Contrary to what I am hearing in the news all morning, the stepping down of Brendan Eich is not a free speech issue. It is a BRAND issue.
The Mozilla brand is all about open platform and access. Eich, who absolutely has the right to express his opinions on gay rights through private monetary donations, is simply NOT an extension of the brand. He represents the opposite.
Folks who say that, because of his opinion, he is not qualified to be a CEO of any company are just simply wrong. But, with the very public nature of corporate CEOs today, the brand that hires him should not be about openness and access because Eich – as the face of the brand – is not about openness and access. It is as simple as that.
No doubt, Mozilla and its Internet platform Firefox decided that they needed to protect the brand’s promise and part ways. It is too bad they had not done complete due diligence before his appointment because his position screams of silly oversight.
Mozzila did the right thing. Not because of any specific malfeasance, but because it understood that a brand promise needs to be offered and defended in every touch point with customers. If your brand promise was Mozilla’s, would you want any controversy at all on this rudimentary brand promise? I don’t think so.
The power of a brand is found in the amount of confidence and belief that the customer and prospect have in the certainty of the brand’s position. The more they believe it is real, the more powerful it is. (Think of how intensely Steve Jobs represented the Apple brand.) Any retreating from that position erodes loyalty and diminishes preference. In the world of Internet browsers, it is a crucial point.
So don’t get a bee in your bonnet over this. It’s not about gay rights or any support for government regulation. It’s not about advocacy. It’s all about brand.