What McDonalds Can Teach You About Failed Branding

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Have you seen the recent McDonald’s commercials featuring wholesome ingredients in family settings?

That’s a far cry from their previous campaign geared towards a “cool” hip-hop crowd…

Confusing. That’s what McDonald’s marketing is currently.

Apply that to your professional life. When you’re asked the question, “Why should we hire you?” in a job interview would you state what makes you unique or go with what’s trendy nowadays? (I hope you choose the former)

My point is when it comes to branding it’s important to know your identity.

Using McDonald’s as a bad example, they’ve flip-flopped on who they are trying to be and to whom they’re trying to be it to. Newsflash: people don’t buy McDonald’s products because of sustainable procedures, family values or the perception of being part of the “in-crowd.” It’s sole appeal is: it’s cheap, fast-food. I guarantee if they spent more money marketing their dollar menu, combo meals and sale items profits would rise quickly.

Trying to be the jack-of-all-trades results in being a master of none.

That’s why tools like the StrengthsFinder are helping in defining your identity (personal brand).

Your strengths determine your style which reveals your brand.

Don’t be afraid to niche yourself according to your speciality. People need to know who you are and what you do clearly.

If you communicate various descriptions it sounds confusing…and the problem is when someone is confused they will always say “no” to buying you.

Don’t be like McDonald’s. Be clear about you.

Why Millennials Hate Church

Millennials_THE-CHURCH

There may be an assumption here that I’m stating Millennials aren’t spiritual or believe in God, but that’s far from the truth.

My perspective comes from working at a church leading Millennials (1996-2006) then helping companies retain & train Millennials (2007-present). Essentially I’ve followed Millennials around for 20 years. What I’ve found is as Millennials have evolved, churches haven’t.

Think about your favorite decade of music. Isn’t it based on what you listened to while in school? The problem is churches are playing the same music from the ’50’s…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Churches can’t reach Millennials because the model they are using is broken.

Millennials want answers to today’s issues, but to put it bluntly the church isn’t relevant. God and the Bible haven’t changed, but the means to tell their stories have. For instance, who wants to wake up on their day off (Sunday) to hear someone tell them what they shouldn’t be doing? Feedback is vital, yet we live in a day where social media, videos and texting are the way we get our information. The mediums churches use don’t reach Millennials.

Millennials desire collaboration and community more than any generation before them. I find it unnecessary to have Sunday service weekly when rarely do you get to communicate with others and if you do, it’s usually surface-level conversations after the program is over. Why not emphasize smaller group meetings weekly in people’s homes or public meeting places? We learn more in discussion than we do in “class.”

Events can serve the purpose of getting large amounts of people together, but either interest-based or training-type focused solely. What if a “church” spent it’s funds on creating a local business within the community that offered jobs, programs and resources to it’s neighbors? Isn’t that what social entrepreneurship is? Impact breeds lifestyle and lifestyle is what influences others.

The irony of this post is the people who will agree with it are who it’s for: Millennials. The ones who are offended by it: older folks who attend church regularly.

The best example I can give you is once I was at a church conference with multiple generations in the audience. The speaker said, “raise your hand if you disagree with how your youth programs are being run.” Most of the older people put their hand up. The speaker’s response? Good. It’s not for you anyway.

Mic dropped.

If you enjoyed this musing, check out the inception of my idea here: The Startup Church.

The Unemployed Entrepreneur

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Want to know the real motivation behind current entrepreneurs?

Being broke.

As a business owner each day you wake up needing to sell.

You either make money that day or you don’t.

Nothing is given to you. You have to fight for everything a.k.a. the daily grind.

Signing up as an entrepreneur basically makes you a sales person. Even though you’re the boss, you’re 100% responsible for selling. It’s tough work, not for the faint at heart. In fact, you become so accustomed to rejection you think you’re dating her.

But chasing your dreams does have a tremendous upside. Complete freedom is one of the best feelings you can experience and once you’ve been the boss, it’s tremendously hard to go back to working for someone else. In the right situation it’s possible, but chances are while you’re working, you’re strategizing how you can improve the process on your own.

The reason entrepreneurship is down with Millennials is because it’s too big of a risk. Chasing your dreams doesn’t pay well. If you like supplemental income for travel, dining out and adventures put that on hold. Considering starting a family? One of you better have a stable job with benefits or suffer a drop in quality of lifestyle.

Possibly a larger factor than a big, scalable idea is timing. Forget age, what life stage are you in: single and career driven or in a relationship and starting a family? The answer to that question will give you clarity on whether or not to pursue your dreams. Starting a business takes more of an investment in time than money, so your current level of responsibility will give you clarity on pulling the trigger.

Take it from someone whose priorities changed drastically over the past several years. What was a good decision before, isn’t the best decision now. Pride aside, your life goals change which calls for a life pivot.

Entrepreneurship can be for everyone, but think about the lifestyle you want to maintain and decide from there.

Pitch Perfect: You

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Recently I read a great article, Founders: Pitch the Promised Land, and it got me thinking…

Why don’t we pitch what we do more aspirational?

Fear. Fraud. Failure. Those are the voices in our head, but aren’t dreams what motivate us?

Whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur: you’re offering a product or service right?

Pitch their dreams.

Take your elevator pitch as an example. Try selling yourself to a stranger in 30 seconds or less; it’s challenging to say the least. That doesn’t include the fact rarely does anyone buy anything on the first impression.

But if someone is “shopping,” your goal is to deliver an answer as clear as possible. Why?

Because without clarity (a.k.a. confusion), the answer to your sales pitch is “no.”

The best stories are the ones that get you thinking. In this case, it caused my own self-evaluation.

Here’s my answer to the question, “So what do you do?

Before: “I help small to mid-sized companies retain and train their Millennials.”

After: “Millennial Mastery.”

My initial answer is clear and straight to the point, but the revised statement paints an image (or at least causes you to ponder for a moment).

It is possible? How’s it done? What’s the cost?

The goal of a pitch shouldn’t be to get an immediate answer. It should be to get customers to want more.

Engagement in the workplace is talked about constantly, but it should also be integrated with sales pitches too.

So the next time you’re asked the question, “what do you do?” Answer in future-tense.

Pokemon: Gotta Catch ‘Em Millennials

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Driving or walking down the street, you’re bound to see groups of people staring at their phones…

And chances are they’re playing Pokemon Go, a recent craze amongst Millennials. An estimated 80% of players are between the ages of 18-34.

So how did this app go viral so fast? Here’s 3 reasons why:

1. Nostalgia – Pokemon reached it’s peak in the late 90’s, when most Millennials were in their childhood. For the same reason Transformers connects with men who grew up in the 80’s, Pokemon Go has struck a chord with Millennials. Nintendo is brilliant for bringing this fad back. But Pokemon has capitalized on much more than childhood memories. They’ve used gamification to engage the most influential generation yet.

2. Social Community – Rarely will you find Millennials playing Pokemon Go alone. Instead groups of people move in drones trying to catch the different characters. Local businesses would be smart to offer “lures” or incentives to entice the increased foot traffic. An article in Forbes dubs it “a flash mob organized by a gaming company.” Other generations may look down upon the craze, but there’s definitely something there and can be a huge opportunity to businesses who take advantage of the trend.

3. Activity – One of the most overlooked aspects of Pokemon Go is the mobility factor. There have been extreme incidents of people getting out of their cars during traffic, but for the most part it gets you out and about on your feet. This is not Crossfit or extreme cardio by any means, but it has a similar effect as FitBit. As an observer it looks comical to see groups aimlessly scour around town, but at least it provides a path to exercise. With obesity at an all time high, Pokemon Go helps, doesn’t hurt the cause against lethargy.

As with most trends with Millennials, you have a choice: frown upon or take advantage of it. Understanding why something is appealing is the best place to start. Millennials are an influential, peer-based consuming machine. Catching their attention is difficult, but Pokemon Go may have given us a peek into what makes them tick.

3 Millennial Travel Trends & The Workplace Impact

Millennial-Traveler

Millennials love to travel. Timing (having less responsibilities) and adventure-seeking are the two biggest motivators, but their tendencies shed light on how Corporate America should market to them.

Here are 3 ways:

Culture – When Millennials travel they want to immerse themselves in the local culture. Touristy spots aren’t a given, instead planning ahead and leaving room for exploration is the preferred method. In the workplace, diversity and the ability to connect with co-workers matters. Entrepreneurship is down amongst Millennials because it’s riskier than working for an established company. Travel destinations are usually known for at least one thing, what is your company known for? The answer defines your culture which is your brand.

Peer Recommendations – Travel sites are only appealing to Millennials if they contain reviews. Want to know where Millennials vacation? Ask their friends. Travel agents are basically instinct because part of going on an adventure is planning it yourself. Millennials are strong brand influencers, so if your company is labeled as a “cool place to work” applicants will come knocking on your door (not a bad recruiting strategy right?) The purpose of offering perks shouldn’t just be to attract Millennials, but at a deeper level tie into their desired lifestyle. For example, providing yoga classes and organic food on-site is a wellness perk. Millennials who desire that type of lifestyle become your company’s brand ambassadors to prospective candidates. Get your younger worker’s buy-in because Millennials trust their friend’s recommendations over expert’s.

Shareable Experiences – Where social media thrives visually is through beautifully taken photos and videos. Great design is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also shareable. Instagram and Snapchat have exploded with Millennials because of sharing. Forward-thinking companies take photos/videos of everyday life at work. Not stock images that are orchestrated, but a peek into a day in the life at your company. Similar to hotel websites, Millennials check your company’s digital footprint across different platforms to get a feel for your brand. We spend more than 50% of our waking hours at work, so hopefully it’s share-worthy. User-generated content can be one of your company’s biggest recruiting tools, but only if you’re intentional about it.

Retaining Millennials starts with understanding Millennials. Since work-life integration has become the norm questioning “why” Millennials make specific decisions matters. Use travel trends as insight into engaging your Millennial workforce. Companies are starting to offer unlimited vacation (hmm, I wonder why) for increased customization of schedule. Smart companies will use market research such as travel trends to recruit, retain and optimize the best Millennial workers out there. Will you? 

Let’s Start A Workplace Revolution Together

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Josh is a good friend I met for coffee over 6 years ago. We were both at different places then, but our similar views on leadership and work kept the conversation going. Since we connected both of us became authors and dads. Josh is someone I always bounce ideas off of because he’s such an insightful and bright human being. He’s always been supportive of me and I am a big fan of his. I hope you enjoy a peek into this thought leader’s mind:

1) You truly are a thought leader. What does that term mean to you & how does it influence your work?

To me, leadership (for anyone) is about one thing: doing something that’s worth following. To that end, I’m always trying to spread thoughts, ideas, and stories that help others envision a better future for work, and inspire them to come along on the journey. Right now, for the vast majority of people on the planet, work truly sucks. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have all the tools we need to fix this—it’s a desire and design problem, not a capability problem. I want us all to start believing we can create something better… because we can.

2) At the core of what you do lies in making organizations better. Explain your philosophy briefly.

Most of us optimize many different parts of our organizations: marketing, finance, operations, etc. What we typically don’t maximize as a business driver is our culture—the human size of our business. What I mean is, every person in your company has a choice at every moment: will they bring their best self to their work, or will it be something less than their peak performance? We create organizations where people choose peak performance as often as possible, improving results across the board.

3) When we first met, we were both “kidless,” but now as a parent how has that affected the way you view/do work?

Being a dad has made me acutely more aware of the opportunity cost of my time and the finite-ness of my energy. I’ve always had some vague understanding that choosing one thing makes something else impossible, but that notion is now technicolor. And, at the same time as we added kids to our family, I’ve also added more colleagues to my company. Both changes are amazing… and also extraordinarily challenging. I’m doing my best to leverage the benefits of both these things: learning to continually do the things that are the highest and best use of my time at work and to find partners on my team to help make all the other stuff happen, in order to maximize the time I get with my kids. It’s remarkably difficult, but I’m slowly getting better!

4) You recently picked up and moved to a new state, what has that transition to a new “home” been like?

We recently moved to Denver after being in Los Angeles for a decade. We’ve been here now for about 6 months, and I’m afraid I’d be lying if I said we were somehow “settled!” My job has changed very little—in fact, that part of my life has mostly been made better as I’m now closer to a better airport—but the rest of life was completely uprooted, of course. Starting over isn’t easy for anyone, far as I can tell (and moving to a cold climate in the middle of the winter was just a serious bummer), but I will say that the wonderful folks of Colorado have been very kind to us. I’m extremely optimistic that this will be an excellent home for us and our kiddos!

5) You and I are strong advocates of leveraging personal strengths, tell my readers about the Strengthscope and how it can benefit them and their companies!

Let me put this as simply as I can: if your organization doesn’t have a strengths-based culture, you are simply NOT getting peak performance out of your people. Period. Here’s what I’ve learned over the last decade: humans are physically incapable of producing sustained excellence if we’re not utilizing our strengths in our work. My consulting group utilizes an assessment called Strengthscope® to jumpstart these conversations and help people re-orient their mindsets towards a path that’s far more productive and positive! We love it.

What You Shouldn’t Offer Millennials As A Perk

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Remote work.

What? Flex time, yes. Working full-time from home, no.

Believe it or not Millennials desire to connect relationally more than any other generation. They tend to prefer virtually, but putting a Millennial at home takes him/her out of any opportunities for interacting face-to-face.

If Millennials are perceived as poor communicators, why would you want to make it worse by eliminating social situations?

Take it from an entrepreneur himself, working from home can get lonely. Instead of complaining about other co-workers not getting their work done, you can only vent alone (occasionally talk to yourself…at least I’ve heard). Lifestyle entrepreneurs desire solidarity and freedom, but it’s not for everyone. Traveling for vacation is much different than waking up at work.

Workplace culture has overtaken following your passion. Without a shared physical location it’s nearly impossible to create culture (unless you’re a 100% remote company). Millennials love to collaborate, therefore working in close proximity breeds socialization.

There’s a downturn in entrepreneurship of Millennials for the simple fact: it’s lonely (risky too). Millennials love to consume and that’s where the steady paycheck comes in. Companies offering career development programs shouldn’t worry about Millennials leaving. Your 20’s are a time of career exploration and companies can address this by providing long-term on-boarding programs (structured like an internship) comprised of: mentoring, cross-departmental training & soft-skills workshops. Do that and retention rates will skyrocket.

Stereotypes of any grouping are a place to start, but never the place to finish. Millennials get a bad rap on many issues (some deserving), but if you really understand their values and motivations you can focus on their potential and strengths.

Perks are meant to improve engagement which results in increased productivity. Don’t make the mistake of offering working from home to Millennials or else you’ll become a former employer soon.

 

Are You a Confused Millennial?

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I’ve always believed LinkedIn and other social media platforms are about making a virtual connection in hopes of connecting with people you would never meet normally in person. That’s how Rachel & I met. Since we write about similar topics and have mutual friends, we got on the phone and chatted. After talking with her I was impressed with her takeaways and business acumen so I decided to interview her so that you, my readers might be inspired.

1) Tell us briefly how you successfully transitioned from counseling to a business/career coach.

Well initially I started out as a general life coach. I worked with people of all ages, from 17 to 80! My real passion started to come out as I taught twenty somethings how to find their purpose and “adult” effectively. During my first year in business I started getting approached by local businesses to consult on their behalf with program developments, social media marketing, and employee satisfaction. At around the year mark of my business is when I decided to rebrand my business to focus more on business and career coaching.

2) What advice would you give someone who is unhappy in their career?

I would probably ask them to explore what is causing the unhappiness to figure out if its something that could change with some inner work or if the person is in the wrong career all together. For example, someone can be really unhappy because they aren’t used to a certain type of structured work environment or having a boss, but love the work they are doing. In that situation the person should probably work with a coach or counselor to figure out what changes they can make to create more autonomy for themselves in the workplace. However, if someone actually dislikes the work they are doing, then I would have them write out the characteristics of their dream career and start working on an entirely new career plan based on whats missing for them and their intrinsic and current skill set.

3) Your alter ego, The Confused Millennial, has gained a lot of traction as of late. To what do you attribute this growing following?

I think it’s really relatable for people. I constantly get emails and comments from people saying how much they can relate or love the blog. I think most of us millennials are multi-passionate and the idea of narrowing our focus to one thing can feel pretty claustrophobic. The blog is a place to read and watch other millennials journeys, plus get actionable advice based on personal experiences. I think we all crave community and thats what The Confused Millennial is really doing.

4) I’ve noticed a big part of your brand is your complete transparency. Was that intentional or just you being you?

I’ve always been the type of person that what you see is what you get. I have a real hard time with RBF and hiding my emotions. When I moved my business on-line I made the decision to be “more polished” as a business/career coach since that’s what I thought I needed to do in order to be “successful”… but a month after the launch of rachelritlop.com I felt like I was a total fraud. I realized how much fluff I had consumed on the internet and I felt taken advantage of and just wanted to do something different than what all the “big coaches” were doing with their perfectly polished personas, and be true to me… which led to the creation of The Confused Millennial.

5) Recently you launched an Instagram E-Course. Tell my readers more about this great resource!

Yeah! It’s been great! It decided the last week of March to grow my Instagram following and in just three months I saw an increase in engagement from 0% to 8% and from less than 300 followers to about 6,000! I decided to put all the information I learned and tips into a course! Basically it takes you through the basics of Instagram, how to optimize your Instagram for engagement and conversations, how to take Instagram worthy photos with your iPhone, how to grow an engaged following and so much more! The course is available for sale here!

Identifying Your One Thing

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Several years ago when I worked as a Youth Pastor I came across a book called The 1 Thing: What everyone craves – that your church can deliver.

It was a good, not great book, but the message was simple: build relationships. In the context of “church” it’s a crystal-clear way to set your mission.

Here’s how it applies to you: what do you do best? What is your 1 thing?

If you don’t know, keep reading…

As a huge supporter and user of the StrengthsFinder assessment, I believe everyone should live/function out of their strengths. This particular test reveals your Top 5 strengths and how to use them in your personal and professional life. It’s a great application tool towards becoming the best version of yourself, but I’d like to challenge you to take it a step further.

My Top 5 results from the StrengthsFinder are: Relator, Individualization, Maximizer, Arranger & Strategic. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the terminology, the reason I’m using this example is from these 5 themes, my most marketable talent is: efficiency (Maximizer).

I’m obsessed with efficiency. I plan out everything (even though it rarely plays out the way I envision it). I care about “flow,” punctuality and running ahead of schedule. I apply this strength to the one thing I do best: lead Millennials (that’s why my blog is called Maximizing the Millennial).

The point of my example isn’t to bring attention to myself. It’s to show you narrowing your brand down to one thing is powerful.

People do contact me about career coaching, but I don’t proactively market it. I have other skill sets and interests that excite me, but I don’t focus on them. Customers want to know the one thing you do and how you do it the best. That’s why they hire you.

Job descriptions desire generalists, but within those multitude of tasks they still want to know your speciality. Not only will identifying your 1 thing help you answer the dreaded interview question, “what are your strengths?” It defines your brand.

You can’t be anything you want to be, you can only be the best version of you (2.0). So what’s your 1 thing?