A new buzzword on the rise is “Mecosystem,” a set of connections in which a brand fits into an individual’s life in a customized way. Mecosystems anticipate and evolve along with people’s personal expectations. It’s a great concept for consumer brands. So why not apply it to employer brands?
According to Interbrand, it’s a method that places the consumer at the center of the ecosystem. The concept advances the next stage of branding, where a product or line of products works seamlessly with its owner. “Droves of digital data, refined analytics, and real-time, multi-platform interactions help brands discover what people want—even before they do,” as Interbrand says. The consultancy calls this near future the “Age of You.” That’s because, “Within the Mecosystem paradigm, you are at the nexus of the system.” Apple and Google come to my mind, as they offer services as diverse — yet connected — as smartphones, music, email, maps, and even TV. I can see a brand like Nike on the horizon, combining wellness, fitness, apparel, and lots of great content.
The concept makes a lot of sense for consumer brands. But what about using data, analytics, and real-time interactions to help employees become more productive, knowledgeable, and innovative? I think forward-looking organizations can frame and personalize the employment experience on the basis on individual wants and needs to create better engagement. And we know higher engagement leads to higher profits, better retention, and lower turnover. So here’s how I think a Mecosystem could look for multiple stages of the employee life-cycle.
The application process is skewed completely to the employer’s whims; about all the candidate gets to choose is the time. How welcome does that make candidates feel? I think the Mecosystem philosophy means that recruiters can safely cede some power to the applicants. They could let candidates choose whether the first contact is by phone or Skype. They could ask if applicants would rather meet for coffee or lunch instead of the workplace. They could offer to show applicants part of the office that are off-limits to non-employees. I think some organizations could even invite candidates to share materials beyond resumes and work portfolios — something they created, like a painting, a photograph, or a video. How much would a recruiter learn about someone if they were asked to bring in “something that means a lot to you”? Would that show off their personality and cultural fit?
This idea works in the other direction, too — your application process should be customized to your organization. Too often, I’ve seen clients rely on old, unfriendly applicant tracking systems with little branding and even less personality, asking for the same information for a position in insurance as for a position in fundraising. Companies like RoundPegg offer customized applications that reflect your company’s mission, vision, and values, and ask questions that help determine a good culture fit.
Onboarding is often a forgotten part of the employment experience. The thrill of the interview process is over; the importance of the day-to-day tasks is still to come. But onboarding is a great candidate for Mecosystemization (is that a word?). Not every person learns the same way, so there’s no reason to instruct them the same way. During the interview process, smart recruiters can determine how best to educate the new hire — sometimes by asking them directly. Some may benefit from reading materials; others may prefer video. Still others might be better talking through the information with their manager or someone from HR. Some may prefer a hands-on approach while others learn by shadowing. Some may want to meet everyone in their department at once, while others would prefer lunch with a different colleague every week.
I recently wrote about apps that allow employers to see how their workers are feeling in real-time. If management sees that a division is feeling anxious about a project, they can act accordingly: hold an all-hands meeting, offer incentives, change team members, or push back deadlines. Some apps offer simple polls that take the pulse of the employees, letter employers make course-corrections in between major milestones. While this information is usually used in the aggregate, there’s no need to keep it anonymous; disengaged workers can be sought out and coached before they derail a project, loose productivity, or jump ship. This is employee engagement at its most personalized. All in all, this new generation of Mecosystem software provides a level of data never before seen in the workplace, and at least one of them should definitely be part of any company’s employee engagement budget.
My agency believes in the Mecosystem theory and is conducting research and working on initiatives that bring this innovative philosophy to internal branding. We have a decade of experience in employee engagement, internal communications, employee rewards programs, and other important recruiting and HR needs. Through our friends at One-Page Talent Management, we can even offers a new kind of 360 leadership assessment that’s easy to understand and gives managers clear, personalized guidance on how to be better leaders.
Never mind the Age of You — this will be the Age of Your Employees. Are you ready to begin?
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix
Uber launched in 2009, is valued at about $50 billion, and is unquestionably the giant of the car-service app field. Lyft grew out of Zimride in 2012, is work about $2.5 billion, and is the leading the pack of Uber competitors.
Both companies provide the exact same service, so much of their market differentiation comes in the form of branding. How does each compare to the other?
Uber launched with the tagline “Everyone’s Private Driver,” while Lyft started with “Your Friend with a Car.” You can see the distinction: Uber aimed for a classy experience (“Wow, my own private limo!”) while Lyft promised fun (“Hey, a cool person is giving me a ride!”). Uber’s logo was a sleek black and silver “U,” with its name in all caps. Lyft used a groovy, curvy font, all in lower case, and made pink its trademark color. The two brands were almost polar opposites.
But both brands have done some maneuvering since then. If you visit Uber’s website today, you’ll see the tagline “Your Ride, On Demand.” Lyft’s new positioning is “Rides In Minutes.” It looks to me like Uber is trying to emphasize choice, particularly by replacing “everyone’s” with “your.” Lyft may be taking a shot at Uber’s longer wait time (whether accurate or not) by using the word “minutes.”
When this very question came up on Quora, the responses uncovered a difference. Uber was more classy, more professional. Its drivers wore suits and opened the door for you. Most importantly, riders tended to sit in the back, like they would for a taxi or limo. Lyft was described as more casual and fun. Lyft cars once sported three-foot long fuzzy mustaches in their grills, and riders were encouraged to fist-bump their drivers, sit in the front, and have a chat.
Lately, Lyft has changed course. In 2014, the company told customers it was all right to sit in the back. Fist-bumping was also made optional. And the giant mustaches didn’t do well in bad weather, so Lyft changed them to small, glowing, plastic decorations on the dashboard.
Uber is on Facebook (2.8 million likes), Twitter (388,000 followers), and Instagram (118,000 followers). The company’s content features videos, contests, info about driving for Uber, and articles about how the company has positively impacted communities through ride-sharing. The company responds quickly to comments and questions on Facebook — one post took Uber just seven minutes to reply.
Lyft is on Facebook (318,363 likes), Twitter (138,000 followers), and Instagram (21,400 followers. Like Uber, its social media features fun videos, contests, and research about how Lyft helps workers and is good for the environment (by reducing the amount of cars on the road). The company also responds quickly to comments and questions on Facebook; one fan mentioned on Instagram that her query took just 45 minutes to get an answer. While Uber’s Instagram photos are very artistic and look professional, Lyft’s pics look more like the average person’s account.
In many ways, the brand’s social efforts are the same — but Uber, the industry leader, has at least triple the amount of followers on each social platform.
The two companies are in a heated race for drivers, with Uber even allegedly trying to recruit Lyft drivers with passengers who make sales pitches while in the car. How does each brand market itself to potential employees?
Uber’s pitch: “Earn money with Uber — There’s never been a better time to drive with Uber. Signing up is easy and you’ll be earning money in no time.” The site then shows the three easy steps to employment: “Get started. Get the app. Start driving.” There’s an approval process between steps one and two.
Lyft: “Make up to $35/hr driving your car.” The rest of the page is a sign-up form. After that, there’s a cool calculator, “See how much you can make,” where you can enter how many hours you plan to drive per week, and what city you’re in.
In the Quora conversation, a former Uber driver said, “When I interviewed with Lyft, it took about an hour, and it seemed they were trying to get to know me more than the interview with Uber, which included a PowerPoint presentation and an orientation.”
The driver application pages on Uber’s website keeps the site’s white print on a black background, and looks both authoritative and slick. Lyft opts for a very light blue background, with gray text and highlights of its trademark pink. Taken together, the employer branding reinforces Uber’s classy, professional style and Lyft’s fun, casual attitude.
Each company offers almost the exact same services. Uber added a carpool option called UberX; Lyft has LyftLine. Uber offers “surge pricing” for high-demand times, while Lyft has “Prime Time.” The difference comes down to branding. In some ways, Uber is like Microsoft in the 1980s and Lyft is the insurgent Apple. New York Magazine tried another analogy: Uber is Hertz of the 1960s, while Lyft is Avis. In both cases, the second-place company innovated, differentiated, and just plain tried harder, and ended up equal to or greater than its competitor.
With such a high valuation, and an appearance in the national language (many startups bills themselves as “Uber for _____”), I don’t think Uber is going anywhere. But Lyft’s more welcoming personality should do well in a service industry. Each company is using the right branding. And each provides a valuable lesson for other organizations on how to differentiate in the marketplace.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.