I had an enjoyable chat over coffee with Anol and Josh from B2Bento last evening. Among other topics, we spoke and debated about how ‘social media’ can be an organisational tool to encourage employees to be advocates of their employer’s brand. I got stumped over a few tough questions, but nothing is more enjoyable than intellectual stimulation.
Among Anol’s many questions, one particularly touched the very foundation of my arguments for enhancing social connectivity in the workplace. Here it is, paraphrased.
|What then is the winning formula to encourage employees to speak openly and favourably of their employers’ brand? How do you create employee brand ambassadors?|
Not an easy question to answer. I have argued for leadership figures to lead and implement fundamental changes to encourage open discussion and endorsement of employer’s brand. It is a tall order, as Anol pointed out, because the undertaking seeks to overhaul culture that has probably been ingrained for years within an organisation (especially true in a Singaporean context, many examples of conservative people structures exist). Is there another way in then?
Finding out later that Anol is an Apple fanatic and aficionado was an important discovery (particularly in that moment). The immediate answer then (not the answer, but probably one of many probable answers and solutions) became more apparent to me.
About a month or so ago, I swallowed my ‘Google boy’ ego, bit the bullet, took a vow of geek celibacy and resolved to remain above the fray:
I vowed never to get into another argument about which smartphone or mobile operating system (OS) is better. No more iPhone vs (somebody), iOS vs Android, etc.
Technology serves a purpose in making our lives better, so the more of my peers, seniors at work and people in general adopt the smartphone as a tool for learning, the better I will feel. Everyone has the right to access real-time information and knowledge, just as I do, for work or daily life. In any case, I do openly admit that the iPhone is such a usable, intuitive and easy-to-use device. And most certainly not everyone needs a ‘WIFI hotspot’ in their pocket.
But I also realised something that will not keep Apple down or weaken it in the face of competition from the likes of Motorola, Samsung, HTC or any of the other mobile device manufacturer. Simply because…
You can only fight cool with cool.
Let’s face it, Apple is the epitome of cool. No doubt about it. The real hook in their messaging to customers and their admirers is that ’you can be cool’. Anol mentioned a Don Norman’s concept about us wanting to see ourselves in the objects that we own (correct me if I’m wrong). That’s exactly what Apple addresses in its ads. Apple sells you ‘cool’, a state of mind enhanced by how you think others will perceive ‘you’. Here’s a comparative study using video ads. Watch this iPod ad from Apple.
I brought back the iPod ad because it was the beginning of Apple mad love for most ‘non-design’ people that ultimately led to the current obsession with the iPhone. Now contrast that with this Motorola ad for the Droid. “Android 2.1”? “Xenon Flash”? Only the geeks will truly appreciate it. Sterile.
Here’s where Apple triumps again. Nothing in the following video mentions the iPhone (except the end caption). What Apple did was to connect that delicate human moment with the iPhone 4. No hard sell, but gentle tugging at our emotions. Cool.
Now this is my phone. In my opinion, if OS is a winning criteria, quite possibly the most powerful phone in the world right now. However, I’m in no doubt that Google sucks bad at marketing its products (other than their cash cow aka internet ads) and this video reflects that. This video is all about features, features, features. No ‘you’ or ‘me’ in it.
‘Selling cool’ has certainly helped Apple to maintain its mystique.
So if ‘selling cool’ works for products, can it work in an organisational context? Can companies sell ‘cool’ to their employees?
The Cool Organisation
I say, why not? What’s stopping anyone from internally marketing their company’s brand as ‘cool’? Isn’t communicating the virtues of the company’s brand, in relation to market competitors’, a sure way of keeping employees’ morale up? No one wants to work for a No. 2 or No. 3 brand.
Or am I wrong? Or ‘cool’ is just not feasible in employee relations?
But if you agree that ‘cool’ has its merits in creating employee brand ambassadors, the challenge is then, how do you create a ‘cool’ organisation? How do you create an organisation’s brand that employees will talk about openly and passionately?
Here’s another quick case study on ‘cool’.
Is YOG ‘cool’ enough to be passionate about?
In this CNA article, Zainudin Noordin implied that the Youth Olympic Games is not getting the kind of passionate support that it needs. That what is needed now is people “coming to action” to be passionate about the YOG. After the JJ Lin YOG cheer fiasco, I am sure YOG ‘cool factor’ has lost some of its shine. Is there a fix? Can ‘cool’ be produced on demand?
But most certainly not if someone’s brilliant idea of YOG cool is Ris Low, as in the next video.
What do YOU think? Is ‘cool’ cool enough to change how we perceive our employers’ brands? What will be the stumbling blocks? Is it the type of products or services that will determine ‘cool’? Can management folks appreciate ‘cool’? Do share below with your opinions, I would love to hear from you.