Have you ever noticed how security is an integral part of certain brands, regardless of how the products are actually selling on the market? When you think “smartphone security,” you don’t think Apple or Google. You think Blackberry, even though they are barely a blip on the radar of modern smartphone buyers. When it comes to automobiles, we think “safety.” Volvo will always be near the top of that particular list.
There is another list that is equally important. It is the list of brands that come to mind when we think of insecurity. For many, Facebook is associated with insecurity. Google and Microsoft are also high on the list. These are three of the most successful companies with the most used products in the world. Yet they have allowed themselves to be branded as insecure–a label they could have probably avoided. At this point, it is almost impossible to change that aspect of their image. Each of these giants can teach us something about security branding:
Microsoft – Be the solution
Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.0 tag-teamed for some of the worst computer security the world will ever know. It is not that Microsoft lacked the engineering know-how to get ahead of the problem. It was that security was never a big priority for them at that time. They allowed others to define their message. They left it completely up to third-party developers to fix the many security breaches and vulnerabilities.
Microsoft allowed the anti-virus market to grow and thrive during that time. Third-party providers like Trend Micro stepped up to the plate and provided online threat protection software to combat the malware and network security problem.
The real problem for consumers was that it seemed Microsoft had taken a hands off approach and just didn’t care about the problem. They left the perception that other companies were providing the solution to Microsoft’s problem and lost credibility because they allowed themselves to be perceived as the problem and not the solution.
Today, their products are very secure by comparison to the bad old days. They have taken control of the message. But they waited too long. The world will never quite forget IE6. Never let the success of your product cause you to take your eye off the security ball. Be the solution.
Facebook – Don’t snatch the ground out from under their feet
Early on Facebook gained a reputation for caring nothing about the privacy of their users. What they seem to have wanted was for all information posted to be completely public all the time. They offered privacy settings, but didn’t really want anyone to use them. When people started using them, Facebook would change the settings without warning, leaving people without the little privacy they thought they had.
These shifting privacy policies left the users confused and angry. This was so much the case that rival services sprang up to compete on the basis of giving the user better control, and thus, a more secure social media outlet.
Today, Facebook is much more concerned about user privacy. They are even going out of their way to make things more secure as they now realize that people will be more willing to engage if they can be confident that what is intended to be private stays private. Even so, they will never shake the reputation of being cavalier with user privacy.
Google – Sell the product not the user
Google is in a challenging position. They were once a product company that made internet search what it is today. They shifted from being a product company to an advertising company. That changed the nature of the relationship between Google and the people who used their services. We went from using a Google product to being a Google product. As an advertising company, Google’s clients are the advertisers, not the end users. Their marketable product is data about the end user.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this business model. This is essentially how advertising works, like it or leave it. But if you did not know that you were the product being sold, it might feel like a bit of a betrayal. Google’s real product has never been that Nexus device that sells for pennies on the dollar. It is the information you pour into it. When customers start to feel that their personal information is being constantly captured and mined for gold, security is not the first description that will come to mind when they think about you. They may still use your product, but they will always be looking over their shoulder.
Regardless of early mistakes, all of these brands are highly successful, and will be so for a very long time. But none of them will ever fully escape their early reputations of being insecure in one form or another. Today, it will be much harder for a company to grow as large without security being a part of their DNA. Be sure security is always associated with your brand.
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