Tuesday, April 11, 2006

rant: using stem cells as a brand metaphor

Gabriel Stricker's article Google Organizes the Globe in today's BusinessWeek Online achieves a new low in hyperbolic software brand-speak, as evidenced in his thesis:

What naysayers don't understand is that the DNA of the Google brand is unlike anything ever seen in the modern market landscape. Google is actually the first company with a brand that is built entirely of stem cells: able to grow and develop into whatever form it sees fit.

Oh my.

What was he thinking when he decided to use the stem cell metaphor? Other than that he sensed some oblique similarity between primal undifferentiated cells that retain the ability to divide and differentiate into other cell types and a great big rich software company that is behaving in an aggressive way in many different market niches?

Last time I looked, cells whose biological activity is characterized by aggressive division coupled with the ability to invade other tissues are called something else entirely. But I digress.

I propose we declare a moratorium on stem cell brand metaphors - not just out of respect for everyone on both sides of the issue, but also because using stem cells as a brand metaphor just plain stinks.

Why? A brand that stands for something can't shift on a dime to stand for something else. A brand can't be a breath mint and a floor wax. The author knows this. Brands that stand for everything stand for nothing. Think "Acme" from the Road Runner cartoons and you see what I mean - do you think Google wants their brand to be the "Acme" of the 21st century? Hmm.

Besides, if the author's intent was to characterize the Google "brand" as adaptive, expansive, niche filling, opportunistic, broad-based (etc) the metaphor of choice shouldn't have been stem cells. Perhaps kudzu, or bamboo. Or nutria. Except those are even more inflammatory and unhelpful.

Best not to have written the piece in the first place, I think.

(You can read what the Slashdot crowd had to say about Gabriel's article here.)

1 comment:

Ron said...

Can you imagine 19th century biz rags using newly-minted Darwinian metaphors? or a bit later, Skinnarian ones?

treacle is as treacle does...