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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mozilla CEO Ouster: Good Brand Decision or Bad?


On Thursday, April 3, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich stepped down from the company. There is a lot of controversy about the circumstances of that resignation. It was clearly not voluntary. Here are some thoughts from my own comment on LinkedIn, and elsewhere, that are relevant from a branding point of view.


Clearly the Board forced his hand. The issue is whether, from a branding perspective, they should have. I personally disagree. True, he displayed "intolerance" from a PC perspective. On the other "inclusivity" means including those we do not agree with. 

(Yet - where do we draw the line? A donation to a White Supremacist organization would be a clear cause for removal.) 

Brand strategy is so tricky because not only do you have the brand axis, you also have the mass media and pop culture axis, the war between PC and free speech, and the legal and popular definition of discrimination.

The news coverage of this story has been excellent. 

1) Why is this story important? Via Susan Adams at Forbes - highly recommend reading the entire article, including the interviews:

"Though CEOs have taken heat for their positions on controversial issues—Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has said the investment bank lost at least one major client because he holds the opposite view from Eich, in favor of gay marriage—none have ever resigned their posts as a result of public protest over a private political stance."

2) Why does the CEO's personal views matter? The corporate brand - transparency. Via interview conducted by Elissa Hu at NPR:

"HU: Putting users first, openness and inclusiveness a core to Mozilla's beliefs and operations. Mozilla's technology is created in public. And as it became clear when Eich was named CEO, Mozilla's debates get quite public, too."

3) What makes the brand issue unusual? Two words: corporate culture. Via Quentin Hardy and Nick Bilton at the New York Times:

"Mozilla is not your typical Silicon Valley company. Monday morning “town halls” at Mozilla are open to the public and anyone can look at the code that powers Mozilla’s popular Firefox web browser. The company’s employees are encouraged to speak their minds and even criticize the boss on Twitter. Thousands of programmers help Mozilla improve its products — free — because the programmers think it is important."

The personal is professional is the brand. Times are changing.

* All opinions my own.