A brand is a relationship.
Brands only matter to the people who care about them. Mention the brand name outside of the circle of people who have the relationship and you will receive shoulder shrugs. Mention it inside the circle and you can spark a conversation full of passion and opinion.
The only brands that matter are the ones that people care about.
The theory and development of branding has been reserved, historically, for companies that could afford large broadcast media campaigns. The best examples of brand marketing are consumer product companies, from automobiles to popular music to varieties of American Cheese. The term brand is used to cover a wide range of circumstances from name recognition to deep affinity.
Contemporary talk about ‘personal branding’ generally refers to the act of managing the fifteen minutes of fame that social media bestows. Peppers and Rogers, the authors of popular books on database and relationship marketing, move the concept to tightly grouped members of a database.
It is useful to think about branding as an early stage technology. Purely a 20th Century invention, branding, like many first generation technologies, began in organizations that could afford clumsy and inefficient approaches because of their sheer size. For the past 70 years, branding has been a game of extensive spending to attract large numbers of people to a single product or company.
Today, however, the tools needed to build very clear, very small niche oriented brands are readily available. Like much of marketing, the tools are now available from the desktop. This “downward evolution” of marketing creates both expanded opportunity and expanded responsibility at the department and operating unit level.
The labor disconnect creates a new requirement for the development of Relationships between Employers and demographically defined pools of candidates. This process, which is an outgrowth of the emerging changes in the basic concept of management are nothing less than a redefinition of the boundaries of the organization.
The combination of need and trend is fortuitous. As the generational labor disconnect unfolds its consequences, the competition for employees must become increasingly precise. Over the next several years, we will continue to witness a series of increasingly successful branding exercises that focus clearly on the branding of subcomponents of the organization.
Talent acquisition precision is the opposite of what we’re doing in organizations right now. As social media lowers the barriers to massive data collection, the initial cut at a candidate list is usually huge. We’re still fighting the ‘resume firehose problem. Today, they are a lot less expensive per resume.
What makes Company X the employer of choice for Unix professionals is unlikely to be the dynamic that attracts candidates in accounting. A brand, as it is commonly understood is a good place to start. But, the focus on being a generic “employer of choice” is an inadequate vision for effective long term labor supply management.