As of this writing, there are nine million open jobs in this country. Employers are kvetching about not being able to fill them. At the same time, there are nine million job seekers actively looking for work. Somehow, these two groups can’t seem to find each other. Or, rather, they do find each other but the match can’t be made because there’s always some ridiculous excuse for disqualifying the candidate. Employers and their screening algorithms set impossible standards that eliminate brilliant prospects before the process even starts. Some potential hires don’t even bother sending in their résumés. They read the job description and rightly surmise that no mere mortal could ever be expert at all that. It reminds me of the team that could have drafted Michael Jordan but passed on him because they wanted a center and he was a guard. Sure, they filled the spot but they missed out on perhaps the greatest player who ever lived. They would have benefitted from a little flexibility. Add to this dysfunctional scene the fact that now, during the pandemic, millions of gainfully employed people are walking away from their jobs. Why?
I usually ignore cultural kerfuffles. They’re almost always much ado about nothing and it’s not like I have any influence over them anyway. But the latest one, involving the search for the replacement host for the hit game show, Jeopardy, did get my attention. For those who may not know, Jeopardy is a long-running television quiz show where the game supplies the answers and contestants have to provide the correct, corresponding questions. It’s wildly popular for a number of reasons. It’s intelligent; the questions range from smart to quite challenging and you learn something new in every half-hour show. The contestants are awesome; not just with their range of knowledge but with their game-play strategies, their quick reactions and their facility with the “backwards” format of the game. But another reason for the show’s success is clearly America’s great love for its long-time host, the genial and gentlemanly Alex Trebek (pictured), who passed away almost a year ago. Ever since, the show has been on a search for someone to fill his impossible-to-fill shoes. It was a mission-critical task. The brand was literally in jeopardy.
Working as a brand strategist has quite a few blessings. One thing is you’re always learning. Branding never fails to throw up some conundrum or other that requires you to seek a new answer. For instance, I’ve always thought of value propositions as variable, changeable over time as business circumstances may dictate. But many colleagues – and clients – insist that the value proposition should be a plank in the brand platform. It should be baked into the brand’s immutable DNA, just like the brand promise. Some even equate the two. Luckily, another blessing from branding is you get to meet many accomplished and fascinating people. One such is Barry Horwitz who publishes a really terrific monthly newsletter, The Strategy Game. That’s where I read his eye-opening article on value propositions. Barry specializes in growing organizations in strategic and sustainable ways. During his career at Boston Consulting Group, he worked extensively with Fortune 500 companies. Since then, he’s co-founded and led a venture-backed Internet company, he’s built successful new divisions within larger organizations, and he consults with mature businesses, startups and nonprofits alike. I thought his would be the perfect mind to help settle the brand promise/value proposition issue. When we Zoomed recently, I asked him about it.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Lagrange Points. These are fascinating points in space, relative to two orbiting bodies (earth/moon, sun/earth, etc.), where gravity and centrifugal force combine to establish remarkable balance and equilibrium. Commonly, there are five such points but, not being a mathematician, the only one I clearly understand is L1, the point at which the earth’s gravitational pull is balanced by that of the moon. Anything positioned there, like a satellite or a space station, would remain virtually fixed in space relative to the constant dancing of the two orbs, which are always in perpetual motion. And, because I am who I am, that made me think of branding. Because brands are really the relationships between marketable assets and their markets. And, like the earth and the moon, the asset and the market are always changing, always in motion.
Choose any product category you like. Now, quick! Name the top five brands in the category. Hard to do isn’t it? If you picked Japanese cars, you’d quickly name Toyota and Honda. But you’d stumble on naming the number three brand. Four and five would be even harder. If you’re in North America and your product category is packaged jams and jellies, you’d also be able to quickly name Stouffer’s and Welch’s as the top two brands. But very few of us know the third most popular brand and the fourth brand is almost unknown. The point is, these days, there are so many brands kicking around, in every category, in every country, in every price range, that we’re all drowning in brand soup. To cope, our brains start editing for us, without our approval or even our permission.
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Best Branding Reads
Week of September 13, 2021
As The Pandemic Recedes, Millions Of Workers Are Saying 'I Quit’
To misquote the song, “Take this job and shove it. It means nothing to me now.”
3 reasons you’re losing the war for talent (and how to fix it fast)
Give employees at least as much respect as you give customers. They’re both invaluable to a business.
When Brands Should Shut Up – A Study on Brand Activism
If you can’t stand the heat, don’t set the house on fire.
3 Ways Online Brands are Building Better Customer Relationships than Brick and Mortar
With all the advantages traditional retail has to deliver that personal touch, why does it so often fail to do so?
Top Brand Intimacy COVID Rankings
Where would your business fall on this list?
The Case for Bold Brand
By any other name, a rose may indeed smell sweeter.
Why Digital Experience Needs to Go Beyond Data and Champion Creativity
To engage audiences, factor in an unmeasurable ingredient – creativity.