One Brand w/ Chris Kneeland, CEO Cult Collective

Chris Kneeland is beyond a "brand expert" he's a Cult Brand Expert and the CEO of Cult Collective where he and his work with brands like Harley Davidson, Home Depot, Zappo's and many others to drive audience engagement.

But what exactly does that mean for HR, Talent Acquisition and the Recruitment Industry?

No spoilers... You'll have to sit back and listen to this NEXXT EXCLUSIVE...


Disability Solutions connects jobseekers with disabilities with employers who value diversity and inclusion.

Chad: Okay. Joel, quick question.

Joel: Yup.

Chad: What happens when your phone vibrates or you're texting alert goes off?

Joel: Dude, I pretty much check it immediately. And I bet everyone listening is reaching to check their phones right now.

Chad: Yeah, I know. I call it our Pavlovian dog reflex to text messaging.

Joel: Yeah, that's probably why

text messaging has a fricking 97% open



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Chad: Yup. That's right. Nexxt with the double x, not the triple x.

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Chad: Boom. So how do you get this discount? You are asking yourself right now.

Joel: Tell him Chad.

Chad: It's very simple. You go to and you click on the Nexxt logo in the sponsor area.

Joel: Easy.

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Announcer: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news/opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Hey guys, it's Joel Cheesman of the Chad and Cheese Podcast. You know as well. Part of our series from Banff, the gathering. We're here with Chris Kneeland, CEO of Cult Collective. No one listening to this knows who you are. So give us

a 140 character about you and your agency and how you're different.

Chris: That's interesting 'cause me and my agency are two different things. So I'm a father of three, a loving husband and all around nice guy.

Joel: We're going to fact check that, by the way.

Chris: My agency-

Chad: Where is your wife?

Chris: She's around. She's around. My agency is what we call ourselves audience engagement experts. We subscribed to the idea that getting customers is not that hard. What you should be doing is trying to create cult-like followings. And that implies using a different belief system and certainly using different behaviors.

Joel: Now you're presented here yesterday and you did a session today. You are a big fan of employees.

Chris: Absolutely.

Joel: Talk about that. Like they're the center of your world, as a strategy and as a business. Talk about that.

Chris: There's two things. There's a truth, which is that the world's most beloved brands build that brand love from the inside out. And that begins with the staff. But there's also, I think an egregious problem, which is that employees are largely abandoned by many corporations, by being either commoditized and treated as an HR commodity to be mitigated. Keep the people happy and throw them some doughnuts on Fridays. And the marketing team who I think has the responsibility to be a proper steward over the employees are distracted looking outside at customers and prospects. Therefore, I do believe that employees don't have the kind of leadership at their disposal that they should.

Chad: I have that slide because that slide, being able to separate HR from marketing. The big question is, okay, we're just talking to Douglas. And from our standpoint, being on the HR, being on the recruiting side, we see a whole fractured brand that has just emanated probably because of symptom of the overall brand sucks. But there's actually employment brand people in HR. Why? How did this happen?

Chris: I don't like the idea of employer branding. I think it should just be a branding. And that you shouldn't have a different face to the outside world they have in the inside world. And the problem is, is companies that are struggling realize, well my brand isn't that inspiring. So I'm gonna have to now fabricate and make up a whole new brand, and a whole new personality to try to attract some talent. The best brands and Douglas would have talked about Airbnb, they're not separate entities. It's just the Airbnb brand. There's no employer brand and consumer brand.

Joel: Why aren't marketing and HR talking to each other?

Chris: I really don't-

Chad: You should see his face when-

Chris: You know, a couple of things. I think that HR professionals in many cases have a lot of insecurity. When they get into audience engagement stuff, there's glaring ... They don't go to school to learn this stuff. They don't go to conferences to learn this stuff. And so, you don't want to lean into weaknesses typically. And marketing I think feels overwhelmed. They already have a pretty big to-do list. And so you're now asking me to do one more thing. My point is your to-do list would actually get less if you started with the employees. All these other symptoms that you're focusing on would go away.

Joel: Does marketing look down on HR?

Chris: I kind of think most people look down on HR.

Chad: All around nice guy.

Joel: You just lost everybody.

Chris: I love it.

Chad: No we didn't.

Chris: Listen, the only person that's maybe more neutered at the C suite table is the head of HR. Again, I think it's an inappropriate look down. I'm not saying I condone it. I just don't see HR people being the most persuasive, the best funded, the most politically adept. They're not navigating organizations most of the time. But until you find a co-brand. Until you find an organization where they are. Like in even like a Facebook, like when a Sheryl Sandberg ... Yeah, she's COO, but she's really head of people and culture, as much as she is technology and operations kind of stuff. So when brands get it spectacularly right, that executive is the right hand to the CEO.

Chris: But rarely is it the CEO. And then you'd falls into the well, whose job is this? And then we start making up titles like head of people or head of culture, because neither HR or marketing lived up to those responsibilities.

Chad: On the recruiting side, recruiting, trying to pull in new candidates, those individuals obviously could be using your brand, your product, your service. The Virgin media case study where they show that they lost $6 million because they had a horrible user experience for candidates. And they weren't treating candidates like customers. They turn that and said, hey, let's try to keep that 6 million. Not to mention there's like a $7 million on top of that of individuals who are not using our product. Do you believe that from an HR standpoint, they do have power to be able to impact the bottom line, especially with all those people, but they just don't, they don't wield it.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. Hundred percent. And you also said something that made me realize there's a difference in my mind between the employer branding and recruitment marketing. And I actually think if the marketing team should be using recruitment marketing as a way to improve the brand. Because if I saw what kind of people you were trying to get, and what standards you are holding up, that I might think differently about your brand.

Joel: If most marketing departments knew how many resumes were in the database that are marketing opportunities, they would be talking to HR.

Chris: 100%.

Joel: That conversation doesn't happen.

Chad: Well, an organization spend, in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars on recruitment advertising to pull in all these perspective customers as well. But again, marketing is like closing their eyes. They've got the blinders on.