October 1, 2014

Customer Relations Blunder? Google Causes Stir Over Easter Doodle

Google Easter Doodle1

Business owners know the importance of maintaining good customer relations. That’s why when businesses intentionally upset their customer base, it’s time to take a closer look at the dynamics involved. Google created its own controversy this past Sunday — Easter Sunday — by honoring Mexican-American labor icon Cesar Chavez in the Google Easter doodle.

A “Google doodle” is when Google temporarily replaces its logo with symbols to reflect a holiday or something else of note that occurred on that date. Normally, Google’s doodles that are featured on the search engine’s homepage do not cause such a stir, but the decision to honor Chavez instead of the holiday has some users expressing their outrage, short-lived or not. In the doodle, the second “O” in Google is replaced with a cutout of the late labor leader’s profile (see image above of the screenshot of Google.com’s home page on Easter Sunday).

Google chose March 31 as the appropriate time to honor Chavez, the co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, now known as the United Farm Workers Union. The decision has enraged some Christians and others who feel Google ignored the holiday, but has some celebrating the honor bestowed upon Chavez. March 31 was declared Cesar Chavez Day by President Barack Obama back in 2011.

The United Farm Workers Union is clearly pleased with the decision to honor Chavez:

Others not so much:

Others seemed confused over which Chavez Google was honoring. Buzzfeed.com found 15 people (and there are plenty more) who thought Google was honoring the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, with its doodle.

Meanwhile, Google’s closest rival, Bing, chose a much more traditional route, selecting a background of painted Easter eggs over a labor and civil rights leader for its landing page on Easter Day.

Some believe Google’s actions say much about its position in its industry.

In a post for Slate.com, the online publication’s business and economic correspondent Matthew Yglesias wrote:

The doodles are, obviously, not significant in and of themselves. But Google’s ability to indulge the whims of its staff rather than cater to mass opinion on them is a highly visible signpost of its extremely strong market position. The same phenomenon is why it can plow search-related operating surpluses into speculative ventures from Android to Glass to self-driving cars.

Perhaps it was just attention that Google was seeking with the doodle and the company doesn’t believe that its fleeting drawing will impact its business, but is it ever a good idea to take your customers’ sentiments for granted?

On the other hand, others have suggested Google may simply have a firmer grasp on the changing demographics of its customer base, the reason for its continued dominance in the market place.

It is telling that California, Texas and Colorado each officially celebrated Cesar Chavez day yesterday.

NBC’s Stephen A. Nuño wrote on Easter that Google’s decision should be seen as an acknowledgment of that change.

Whatever you believe about the demographics, it’s clear that successful businesses must know their customers in order to survive.  Thumbing your nose at them is not the best approach.

More in: 5 Comments ▼

Joshua Sophy - Staff Writer


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering technology and business news. He is a journalist and editor with 15 years experience in media. A former newspaper reporter and editor, Joshua also serves as President of the Board of Directors of a curling club and is editor of a regional newsletter focused on the sport of curling in the Eastern U.S.

5 Reactions

  1. Bill Kerschbaum

    I’m a devout Christian. I don’t mind that Google posted an image of Chavez. They didn’t actively dishonor Christ, and frankly I’d rather see an image of someone worth celebrating than stupid Easter eggs, which really have more to do with candy and consumerism than the victory of Christ over sin and death.

    Christianity started as an irrelevant, obscure group of believers in the backwaters of the Roman Empire. No one of any significance paid any attention to them. That didn’t bother God, and I doubt Jesus was offended by the doodle. Is Google that central to God’s plan for creation?

    So why should we expect a secular company to celebrate a religious holiday? If they do, great! Otherwise, no biggie.

  2. I agree with Bill – it’s hard to see why so many Christians were so offended by this! I’m a Christian and I’m 100% NOT offended. I think it’s fantastic that Google took a different approach in this. I don’t know if they did it as more of a business strategy, to make a point, or just because they could – I don’t think we’ll ever really find out. But even so, I appreciate what I believe happened. They may have just been trying to be different and noticeable – honoring a great man instead of just making the O’s into Easter eggs – but I think it’s better that way.

    Easter eggs should offend Christians much more than honoring a founder of the NFWA – at least this, like Bill said, isn’t just a mere representation of American consumerism. And I bet plopping a big picture of Christ in that second O would offend a whole new set of people.

    I feel bad for Google. The ONE year they post something on Easter it starts a riot. That’s right, go into Google’s Doodles – they’ve NEVER done a doodle on Easter day in the past…Ever! Guess they figured whatever they posted would make people angry. They were right! (:

  3. I am not one to ever be “politically correct”, but this is one area where it would have been much more appropriate to have separated the two events. However irreverent I might be the rest of the year, Christmas and Easter celebrate two historical events which cannot and should not be ignored is this country.
    If Google needed to change its logo, Easter was a very poor day to do so. The person responsible should be publicly chastised, and professionally reprimanded.
    A better alternative would have been to recognize Chavez the day before with a note of why, then recognized the resurrection of Christ on Easter. If this was not deemed possible, then they should have left the Google logo alone.

  4. I appreciate everyone’s points of view on this. Very interesting!

    I think what people reacted to is that they feel Google should be more in line with the mainstream users. Not to take anything away from Cesar Chavez, but really, Easter — secular or religious, however you see it — is of much more interest to many millions more than Chavez.

    Google is more like a public utility than a private company in the way people depend on it. As Yglesias notes in the underlying article, perhaps Google would seem less arrogant if more in tune with the public.

    The doodle itself isn’t so much the issue, but the fact that people perceive Google as letting its arrogance flag fly all too often, and doodles are one example of that. What people want is to see Google employees put themselves more in the shoes of the populace that has come to depend on them, instead of being in their own bubble — which when you read forums and social media comments, it’s increasingly how Google is perceived these days. It wouldn’t take much to present a different impression.

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