Business Lessons from John Mayer and Google Buzz

02/18/2010

What do John Mayer and Google Buzz product managers have in common?  They’re both having a rough couple of weeks.  In case you don’t follow both technology and celebrity gossip news, popular musician John Mayer made some controversial statements in a magazine interview about his ex-girlfriends and other folk that resulted in some heavy criticism.  During the same time frame, Google released Google Buzz, a new Gmail feature that allows users to share updates, photos and videos.  Initially, the default mode of this service automatically followed people users had exchanged email and chats with and made those visible to others, resulting in privacy concerns for some users and some heavy criticism.

It struck me that there were some common themes between the two incidents and business lessons to be learned.  Not really but it’s my blog OK, and I always wanted to write a post about John Mayer and Google.  Indulge me here as I give you – Business Lessons from John Mayer and Google Buzz:

Just because we love you doesn’t mean you have permission to be a tool. – Success changes things.  If you’re a celebrity rock star folks probably hang on your every word.  But just because people love you doesn’t mean you are incapable of putting your foot in your mouth if you aren’t careful.  Similarly, just because you are Google doesn’t mean that sometimes you won’t get it wrong.  Today’s happy customers will cut you some slack but you can’t stop doing the work to make them happy in the future.

Trying new stuff in a controlled environment can save you embarrassment. – For example, if you are going to describe your ex-girlfriend as “napalm”, even if you mean that in a nicest possible way, you should try it out on a couple of friends first,  like this -  “Hey, if I described you as napalm in an interview would you or would you not slap me?”  Similarly, Google later admitted that Buzz had not gone through the usual early experience trials that they would normally put a new product through.  Whether you’re releasing a new product or saying something in an interview, once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in.

Say you’re sorry, fix the problem, give us a reason to give you another chance. – John has apologized in a sincere manner and he’s on tour focusing on the stuff people love him for.  He’s directing a bit of his star power toward things like The Isaac Foundation.  I predict there will be no lasting fallout for him from Playboygate.  Google has similarly apologized and admitted that they were wrong and I for one, appreciate that.  The funny thing is, I still haven’t really used Buzz even though the initial privacy issues didn’t concern me all that much.  I guess I’m still waiting for a reason to give it a second chance.

Now if I could just get Madonna and Microsoft to do some stuff in the same week…..

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