As Zappos gets social, what does cutting HR functions say about a brand?

posted by on 2014.06.06, under Brand Strategy, Social Media

[Originally published on]

Zappos, the online retailer and subsidiary of Amazon, raised eyebrows last week by announcing that it’s scrapping job postings in favor of a social approach. Prospective employees are now encouraged to join its social network to become Zappos Insiders, and start interacting with its recruiters on Facebook, Twitter and on the company blog.

A few months ago the iconoclastic Amazon-owned company also said goodbye to job titles, and it’s not alone in deciding to eliminate and evolve some traditional human resource functions. In fact, other companies are doing away with HR employees entirely, replacing them with software and outsourced services.

It all goes back to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s statement that “Customer service shouldn’t be a department. It should be the entire company.” So if job postings are obsolete in this real-time, social era, is this the beginning of the end for HR?


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Thinking out loud in a Quora answer

posted by on 2014.03.18, under Brand Strategy

I recently used a question on Quora as an excuse to think out loud about how we talk about brands and brand strategy. The question was:

How do you create and communicate your brand story?
So your fledgling business is finally taking off and customers are flooding in. But how do you move forward from a good site to a Brand. How do you create and communicate your brand story? What are the things to consider?

There are a few words and ideas in this question that indicate how many think about brands these days—things that I are think are flawed and obscure the objectives, means, and methodology of “branding.” So I tried to answer using words and ideas that are less misleading, although I admit they’re not necessarily simple ideas. For example, I prefer “identity” as a replacement for “brand” in many cases. Unfortunately, “identity” is too often used in our industry to mean “logo,” or the broader visual identity system. But if you look at the definition of “identity,” you’ll find something that speaks quite well to—again—the objectives, means, and methodology of “branding.”

Here’s my complete answer, below. Curious to know what you think.

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Ace Hotel: bold identity, bold voice

posted by on 2014.01.31, under Brand Experiences, Brand Strategy

[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]


Created in 1999 by Alex Calderwood, who passed away last November, Ace Hotel is famous for disrupting the hospitality industry with a fresh identity catering to the “creative class.” Countless books, articles, and blog posts have already extolled the strengths of that identity (and Portlandia has mocked its eccentricities).

For example, according to a 2010 post on this blog, the brand’s approach to co-branding and partnerships is “endlessly creative” and “always perfect.” Gawker quotes the co-founder of review site Mr & Mrs Smith: “I can’t think of another hotel group with such a strong brand and all-pervading identity – everything from the cocktails to the cleaning signs is unmistakeably Ace.” On a recent trip to New York, this author had the pleasure of staying at Ace Hotel.

The room’s artwork (local artist) was impressive, as were the vintage-style furnishings (Smeg fridge, reclaimed mirrors) and carefully selected brand partnerships (Fred bottled water, Pearl+ soap-on-a-rope). But it’s more than art, music, and hipster-friendly ephemera that surrounds the guest at Ace; painted on the walls, printed on signs, handwritten onto the bill, words also permeate one’s stay. And it’s through these words—through the brand’s voice—that the hotel’s personality shines brightest.

It starts with an amusing, reassuring welcome note on the front doormat: “You are here.” Once inside, signs at the elevators remind guests, “If you took the stairs you would be there already.” 

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An unfortunate spelling choice

posted by on 2014.01.10, under Naming

One man’s “spicy mint” is another’s “spic mint.”


Missed portmanteaunity

posted by on 2013.10.18, under Food/Drink, Writing/Grammar


The future of wearables is co-branded

posted by on 2013.10.15, under Brand Strategy

[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]

Last week, Basis Science, maker of fitness tracker Basis, announced an $11.75 million round of Series B financing from investors like Intel Capital and Stanford University. The news serves as one more data point for an increasingly obvious trend: the wearable technology market is in the midst of explosive growth, predicted by some to increase tenfold in the next several years. But whether they’re backed by startups, small businesses, or major brands like Samsung, Google, or (potentially) Apple, wearables face a common challenge: They must successfully bridge the disparate worlds of cutting-edge consumer technology and mainstream fashion.

As pointed out in a recent Fast Company article, the advent of wearable computers demands that technology companies “pay as much attention to the ‘wearable’ as [they do] to the ‘computer.’” Simply offering multiple colors, inviting designers to launch events, or putting their products on models may not be enough to make these devices desirable from a fashion standpoint.

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    Rob Meyerson is a brand strategist currently working in San Francisco.

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