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3 Signs of Brand Malaise: Facebook's Arrogance, Starbucks' Complacency, and Google's Mania

Photo of semi-empty Starbucks display case by me. Their food display is so unappealing.

So I stopped to get gas and as usual could not maneuver the car properly to the pump.

After a tortuous 15-minute thing where I turned the wheel this way and that and reversed about twenty thousand times, finally we landed.

As I looked up to find the proper pump from among regular, unleaded and diesel (why is ordinary life so confusing?) I see that a bunch of high school kids are running a car wash at the station.

There was one car getting a wash.

Eight kids surrounded it, wiping and wiping without much sign of success.

Another two stood out on the street, waving "Get A Carwash" signs sort of aimlessly.

Everybody laughing all round.

What were they doing out there? I guess just having fun, and the car wash was an excuse.

A few miles later we passed another place that really did car washes. Like, for a living.

I was stopped at a red light and watched. Three or four people furiously scrubbed a car inside and out. They made that gray Kia look gorgeous.

Looking down at the unfortunate seaweed scraps on the floor of my car, that I know I cannot get rid of without a proper car wash, I made a mental note to go back there.

You have to want it. Not every brand seems to - despite the outward appearance of being perfect. Some examples:

1. Facebook

This week, Facebook went IPO. The results were disappointing. It wasn't a surprise. Practically the whole world screamed "overvalued."

But as usual Zuckerberg seemed to shrug his shoulders, as if to say, "I don't care."

No PR campaign that I could see, no energy. The whole thing just took its course.

And the bubble of excitement around the brand popped like a flimsy soap bubble.

2. Starbucks

Starbucks is suffering brand malaise, too. Not arrogance, but complacency.

They have beautiful signage in the stores promoting low-fat berry cake, "Mocha Cookie Crumble" Frappuccino, the works, and other treats that should be tempting.

But when you look at the display, you sort of want to run. Because all of it looks stale.

Even at my worst (daily, the 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. sugar cravings) I have never once felt tempted by this stuff.

3. Google

Finally there is Google. I do like some of their products, but definitely not all. They seem to introduce new things all the time - Google+, Google shopping, on and on and on.

And yet most people don't understand the basic, brilliant functionality that they offer at all - for example Google Docs.

I wonder, why can't Google sit still long enough to actually focus on what they do well, and help the average person understand it? And build a base of loyalty right there?

At the end of the day the big brands are like a car wash. They can either act like they are hungry for the customer's business - they can hustle - or they can play around and refuse to see reality.

You might think that because big brands are big, they necessarily know what to do. But it's not true.

They are plagued by the same dysfunctionality as any group.

That's why sometimes it's a good thing to look around you, and learn from the difference between a bunch of high school kids goofing around in the sunshine, and some serious professionals who want to earn their daily bread.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!







Can't help but Megabrand Malaise: Facebook's Arrogance, Starbucks' Complacency, and Google's Mania

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