In the old days, you could spot a bad brand miles off. They spilled oil, or invested in countries with dodgy regimes, or tested cosmetics on baby kittens. And, if you felt strongly enough, you could quite easily boycott them.
But these days, rather like James Bond villains, the bad brands have evolved. Their villainy is less about a big event - it's more subtly ingrained in their way of operation. These brands are quietly instrusive. They insinuate their way into your life through the back door, bearing gifts, posing as a friend. They do a deal with you - your info for my added value. You may go hand in hand for years, singing their praises. But occasionally, they will breach your deal. It may be something small and insignificant, like automatically posting something on your Facebook feed without you having to tick a box. It will make you wonder for a second or two. But the value you get from that brand will probably outweigh the bother of closing the account.
But if it gets more serious? What if a series of articles and documentaries about dodgy practices combined with bad personal experiences pushes you to want to boycott that brand? Unfortunately, these days, it is almost impossible to extricate yourself. I used to love amazon - as someone living abroad, they were a godsend. I started giving something back by writing reviews and, of course, when the time came, Kindle was the obvious choice for my ebook reader.
Amazon, I see, are currently looking for a European agency to help them with their image problem. I expect I could delete all my reviews and my account, and buy another e-reader and all the books I have on my Kindle but, well, life's too short. So I grudgingly continue with amazon, and feel a pang of conscience when I read yet another article about how they treat their staff.
Would it be possible to boycott Google? I doubt it. Even if you did, as from today, your traces remain. Once it's out, it's out.
Privacy is one of the biggest issues for brands today. There's a good report from Flamingo research here
which shows how privacy is a pact.
I just hope that privacy, as the new luxury, will not end up being something that can be bought at a price.