a brand is a relationship

Yesterday,  we said “Employment Branding is the craft of being so completely organized that you are ready with the right message for the right person when she comes along.” Let’s take that a bit further today.

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.

The notion of a brand has been extended to cover some surprising things. FastCompany , the periodical manifesto for those who want to change organizations from within, extends the concept as a metaphor for personal marketing. 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, covered in our earlier work, creates both expanded opportunity and expanded responsibility at the department and operating unit level.

Changing demographics create 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 shortage unfolds its consequences, the competition for employees will 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.

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.

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