Google expands its crusade to legitimize Google Book Search
I think Google is cranking up the volume on Google Book Search. In doing so, they are relying on the age-old principle of, "The more you say something, the more acceptable that saying becomes". Another variant is, "The more often you repeat a lie, the more believable it becomes". I'm not suggesting that Google is lying about anything -- far from it. But propagandists have long understood that repetition is critical to establishing believability and credulity.
Advertisers and marketers study how effective repetition is. We have to constantly find new ways to repeat a message because people ultimately tune out the message, although some experts suggest that even when repetitive messages become white noise they still have a subliminal impact.
Google is not being subliminal or subtle at all in its campaign to establish the legitimacy of Google Book Search. This week they are playing the liberal card with a Google Blog post titled Celebrate Your Freedom To Read. The post, written by Leslie Burger, President of the American Library Association, is a clever use of a conservative voice to make a liberal point: let's all oppose banned books.
I wonder if the ALA would support adding The Satanic Bible or Al-Qaeda's training manual to the works of literature that high school students should have access to.
It's not a question of whose morals are right, but of whose books are more popular with decision-makers. American schools have been banning books for as long as we've had American schools. The ALA advocates the popularization of reading banned books outside of school during Banned Books Week. But they try to direct your attention toward banned books that are at least acceptable to a sizable minority, if not a majority of Americans.
All this liberal-versus-conservative controversy fits nicely into Google's campaign to persuade everyone that Google Books really is a great thing for us all. As I have said previously, I am ambivalent about the service. Google really doesn't seem to appreciate just how important intellectual property rights are to other people. On the one hand, they strive to hide the secret sauce that controls their search results. On the other hand, they have an active policy of intimidating authors by reporting all DMCA requests to the Chilling Effects Web site. Chilling Effects is a very deceptive site. It presents itself as a moral watchdog. But the site's primary function appears to be to bully people into not protecting their intellectual property rights, and Google seems to support that bullying wholeheartedly without reservation.
So the message Google sends to everyone is, "We get to protect our intellectual property rights, but we're going to trample yours and make you look like petty little self-important twits for wanting to protect your own."
Is that harsh? Well, let me praise Google for how they are conducting their propaganda campaign. It's an advertising campaign. It's a branding campaign. It's an educational campaign.
Google Book Search is a powerful resource and I hope that ultimately a lot of people benefit from it. I'm not about to boycott the service just because it may be violating intellectual property rights. I'll leave it to the courts to figure out what the boundaries of my rights are. I hope and trust the various parties suing Google really do have my best interests at heart -- or at least share interests with my own.
But the Google Book Search campaign demonstrates in a positive way (in my opinion) just how effective repetition can be. They are using both the Google Book Search blog and the official Google Blog to tell people they can Explore Banned Books Through Google Book Search. They are showing Web marketers how you can assemble multiple voices of influence to hammer a message home repeatedly.
In time, as Google brings more voices of moral acceptance to its side, the message will become acceptable to many people -- eventually it will become persuasive. People will become so used to hearing and seeing the message that they'll accept it as part of their normal world experience. And when a message becomes normal and comfortable, it feels safe. And when a message feels safe, it becomes believable.
Google doesn't have to be right about anything. All it has to do is keep pressing home the message that Google Book Search is useful and valuable and eventually everyone will be saying it's useful and valuable.
How useful and valuable won't really matter. I say it's useful and valuable, but I also say it's a bit snarky. After all, Google is encouraging millions of students across the United States of America to read books in violation of their school districts' policies (these books can be read online, and therefore from school computers).
That is a little short-sighted on Google's part. But then, bullies and visionaries alike seldom think about whether what they are doing is wrong.
The lesson I want Web marketers to take away from this post is that you can employ powerful propaganda and marketing techniques to brand your service or products. Google is providing a textbook example of how to do this. But I hope you choose not to pick a morally divisive service to promote. Google is large enough that it can afford to tick off a few people.
Most small business operators cannot really afford to take that risk.