Tuesday 18 November 2008

Kennedy Recruiting Conference / Adidas Employer Branding


    I didn't see that many presentations at Kennedy's Recruiting conference - the pull of the sunshine was just too strong.  But my favourite of those I did was from Steve Bonomo and Steve Fogarty at Adidas as this was a great combination of insight, perspective and practical experience.

Bonomo and Fogarty explained, referring to Frank Lane’s book, Killer Brands, that a brand enables a company to "derive a disproportionate amount of success… because of a compelling and differentiated expectation that comes to be associated with its name".

A true killer brand "will be chosen over competing brands—in any category, in any country, at any time, and often at any reasonable price" and its constituent elements include:

  • Choice: every $ you spend or will ever make depends on choice
  • Expectations: every choice that will be made depends on expectations
  • Focus: is that single, differentiating factor
  • Alignment: is connecting everything you do in perfect harmony
  • Linkage: getting that focus, that expectation carried in the minds of your people.


The key to this is the 'differentiating factor' - to find something about your company that is different in your organisation from others / its competitors, and different in kind not simply in degree.  Bonomo and Fogarty recommended that people should "pull, grab, tear the essence of brand from your corporate bureaucracy and bring it to life!".

This can then be built, with design, simplicity and beauty into all relevant delivery mechanisms, eg job templates, recruitment posters etc.

For Adidas, the differentiating factor is the love of sport.  Someone asked a good question - that finding this differentiating factor is relatively easy if you're into spots, or are the US Army, or Cirque de Soleil, but more difficult if you're in transportation.

Like Bonomo and Fogarty, I lean to the view that although it may be more difficult, it will still be possible.

I think the differentiating factor falls out of an organisation's big idea, or BHAG, or what I think it often more motivating, an organisation's mojo.  As I've previously posted, I think this can come from something which is absolutely central to organisational strategy (like an interest in sport), or something which is a complementary focus to the main business strategy - something that will fit beside and support (if not drive) the strategy, but which will be more motivating for employees, eg corporate social responsibility (maybe the solution for the transportation firm).

Whatever it is, I also agree with Adidas, it needs to go way beyond the "canned speeches" organisations often use for this type of thing.




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  1. Couldn't agree more...it's all about the mojo. Ironically, I'm brand loyal to adidas (even though I can't necessarily tell you why). I actually just realized I'm weating an adidas headband right now plus adidas socks and running pants. Oh- and the only sneakers I buy are adidas. Yikes!

  2. Thanks Breanne! Great to hear from you (and I can picture you too now!)


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