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Why do Giant Companies Step on Consumers Toes? Part 2:

Real Examples of Giant Corporate Mistakes

By Hector Cisneros

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You know that giant corporations make mistakes, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. The closer the company is to being a monopoly, the greater the chance they will step on our toes. This week’s article will delve into recent real world examples of giant companies stepping on customers’ toes. We will name names and tell it like it is. We will look at some of the big players who are well known Like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook (plus a few lesser known companies). So read on and be ready to learn about real world examples of giant corporations biting the hands that feed them because they can. Now that I have shared many of the ways giant companies step on client’s toes, let’s look at some recent examples.

Before I dig into the giant companies and their marketing/PR mistakes, I want to lay out what I feel are the common precursors to these mistakes. The primary precursor is when a company becomes really big, its internal communications level goes down. This is easy to understand, because when you have a lot more people in the mix, it makes it easier for miscommunication to take place. On top of this problem, many of these companies have become giants because they were first to market or have achieved a quasi-monopoly status with their product or service. When a company controls market share, it seems to believe it can do no wrong. This usually sets even the biggest companies up for a pratfall, because they start believing their own hype and stop paying attention to what the public wants.

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Let’s start with Google - Like most giant companies, Google often assumes that their audience and loyal customers read their blogs and regularly search their website for product announcements. Wrong! Take Google+, a product that Google has been fiddling with since its launch in 2011. First, they bundled many of their premier products into Google+, making it easy for people to find and use their products. Then they began to strip out products one by one. They moved Google Local into Google+ then they moved it back out. Next they changed Google local to Google my Business. They also did the same with Picasa. Moved it in, then out, before replacing it with Google photos. Hangouts was in, and now it’s out. As a rule, most users found out that these changes took place when they couldn’t find the feature they came to use. For more details, read - Is Google+ Dying as a Social Network and Is Google+ adding up?

Googles Issues don’t Stop There. Google is constantly changing their algorithm for organic search. Some say between 400 and 600 times a year. This costs businesses billions of dollars each year in lost revenue and additional R and D, plus site retooling. Google has stated publicly that these changes fall into 3 categories. Updates to improve the customer experience (i.e. The user gets what they are really looking for – not just content, but what they intended). Updates have also been initiated in an effort to thwart professional SEO marketers and criminals from gaming the system.   

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All you have to do is look at the multitude of updates named after cute animals over the past 6 years to get an idea of how pervasive the constant changes have become. Updates like Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird and, pigeon all wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of businesses. There are also other updates not named after cute animals. Last year Google announced an update that had a profound impact on all websites. Google decided that websites needed to be mobile friendly. I agree with this, but since most websites were not ready for this change, it immediately removed millions of websites from mobile search.   Thus the update was nicknamed Mobilgeddon.

Google's update cost billions of dollars each year. Every time Google makes an update, there are millions of businesses who become big winners and others that are huge losers. If you're lucky (or really paying attention) you win. If not, you lose big. Do the math. If one million of the 500 or so million websites on Google need to update the site, because of a Google algorithm change, and it cost them $1,000 to address the update, they would spend a billion dollars.

An example of this was when many realtors lost their page one position after working so hard to reach that position last year. Google’s new algorithm changed the emphasis from primarily content, to being in directories to rank for local search. Those sites that had used content as the primary ranking factor lost out.

Now, I am not saying that Google is doing things in an arbitrary way. No sir, they are very deliberate. They pick who are the winner’s and loser’s will be – it’s their search engine. They aren’t targeting individual companies mind you, Google emphasizes what they want companies to engage in.

Google Does It Again - Google latest algorithm changes will soon force more businesses
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to depend on GoogleAdWords
for traffic. Google recently changed the number of organic search listings from approximately 12, to 7 organic listings.  With the reduced number of search page result listings now in play, fewer businesses in the same industry or category can be shown at one time. That means it's even harder than ever before to get on page one of Google search. I just hope that other search engine companies realize that this is a perfect opportunity to steal away search users and business customers from Google. If they offer a search product that provide a more useful listing set, than the mere seven listings Google is now serving up, they could gain market share. This is especially true if Google tries to gouge its customers with its monopoly in pay per click.

Speaking of Google pissing off millions of users, not long ago we reported about how Google was spying on every keystroke you make. It’s a fact that every Google property from Gmail to Google+, Google Search, and YouTube is tracking your every move. Back then this caused an uproar, however, that uproar is dying down and is now almost forgotten. Read The Piracy of Privacy – the looting of Privacy in America for more details.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
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What about Microsoft - For the most part Microsoft has a monopoly hold on the PC OS market. This has allowed them to take whatever direction they chose. They did not ask the consuming public what they wanted. Because if they had, products like Millennium, Vista and Windows 8 would have never come to pass.

If you remember, Microsoft launched Millennium, back in 2000 and it ended up being one of the shortest lived products they ever launched. Most Microsoft customers hated it because it was full of bugs and because it was a big change from windows 98. The following year they replaced it with Windows XP (which had a legacy support look and feel) which extended XP’s life span to become one of their longest lived MS products to date.

When they launched Vista, it fell flat on its face because it looked so different than Windows XP.  Then they got smart and fixed that problem with Windows 7. But guess what, they could not leave well enough alone. They launched Windows 8 and again pissed off the masses. Windows 8 was such a big flop that Microsoft had to bring Windows 7 back from retirement. They quickly figured out that new PC’s were not selling with version 8 and started offering PC’s with both Windows 7 & 8! 

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With Windows 10, Microsoft has shown that it has learned some lessons from its prior mistakes (even though they seem to make the same ones repeatedly). This new version has been a big success, but not without its own gotchas. I recommend reading – “What’s Up with Windows 10 - the good the bad and the ugly” to get some insights. Also Microsoft is trying to get people to use their free One Drive storage. However,  they recently shot themselves in the foot when they downgraded the free capacity from 15 gigs to 5 and also took back the unlimited capacity for office 365 users.  This flies in the face of common sense since Google, their arch rival, recently made it possible to get 30 gigs on Google Drive for free and even possibly a terabyte of free cloud storage.

How about the many Face of Facebook - Facebook, in recent years has raised the hackles of its subscribers on a regular basis by constantly changing how Facebook works. Facebook seems to revel in making its user base angry. They have made what seems like continuous changes to the way the Newsfeed and timeline works. They seem to shuffle the deck where commands and function are located, making it harder for businesses trying to manage their fan pages. This has profound effects on both subscribers and businesses using Fan pages for marketing. 

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Not long ago, they suddenly changed how contests could be run. Lately, they have made the filtering of the timeline so strong that businesses are mostly forced to run pay per click ads, if they want their follower to see any of their corporate posts. As a general rule, Facebook seems to be enamored with changing things, from the location of features to advertising rules. Privacy is almost nonexistent on Facebook. If a person died suddenly, their pages may be stuck on Facebook forever. If the significant other doesn’t have the username and password for the deceased person’s page, they can’t have the site taken down.

My last pet peeve with Facebook is they have zero phone tech support. On top of that, their email tech support gets a poor grade as well. I know I am not dissing Facebook as much as I have Google and Microsoft, but take it from me, they seem to work hard at making sure that the only constant is change.

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Smaller Companies are not Exempt - I could go on and on with hundreds of examples. However, the examples aren’t just with the mega corporations. Smaller companies and even some startup are guilty of the same kind of mistakes. Take Fitbit as an example, they tried to explain away accuracy errors in their activity health trackers, as minor, which eventually caused the creation of a class action lawsuit. This also caused a lot of fervor in the social arena as well.

Many have experienced the headache of Apps going from great to bad when Apps update themselves and cause the user’s smartphone to crash or lockup.  Recently, one of my all-time favorite Apps, call WAZE, caused me to uninstall it altogether. That App updated itself while I was driving. That update immediately locked up my Android smartphone while I was taking a call! Boy was I livid!

You have a choice and a decision to make. – As an informed consumer, it is your duty to share your product and customer service experience with the rest of the world. This is the only thing keeping giant companies on the path to happy customers. Today giant companies no longer can provide poor products or customer service as long as you report what they are doing. Social media has become the great equalizer. If you do not use your rights as a consumer to complain (or sing their praises) on social media when you have been taken advantage of, it’s on you. Don’t let giant companies squash you like a bug. We can all fight back by sharing stories of poor customer service, bad products or corporate lying. You can also help these companies by praising them when they do a good job. Social media has given you a real voice. It’s given you a carrot and a stick to keep them in check.

In this article I have discussed how giant corporations often make their customers angry through marketing and PR mistakes. This article provides several real examples of recent ways these mega-corporations have stepped on consumers’ proverbial toes. I also recommend reading the related part one article, which also lists the most common mistakes corporations make. It further includes ways that consumers can act to force improvements to poor service, support and product quality they receive.
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That's my opinion, I look forward to hearing yours.

You can find more articles about marketing mistakes and technology by entering those phrases in the search box, at the top of this blog. I also recommend reading the articles: “Why do Giant Companies Step on Consumers? Part 1: Ten Common Mistakes Made”,  "It’s a New Year and the Rules Have Changed" and “Are You Prepared for Mobilgeddon?” just to name a few. Don’t forget to Plus us on Google+.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091. We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”


  1. Hector's correct when he says BIG companies seem to go out of their way to bite the hands that feed them. Particularly tech companies. Haven't programmers ever heard the maxim, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?"

  2. Oh, the humanity! The bigger they are, the harder some of these companies stomp.