2014 Most Brandful Moment

Only a few more hours until 2015.  Quick: What was your most memorable moment of 2014?

Mine was a brandful moment: Rolling out brandful to a new audience.

Looking back on 2014, one of my favorite projects was working with DeVry Institute to provide some brandful resources to their community of students and alumni.  Prior to the engagement, I had an idea of what DeVry was all about but after getting a deeper inside view of this educational organization, with over 90 campuses, nation-wide, I now understand more fully the value of the DeVry brand.  They have a sweet spot for mid-career folks who are working and want to make a change for the better. I believe this population is growing, especially as the average job tenure is only about three years. Top that with longer average life spans, working retirees, a growing trend for multiple changing careers, and DeVry’s business model, which includes affordable education, and you can see that they are well-positioned for success.

DeVry was excited about introducing their students and alumni to the concept of brandful as a new career trend. Instead of just looking for any old job, the idea is to look for an organization that you believe in, first.  So just as employers want to find the right brandful employees, job-seekers also should proactively look for their own match that aligns with their personal brand.

I spoke to faculty, students, alumni and administrators about their views on a brandful career path, its importance and relevance to career success and how they could go about becoming brandful. The conversations were enlightening and thought-provoking. I started out by asking each person to talk about their current job, their field of study and career. It was a typical conversation. Then came the curve question:

“What are some of your personal favorite brands?”

That’s when their eyes would light up and the smile would come on. Hmmmm. They would think with grins. Then they would start naming companies, both big and small, whatever came to mind.  Just as they would get on a roll with the list, I came with the punch:

“Have you ever considered working at any of these companies?”

The grin turned to a look of wonder and then fireworks. Why has nobody really thought of a career in this way? Most answered: “I don’t know, but they should!”

Some of the folks with whom I spoke, left with an enthusiasm for a renewed career approach and ideas on where they can bring value beyond the specific job. I also left with greater drive for the future of brandful. http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/Witnessing the personal lightbulb moments was quite powerful. I look forward to many more of these in 2015.

Stay tuned for upcoming 2015 launches including Top Brandful Companies List and the New York City Brandful Tour.  Have a Brandful New Year!

How Employee and Customer Fans Make IKEA Brandful

I’m always on the lookout for brandful examples. Recently, I spoke to Rich D’Amico, Deputy Marketing Director, IKEA USA  to find out the inside scoop on the IKEA brand and how they create both employee and customer brand advocates. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

Julia Gometz: A brandful company has internal and external brand advocates. Do you have different strategies for employees and customers on how they can promote your products, or are they integrated? Can you explain the strategy?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: We are a values driven company with a passion for life @ home. We have a very thorough understanding of how customers live at home. We spend a lot of time in consumers’ homes really understanding their needs, dreams and desires. We use these insights to provide products and solutions that help to make their lives better. We like to call this co-creation, working with consumers to provide beautiful, functional, sustainable, good quality products and solutions that are affordably priced. Presently we have 5 IKEA co-workers travelling the country (our Home Tour squad) working with consumers in different cities to solve their home furnishings challenges. Our co-workers in all of our stores have a solid understanding of how, consumers in their local markets, live @ home and translate that knowledge into solutions that meet their customers’ needs. I would say that the strategies are closely integrated.

Julia Gometz: What is IKEA’s philosophy on its workforce? Do they help define the brand? Who comes first: the employees or the customers?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: IKEA is a values driven company with a very strong living culture. The IKEA business idea, culture and values are all connected. This reflects a caring and honest approach to partnering with our co-workers ( we call ourselves co-workers) and a way to move the business forward. They are founded on a simple thought that what is good for the customer is also in the long run good for our business. Each customer interaction with IKEA and our co-workers helps to define the brand. Our objective is to ensure that each touch point is a positive experience for the consumer. Our co-workers and customers/consumers are at the center of everything we do.

Julia Gometz: Part of the roadmap to building a brandful workforce calls for brandful recruiting – or hiring employees who genuinely love your products. Do you do this? If so, how?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: We’re a diverse group of down-to-earth, straightforward people with a passion for home furnishing. We come from all over the world but we share an inspiring vision: “to create a better everyday life for the many people”. How we realize this vision is based on our shared humanistic values. These values are the foundation of our work and our inclusive, empathizing, open and honest culture. Working with us is like working with your friends. Our culture is based on the spirit of togetherness, enthusiasm and fun. And we’re always looking for people who share our positive attitude and values.

Julia Gometz: I read that egos are not tolerated among the IKEA workforce. I found this to be quite avant-garde. Not many companies specify what they don’t want in their workforce. How has this worked in your favor and has there been any downside to this approach?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: Working together as a team allows us to achieve great things. We see everyone as a talent and that approach allows us to develop our co-workers and the business.  You can always be yourself, everyone has a voice and it’s a company that encourages open dialogue. IKEA wants diverse co-workers that can help build on that culture – straightforward and down-to-earth people with a willingness to learn. Another thing that is part of our culture is that it is ok to make mistakes as long as we learn and grow from them.

Julia Gometz: What are some stories of customers and employees promoting one of your products or services?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: There are many and you can see them yourself on IKEA’s Youtube channel where we have many videos of our Home Tour Squad deployed across the country helping individuals and families improve life at home. One example was Sandra in Center City, Philadelphia who had moved into a small apartment from a large house. She was having trouble using a small space as a living room and dining room. The squad came in and helped her out!  You can see what happened in Episode 111.

Julia Gometz: Tell us more about your personal story of how long you’ve been working at IKEA, why you joined, and your accomplishments there. What’s your personal favorite IKEA product and why?

Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: I have been with IKEA for almost 25 years. I joined the company because I really liked the values and culture. I was looking for a place where I could be myself and work together with talented people to achieve big goals. I have helped grow the business from just a few stores to 40 stores. My favorite IKEA product is my IKEA kitchen! It is beautiful, functional and makes the heart of my home an inspiring and great place to hang out.

Julia Gometz: Thanks for the interview Rich. On my own personal note, I love IKEA. http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/employee-customer-brandful/My first experience was as a child at the IKEA in Ottawa, Canada, and I vividly remember jumping into the ball pit. Now, I love going to the IKEA in Long Island with my family.

Read more Brandful Workforce blog posts or purchase your copy of the book: The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand.

To see a clip from the television show, Ellen, where she plays a fun IKEA game that will make you laugh, check out the segment below.

Even Google Is Stumped

In a recent article Google admitted that it could not predict who would be a good hire and who would fail. I’m not sure that anyone has figured this out and it’s certainly not due to lacking analytical capability.

I believe the starting point for figuring out who will succeed in your organization has to start with this question: What kind of an employee do you need to drive your organization’s success? If you don’t know the answer to this, then any analysis you conduct will go in circles. According to my brandful workforce roadmap which helps organizations build a workforce of brand promoters, the entire employee strategy must be driven by a successful business model. Under this method, there is no organization that boasts of having the “best” talent, yet instead they can boast of having a good match for what it is they need to accomplish.

For more information on Google’s point of view, click here to read the article. Or please send me your comments and join in the discussion.

Should Every Employee Be a Brand Ambassador?

I’ve seen organizations designate certain employees (over others) to be brand ambassadors. They have a set of criteria and if the employee lives up to it, he is chosen. This doesn’t make any sense to me. What message does this send to the employees who are not brand ambassadors and doesn’t every employee represent the brand anyway?

Don’t worry about the potential bottom 5-10% of your staff who are underperformers or “problem employees.” These folks already suck way too much time and attention from your managers and should be held accountable.  It’s like the problem child that gets all the attention when the good kids are left alone because they are doing what they’re told to do. Keep the focus on the ones who deserve it. Having a brandful workforce simply means that you have employees who genuinely love your products and/or services. If this is true, they are more likely to behave in a way that promotes your brand. The level to which they actually do this may vary according to each employee’s personality and lifestyle, and it should be genuine.  I believe this simple concept has been left out of most organizational strategies and I do believe that employees are the biggest missed opportunity in branding today. Don’t miss the boat on this one.

A Photo Is Worth More Than Just Words

Last week, someone asked me to describe what a brandful workforce actually looks like. I hesitated to answer as I needed to clarify the question: “You mean, visually?” My colleague nodded. I hadn’t actually thought of it before, but my mind immediately came to an image of photos. I had heard that the lobby of Southwest Airlines corporate headquarters was plastered with photos of cabin crews, airplanes, gate agents, families, managers, friends, and office employees that were taken throughout the history of the airline. When I worked at JetBlue, I could walk up to any office cubicle and see not only family photos, but photos of co-workers and fellow Crewmembers. Photos can be quite telling about the personality and culture of the organization. But a photograph can also be engaging and bring out feelings. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes words cannot describe feelings. And this is similar to the visual results of a brandful workforce – a strong emotional connection between employees, the organization and the customers.

Was it a coincidence that just hours following this conversation I happened to walk into a Starbucks and see photos of the employees? When I read the blurbs beside the photos, it told me more about the personal lives of the baristas. I noticed some things I had in common with some of them. It immediately felt more like a friendly hangout, not just a great place that serves coffee, but a place to meet others. Every employee has a story and a personality that can be part of the experience, and be authentic. Kudos to Starbucks for encouraging their baristas to be themselves and share their individual interests and who they are – as part of their brand. This is a great example of being brandful.

starbucks photos