engine Algorithms Killed the need for having a Good Reputation

Reputation Management in Real World Marketing

When creating a brand in the traditional marketplace the focus is always on reputation. What matters is what consumers think about your product or service and how that image is promoted. When companies are launched or compete to stay ahead of the curve, the focus is always on improvement and innovation because without a good reputation in the marketplace a business is doomed to failure.

Even established brands like Apple and Samsung fight competitive wars, vying to create products that will capture the biggest share of the market. The smallest detail is scrutinized and consumer satisfaction is made the key to success. They maybe big brand but when consumers talk, they stop and listen.

Apple and Samsung are brands in the same industry that have been competing with each other at all levels. However, they are both such strong names that they guard their reputation without apology and have managed to make a niche for their product in the same market. Conversely, the real world is full of cases in point where household names have bitten the dust when their reputation is smirched and consumers begin to turn away.

Copyright Allegations: Apple vs. Samsung Lawsuit and Counter Suit

Regardless of the industry, there is always the threat of corporate espionage as big names fight over alleged ‘copying ‘of their intellectual property. The Apple and Samsung lawsuit and counter suit is just one example of the state of affairs that is more common than exceptional in the business world.

In such high profile cases, proving damages is hard, but the market does get divided and hard core users are created that allow one brand to dominate over the other. In this case, Apple dominated over Samsung for a long time, and it is only recently, in the third quarter of 2013 that Samsung began to take a lead as Apple stock fell.

Apple vs Samsung Lawsuit and Counter Suit

Samsung users feel validated in this new state of change, while loyal Apple users still contend that they will use Apple forever. The law suit filed by Apple was challenged through a counter suit which suggested that Samsung is confident in its ‘innovativeness’.

In the case of Apple and Samsung the companies are both so innovative that it is hard to create a solid case of copyright infringement as the brand reputation is managed well. Other cases do not have it so easy. Famous music personalities, politicians and authors have all tried to become successful through plagiarism but none have ever found that success. Consider the following cases of plagiarism and copyright infringement that caused big names to become muddied through their actions.

Content Copyright Infringement: Biden Pulls out of Presidential Race 1988

As a senator from Delaware, Joe Biden wanted to be president, so he ran for the presidential race. In 1987 in a conclusion of a speech given in Iowa he spoke several lines that were taken from a speech given by Neal Kinnock, a UK politician. His challenger Michael Dukakis identified the phrases and then created videos that called him out on the lines. Maureen Dowd, a reporter for the New York Times broke the story in the national press. Biden actually pulled out of the race and failed to be a presidential candidate in 1988 due to the controversy.

Biden Pulls out of Presidential Race 1988

Vanilla Ice Plagiarizes Queen & Bowie

Vanilla Ice, a rapper became a household name with the number one hit “Ice Ice Baby” in 1990 and then became an even bigger name when it was revealed that the very chart that had made him famous, was taken from Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure”-no license required.

Though he had created a variation of the hit, the plagiarism was so obvious that the case never even went to court, Ice settled out of court! He was a one hit wonder as people refused to listen to his version of the song and from the top charts it rapidly fell. He was seen as a failed copycat.

Vanilla Ice Plagiarizes Queen Bowie

Real World Marketing Ethics

The above examples are just a few instances of the thousands of cases the judiciary deals with every day in terms of plagiarism, copyright alleged infringements of intellectual property rights. There are specific ethical standards marketers and corporate owners have to follow in order to manage brand reputation. Even an allegation of copyright can prove harmful for a corporation in the real world as stocks begin to fall. Authors and musicians lose their integrity, while politicians are in a category of their own…they become Vice Presidents.

The reputation of any form of ‘idea’, ‘product’ or ‘service’ is strictly guarded to ensure its continued success. Every case is scrutinized individually and a bad reputation means the end of its life span. Unfortunately, all this happens in the real world. In the digital market ethics, rules and regulations are based on more state-of-the-art robotic technology-better known as algorithms.

Digital Marketing and the lack of Critical Intelligence in Brand Reputation

In the digital world there is an algorithm that ‘arithmetically’ creates a reputation for the website or company based on whatever factors have been inserted into the calculating equations.

Critical Intelligence in Brand Reputation

For Google, the current monopolistic search engine, the factors may include the number of back links, social-media flags, content keywords, bounce rate of the page etc. The fact is, as per Google, the algorithm is actually created to work in a way that it mirrors the value of reputation offline, in reality however, it rarely works that way. When all is said and done in the search engine algorithm, the actual reputation of a company or the consumer opinion holds little value in this digital process.

Commponents of Google Ranking Algorithm

Google, Bing and Yahoo! Are doing their best but they are limited in their success of replicating a ‘real world’ marketplace because there is marked lack of human intelligence causing a deviation within the calculated factors.

Logo Garden Plagiarism Allegations

Consider the LogoGarden.com plagiarism allegations in 2011 in terms of logo design. Logogarden.com was penalized by Google in April 2012 when the Penguin and Panda updates took place, as it had a lot of ‘bad’ links. However, today when you search the term ‘logo design’ the firm is placed very firmly in the second position of the first page, in Google. The first thing that crossed my mind was they did a tremendous job of getting the penalty lifted and engaging in better search engine marketing techniques. How did they do it?

I searched Google for the back links that lead to LogoGarden.com and to my surprise and shock, it was not because they had garnered good links from great sites talking about them, rather it was a criticism of their lack of professionalism that had put them on the first page. The links I found leading back to the site were from Drawsigner.com, Jeff Fisher’s Blog, Graphic Design Forum, and more. The first two pages of the results were riddled with designers complaining quite publicly about how Logo Garden ripped off their designs and was selling them on its site.

Logo Garden Plagiarism Allegations

Bad Reviews Unwittingly Manipualte the Alogirthm

Now, when these reputable designers talked about the plagiarism they created ‘backlinks’ to the website Logo Garden. This caused the Google Algorithm to go into over drive and create false associations. It thought that since so many ‘designers’ are ‘talking’ about and ‘linking’ to a ‘design’ site, the website must be authentic. The keywords within the text are synonymous with the website and so the rankings for the website began to rise. Today it sit’s firmly at #2 on the first page of Google.

The fact is in a traditional marketplace where no such algorithms exist and marketers strive to critically analyze data from marketing campaigns by scrupulously reading each review posted and, assimilating all content to create results in terms of effectiveness, the website ‘company’ would have long ago closed down.

In the online world plagiarism of design concepts is ‘rewarded’ as the company got a 2M dollar investment, and algorithms work in the companies favor despite various article content disparaging his business (LogoDesignLove.com). The fact is Algorithms, including Google’s algorithms lack the ‘critical ability’ to sieve through the content and see whether it is negative or positive. They simply create an objective graph that allows companies to bump up rankings even off bad reviews and reputation.

No Ethical Standards or Clear Liability

The problem with digital data and marketing is that there are no clear guidelines in terms of ownership and ethical standards. The potential for liability obviously exists but Logo Garden’s response to the allegations suggests that they were a ‘victim’ of third party sellers. Are the ‘parties’ then the ones liable? However, since the customers bought these plagiarized images they can also be held liable and so can Logo Garden as they did not do their due diligence.

However, in the digital world scenario LogoGardenis safe from liability as their “Terms of Service (TOS)” reads:

Users agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless LogoGarden and its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, partners and employees from all liabilities or claims of any third party arising out of Users violation of this Agreement.

No Ethical Standards or Clear Liability

With vague illusions of ethical standards and the global nature of the corporation’s online with no specific body of control, companies can actually plagiarize to bump up their marketing success, while increasing their sales.

Bottom Line:

In the era of digital marketing, brand reputation no longer matters, and marketers work off any form of ‘communication’ about the brand; negative or positive. Plagiarism and copyright allegations count for nothing and are taken as part of the digital marketplace. The same ‘real world companies’ may struggle offline to raise their standards of service with the placement of just one bad review in any magazine. However, the digital companies have it easy, they sit back and keeping cutting costs and lowering their standards because it really does not matter.

There are no standards to uphold, no ethics or governing bodies that force marketers and companies to adhere to specific standards and so plagiarism, and copyright infringements run rampant. Logo Garden may no longer copy logos but it did without any visible consequences, since it is being featured on page one of Google- we all know what that means for the success of a company online. The bottom line is digital companies like these, and digital algorithms have finally killed the need for brand reputation.

Bottom Line

Sources:

Plagiarism Today: An article written by Jonathan Bailey on the various aspects of the Logo Garden Plagiarism allegations.

Jeff Fisher Logo Motives: Various instances of plagiarized logo samples provided allegedly copied by Logo Garden portfolio.

LogoDesignLove.com provided information on the topic as well.

Is it just about going viral on digital media or ethical marketing have some foreground that needs to be valued? Call is on you – what do you say?

I am a digital marketing consultant with a focus on small and mid-sized enterprises. I believe the focus of every business should be on creating a consistent brand identity online and offline.

Leave a Reply