Amazon & Whole Foods: Whose Job Is It To Get Facts Straight? (Hint: Not Google’s)

Last week, in those last few hours of the workweek when people were closing their laptops and double checking their weekend plans, the world was hit with the big news of a bombshell wedding. Amazon was buying Whole Foods for more than $13 billion dollars. For the romantics in the business world, this was like hearing of the elopement of Romeo and Juliet.

Whole Foods, the symbol of fresh, organic, and expensive food, had just said “I do” to Amazon, a paragon of ecommerce and all things efficient, scalable, and storable in warehouses.

In the hours following the announcement, searches on Google for “Amazon” and “Whole Foods” spiked as people scrambled to their computers and phones to learn more about these brands and their new arrangement.

(From Google Trends)

I was one of those people, eager to brush up on my knowledge of each of the companies involved in this major announcement. So I Googled “Whole Foods.” And saw this:

As a researcher who spends much time following Fortune 500 companies, I was struck that this information was off. Wasn’t Walter Robb out as co-CEO already last year? Yes – his departure was announced in November and effective Dec. 31.

I was curious and poked Google again, searching “CEO of Whole Foods.” Google’s answer was quite clear:

And just for good measure, I searched directly for “Walter Robb.”

Wow, really? Isn’t it someone’s job at Google to keep on top of this stuff?

Actually, there’s no one at Google with that job description. It was Whole Foods’ job and they dropped the ball. A glance at Wikipedia reveals the source of the misinformation.

In light of the big announcement, people have been seeing this misinformation, both in Google search and directly in Wikipedia:

The day of the announcement, Walter Robb’s Wikipedia page, which had until then averaged fewer than 25 views a day, spiked to over 1400 views.

In advance of the buyout announcement, Whole Foods should have examined the information about its brand online. They could have worked with Wikipedia to correct such an obvious factual error so that – knowing interest in the company would spike – they would have been assured that people would see accurate information.

In fact, a brand should constantly be checking what is out there about them. While Whole Foods knew this announcement was coming, there are many other scenarios where news breaks unexpectedly. That’s certainly not the time to be scrambling with brand information.

A bride and groom wouldn’t send out their wedding invitations without first checking everything is spelled correctly. Doesn’t it behoove brands to do the same?


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