Amid growing concern over the way companies use data there were predictions brands would suffer as a result of the claims America’s National Security Agency (NSA) was given the green light by tech firms to access personal information collected online.
Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube and Skype have all been drawn into the debate over how the consumer data they collect is used and what control they and consumers have over data privacy. The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was also implicated.
The companies implicated in PRISM have insisted they have worked within the law.
None of the major brands implicated however, have seen a significant fall in brand perception, as measured by YouGov’s BrandIndex rating.
There is a mixed performance across the eight tech brands in terms of their overall Index scores and Buzz scores throughout the month of June. Some have increased marginally, some have fallen.
Google’s Index score has increased from 30 to 33 between the 1 June ahead of the accusations emerging and 1 July. Its Buzz score – a balance of the negative and positive statements people have heard about the brand has improved from -9.5 to -5.5 over the period.
Microsoft’s Buzz score has fallen most markedly but this is more likely to be a response to the criticism over its plans to impose restrictions on the free trade of pre-owned games on its Xbox platform, which have now been reversed. The brand’s Index score fell to 18.7 from 20.6.
Facebook’s Buzz and Index scores improved around 1 point in the period.
YouGov data contrasts with a recent report by Clear which found Google’s “brand desirability” dropped 38 per cent year on year tumbling from fifth to 117th in the list. The report links the fall to Google’s place in the tax avoidance row.
Peter Askew, director of strategy at Clear, believes the reason tax had such damaging effect on Google and other brands involved is because it’s an issue people can relate to. PRISM meanwhile is seen to have a less direct impact on people’s lives.
Askew says: “Brand reputation is affected when the issue at hand impacts consumers. Tax avoidance, for example, resonates with customers because they are struggling financially and are angry when they think companies are not paying their way. People are more willing to forgive brands over the snooping revelations because many accept that the Government is trying to prevent nefarious acts of terror. It is really interesting from a spy story point of view but people don’t see how the actions of the brands involved affect their lives.”
Tim Bleszynski, founder of the The Alternative a brand consultancy which focuses on social purpose, is not surprised the allegations have not yet permeated into the public’s consciousness because consumers are “intoxicated” with “social media stardom” and willing to give up privacy and personal information for 15 seconds of fame online.
He believes the way some of the data is used by brands to drive purchases is “benign” but warns there is a “more sinister edge” where data shared online can lead to identity theft, trafficking, illegal immigration and terrorism.
“We are seemingly somewhat oblivious to the warehouses of data that is being collected, stored, analysed and used against us. The consequences are immense and frightening … data scandals and the mis-use of data will become an even bigger scandal publicly than the mis-selling of Credit & Protection products that was perpetrated by the banks.
”[Marketers] should think carefully about their role in promoting unethical advancements in manipulating people’s data for commercial gain. There’s data analytics and there’s data crime. Let’s try to imagine where that line is before we start crossing it,” he says.
Buzz 1 June 1 July
AOL -1.3 -2.6
Apple 4.3 5.9
Facebook -7.4 -6.4
Google -9.5 -4.7
Microsoft 1.8 -4.7
Skype 6.5 5.2
Yahoo 0.5 0.3
YouTube 8.8 11.3
Index 1 June 1 July
AOL -3.9 -4.5
Apple 28 26.5
Facebook 7.3 8.9
Google 30 33
Microsoft 20.6 18.7
Skype 18 14.6
Yahoo 9 9.6
YouTube 26.8 29.5