Whether you like it or not, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google (“The Four”) know your public and private life. Facebook and Google, according to Scott Galloway, author of The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, dominate categories that didn’t exist twenty-five years ago, namely social media and information gathering. Amazon dominates by its efficiency; Apple by product innovation and aspirational branding.
All four of them, writes Galloway, have advantages in products, markets, stock valuation, recruiting and management. They have studied how earlier giants like IBM stumbled and fell. But, there is no guarantee another “fifth horseman,” as he puts it, won’t cause one or more of these giants to fail.
Galloway, professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, painstakingly examines the development of these companies. Google has become “God” to many people in their search for answers, or at least finding information to make decisions. Facebook has lured thousands of employees from large advertising firms to their organization. They have the skills to draw users into ever-deepening reliance upon Facebook. Apple is a well-recognized brand that, in Galloway’s opinion, decided to pursue scarcity to achieve profits. Amazon’s goal is to dominate online retail at the expense of bricks-and-mortar stores.
The down-to-earth and sometimes snarky writing style helps readers understand the glamor of these gargantuan companies. Galloway’s book arrives at a time when the “techlash” against Google and Facebook, is steadily increasing. Others have voiced fears over Amazon’s takeover of the retail industry at the expense of bricks and mortar stores.
Despite the rise of The Four, Galloway remains staunch in his commitment to ethics and loyalty. “Be Loyal to People, not Organizations” is one of the headings in the next-to-the last chapter, while further on he tells us manage our careers by following our talents—not our passions. Go where our skills are valued. And his advice isn’t limited to millennials. Now in his fifties, Galloway has life experience, and insists people who are proud about not being familiar with Facebook or other online entities, are being foolish.
Finally, Galloway has a stern warning. “The Four manifest love, sex and consumption…. However, these firms are not concerned with the condition of our souls, will not take care of us in our old age, nor hold our hand.”
What role do the Big Four play in your life?
How mindful are you about using social media and technology?
Can you use the Big Four without letting them use you?