Groupon runs a wildly popular promotion for national retailer The Gap, and suddenly, people begin to question whether the firm is "selling out." Wow. We have always seen these types of questions emerge as young firms grow and expand beyond their original core customer base, but it seems that these types of questions are cropping earlier and more often in the social media age.
I think an important distinction has to be made when we observe young firms beginning to expand their horizons. The critical question should be: Does attempting to expand in this way somehow compromise the experience/service/value for the company's core customers? If so, then we can rightfully question the growth strategy. However, there may be many situations where attempts to expand do not compromise the value and experience for the original consumers. In those cases, I think it's unfair to argue that a firm is "selling out" in any way.
Another important point should be made here. Firms can and should experiment as they try to formulate their growth strategy. As noted in the article cited above, Groupon has viewed the Gap promotion, and a subsequent Fandango promotion, as experiments. That's good solid management. Firms should test out various growth options, rather than diving headfirst into an expansion program. As customers, we need to scrutinize our favorite company's moves, but we also have to willing to tolerate some level of healthy experimentation.