Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Emerging Challenges for Brand

I just posted this in another location as part of a discussion on the major challenges today for "Business Strategy and Brand." I thought it might be interesting for folks here to read it as well:

One way that brand is changing (has changed already, i think) is that the relationship between brand and the transitive property is changing as a result of increased connectivity and the rise of popularity systems like Google's pagerank.

Okay, now that was quite a loaded sentence, but i think it's pretty straightforward once we get past the overblown vocabulary and into the practical concepts.

Before the social web came along and before traditional advertising started its freefall, the 'transitive property' was used by companies in the form of celebrity endorsements of brand, because hey, if Bill Cosby likes Jello and I like Bill Cosby, then surely i will like and buy Jello (this is the transitive property).

So formerly the relationship was:
[brand] to [endorser] to [consumer]

or more concretely:

[Jello] to [Bill Cosby and one or two friends] to [me]

Now, with the advent of the social web (now people can massively connect with each other) and the rise of the core idea of Google pagerank (something is good if lots of people like it, and those people are in turn liked by a lot of other people who are in turn liked by a lot of other people, etc..), the new relationship is:

[brand] to [hundreds of connected authorities on the brand] to [me]

or more concretely:

[Jello] to [the Jello customer community] to [me]

..So, i'm predicting that a major part of the new concept of brand is the community itself, which both explicitly (by promoting the brand through word of mouth) and implicitly (by acting as a sort of 'brand pagerank' that give the brand authority just by virtue of their involvement with it) constitute a major part of the brand.

So-called "marketers" in this new world will therefore need to be community builders - not by inclusion only, but also by empowerment. Customer involvement (a noble idea in its day) will have to evolve into customer empowerment, which will allow the community to do its work in building a large part of a trusted, vibrant brand.

Tip for Job Seekers - Anticipate and Persist

I was talking with a friend earlier in the week about his job search, and it occurred to me that there are two incredibly helpful things that he could do to set himself apart from %90 of the other applicants. Hopefully these help you too. Both of these ideas make the most sense when viewed from the perspective of the hiring manager or the company. You'll see what i mean in a minute:

When seeking a job with a company, don't talk to them about ways that you can fit into their existing initiatives. Anticipate where the company is going and talk to them - even better: show them ways that you will be able to help them to get there. Key things to remember:
  • every healthy organization is trying to go somewhere better than where they are today
  • if the organization is not moving in a direction - or if your hiring manager isn't aware of that direction, you might want to think twice about working there
  • in healthy organizations, the most desirable and interesting hires are those who can help the organization to get to tomorrow's destination

If you are reasonably sure that you are well-suited for a position, don't immediately take "no" for an answer. Healthy organizations that are moving in new directions need people who won't take immediate "no"s for answers in their daily work. Your interactions with a hiring manager may be a great first chance to show this ability.

I'll end this post with a story that shows the power of using these two principles:

In 1997 i interviewed with Ron, a Senior Technical writer at Walt Disney Imagineering for a contract position as an Assistant Technical writer with the Show Ride Engineering group. After what i thought was a very positive interview, i was later informed by the contract agency that Ron had passed on hiring me, stating that he thought i was not the right guy for the job. My immediate (and not much thought-out reaction, i must confess) was to ask the contract agency representative to call Ron back and let him know that i was sure that i was the right guy for the job. After a short negotiation she did so grudgingly, and called back, surprised that Ron had scheduled a second interview with me the next day.

From the first interview, i remembered that Ron had mentioned a new push to put all of Imagineering's technical documentation in web format for wireless access by the engineers. Though the job description was for a pure technical writer, when i went back to meet with Ron the second time, i mentioned that i had an interest in the digitization effort, and reminded him of my previous experience that might be of use.

Ron hired me on the spot, i ended up working there for a full year, and Ron and I became friends. He even offered at the end of my contract to write up a letter of personal recommendation. Toward the end of my tenure there Ron told me that the fact that i had the gumption to (respectfully) disagree with his opinion showed drive, personal self-knowledge, and that i had the gumption necessary to stand up to the political pressures in Imagineering.

I would say that these traits are desirable to any organization, and your first meeting/negotiation is a great place to display them.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Even if you Can Beat Facebook.. Maybe You Shouldn't

There's been a bit of a flap recently in Britain, where it is reported that %70 of employers are banning or restricting access to social networking sites like Facebook.

It strikes me as odd that this occurs simultaneous to the new big focus in business on finding new sources of innovation.

Call me naive, but i can't help but think that if these companies made work more stimulating by proving a way for their employees to innovate at work through (digitally augmented) social means, that Facebook would not be a problem anymore. Heck, they might even do it via a plugin.