Stand for Something

Over the years we've experienced brands who are reaching for purpose with commercials that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside - but what's the real purpose of these commercials?

Luckily, on today's podcast, we have smart people who can talk about brand, purpose, and why any of this matters. Elyse Mayer - VP of Marketing at Symphony Talent and Chris Kneeland co-founder of Cult Collective and The Gathering of Cult Brands.

Another Cult Brand podcast powered by Symphony Talent. Activate your brand and keep relationships at the heart of your talent strategy for more information, visit


Disability Solutions helps forward thinking employers create world class hiring and retention programs for people with disabilities.

Chris Kneeland (1s):

Playing it safe is actually far riskier in my opinion, than taking some big risks, playing it safe. Is this painful, slow, drawn out, drifting into irrelevance.

INTRO (16s):

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

Joel (39s):

Stand for something or you'll fall for anything. My dad used to say.

Chad (46s):

I'm sure he did. I think that was also like the main line and Sucker Punch, not, not a great movie. So, over, over the years, we've experienced brands who are reaching for purpose with commercial commercials that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But what's the real purpose of these commercials? I mean, two commercials we'll be using as a base for discussion today is Audi's daughter commercial and the Oreo new proud parent. But luckily, kids, we have a couple of smart people that are with us today to talk about brand, purple, and why any of this shit matters first and foremost, Elyse Mayer VP of marketing at Symphony Talent.

Applause (1m 27s):


Chad (1m 28s):

And Chris Kneeland, co-founder of Cult Collective and the Gathering of Cult Brands. Welcome to you both Elyse give us a, give us a little bit more about that.

Elyse Mayer (1m 38s):

Yeah. Hi, nice intro guys.

Joel (1m 41s):

She sounds so excited.

Elyse Mayer (1m 41s):

I would, hopefully I know, I was told to give the Twitter bio, so I was like, Oh my gosh, what do I have? And like, I dunno, seven words.

Joel (1m 49s):

I'm so amazing and famous how can I put it in a tweet?

Elyse Mayer (1m 53s):

I know, right? Work a lot with TA practitioners on the employer, brand side and leading a brand and marketing there. I was a journalism major that wanted to be a writer and wanted to go into magazines. And here I am marketing. So still do a lot in storytelling. I'm excited to talk to Chris today and yeah, I think I'm going to be lending kind of the employer brand side of this conversation in terms of standing for something.

Chad (2m 18s):

And Chris?

Joel (2m 19s):

AKA The boy wonder?

Chris Kneeland (2m 20s):

Did you say the Twitter bio, I thought you said the 12 minute bio.

Joel (2m 26s):

Wrong show.

Chad (2m 27s):

Not surprised by that one.

Chris Kneeland (2m 29s):

No. So I, I think the interesting thing for me that qualify for this podcast today is we have been studying the world's most cult-like brands for over a decade now. So, my organization goes in and advises businesses of all types, but mostly B to C brands. They tend to have an aspiration to be special more than B to B brands, which is unfortunate and a podcast for another day. But we've sort of decoded the genomes between what makes a brand cult-like versus just average or what I like to say, mediocre, and purpose, and standing for something is an interesting one of those chromosomes or attributes of a cult brand so I hope we can have a good dialogue about it.

Joel (3m 19s):


Chad (3m 20s):

So let's jump into the first one. Joel, tell us about the Audi daughter commercial.

Joel (3m 24s):

So we'll roll into this. As many of our listeners know, a guy named Donald Trump became president in 2016, he campaigned largely on building a border wall, a little bit of divisiveness with the rest of the world. And a lot of brands came forward and had ads, you know, on the Superbowl in 2017, that were notable. One of the most notable was 84 Lumber. I don't know if you guys remember this or not, but a quick refresher, the ad had a Hispanic mother and daughter going through Mexico. We assume getting to America to come inside. And there's a big wall that says, sort of do not enter. Another take on this, which we want to touch on today is, is Audi popular luxury car maker had an ad that Chad and I both love and at least speaking for myself, tear up probably every time I see it, even though it's a three-year-old commercial, it has a soap box Derby race with a daughter competing with, looks like a bunch of boys racing down a Hill.

Joel (4m 26s):

Father says, narrating it. You know, what am I supposed to tell my daughter? Am I supposed to tell her that her grandfather is worth more than her grandmother? Am I supposed to tell her that her father is worth more than her daughter? And then it ends with the daughter winning and saying, or maybe just, maybe I can tell her that, you know, we're all equal and it ends with the line Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. The ad surprisingly, I guess, had quite a bit of backlash. Fortune magazine had an article that same year that was titled why Audi's Superbowl ad failed talking that the company didn't really walk the walk.

Joel (5m 7s):

A lot of their executives on the board were, it was a male heavy board. It sounded a little bit to critics as if they were just trying to grab an issue and have it as their own, as opposed to actually sort of always living the brand and, and representing it accordingly. The company has since had a lot more females in the C-suite, there seems to be a lot more equitable salary information that we're seeing across sites like Glassdoor. So they've sort of walked the walk since 2007, whereas they got a lot of criticism before that. So I guess I guess a question for either one of you would be when you, when you take sort of a mantle of a social issue, should you sort of have that space in someone's mind before you take, or can you take it and then evolve your company to sort of represent that ideal?

Chris Kneeland (6m 3s):

Well, I mean, I think before we dive into deep, we needed to have a conversation about what are we actually talking about? Because there is a fundamental difference between a brand that makes us stand versus a brand that stands for something. So both of these examples that you've talked about in my mind are examples of a brand that's making a stand. Like they they've seen an injustice and they want to correct it. And we see that with black lives matter. We see that with the me too movement. We see that with defunding the police, we see that with election issues, but it's always very temporary. It's a brand saying, you know what? We have some influence.

Chris Kneeland (6m 44s):

We have some money. Oftentimes it's the personal ego of the CEO or the CMO. I know a CMO that took a six months sabbatical to try to help Joe Biden from a very popular multi-billion dollar B to C brand that has boss says, yeah, if your skills can be better, used to temporarily put Democrats in the White House, let's go do that. But that's different than a brand that stands for something, because Audi does not stand for women's rights or equality and Oreo, which we'll talk about in a minute, doesn't stand for diversity and inclusion. So I think it's fine. I think we should actually applaud and be grateful when brands take a moment, a time out, a pause to say, Hey, there's bigger things at play.

Chris Kneeland (7m 32s):

And, and we're going to go ahead and let you guys know where we stand on that particular issue. But when you get that kind of backlash, it's the people saying, well, who are you, why now? I guess, are you being opportunistic or you the draft off of something else for your commercial gain that comes across as very inauthentic or insincere. So that's where I think you have to be very careful and we've counseled our clients, particularly some through some of the black lives matter stuff. Like if that hasn't been something that you've been working on, now's not the time to jump in with a point of view, like, what's the word you might want to listen instead of talk in those scenarios?

Joel (8m 12s):

Yup. At least let's talk about it from a, from a employment brand perspective. And, and obviously the angle there is not only are we taking a stand like Chris talks about, but also we want to appeal to more women to come work for Audi. Do you think that the commercial succeeded there, did they fall short?

Elyse Mayer (8m 29s):

Yeah. I mean, I think what Chris just mentioned about the delineation between making a stance at a moment in time versus standing for something that you're going to put intention behind. That's a really big delineation, I think, between a consumer looking at something and an employee that wants to invest. I mean, of course a car investment is much bigger than let's say buying Oreos, but standing for something, it goes back to the intention of what Audi put, like, why Audi put this out as well? The first thing I did for both of these was go to the career site of the company and see if any of this stuff was there. If the video, what was there front and center, if they had a diversity or inclusion or any type of stance that kind of correlated with the message putting out.

Elyse Mayer (9m 15s):

And, it doesn't. So, I mean, from an employment brand, as a woman and as a mother, I think it's a very emotional commercial. I think to Chris's point, I applaud Audi for putting it out there, if that's a stance they want to make, and as someone buying a car, I may or may not care. It's a nice moment in time commercial. For someone who wants to work there, if I wanted to go be the VP of marketing at Audi, I would immediately and knowing kind of these employer brand principles and a little bit more of how, the backend of hiring and some of this technology works, I would go see like, can they put their money where their mouth is? Are they actually investing in some of these things? And I think from an employee standpoint is where standing for something on this matters a little bit more, and I may feel let down.

Elyse Mayer (10m 1s):

And I know you asked kind of initially, can you put something out there and then live up to it? Can, can that commercial or that stance be the goal, and then your business backs it up, or you need to kind of have that first. I mean, from a hiring standpoint, I think it's a nice in for, for women or even for men and parents and then you know, fathers of daughters. But I would probably like to see a little bit more of that education front and center to employee groups and to talent groups. So I applaud it, but the backlash from an employer brand standpoint, I think might be a little bit more warranted.

Joel (10m 38s):

Chris, you mentioned, you know, standing for something versus taking a stand. And it seems to me like if you take a stand that that should be a bridge into standing for something. And if I have one criticism for Audi, it would be not sort of carrying on the message of equal pay for equal work. It seemed like, you know, Trump got into office, they took a sort of an opportunity to take a stand for something, but haven't, although their internal structure seems to have changed, the messaging has sort of stalled or died out. Is that a mistake? Or can you just take a stand on something and then move on to other things?

Chris Kneeland (11m 15s):

I think so, and where it gets tricky is, you know, what are we dealing with? You know, I think to me, I think the most popular example of a brand that both stands for something and made a public stand was Nike's use of Colin Kaepernick in its advertising, and really sort of making a very public point of view that we stand with black lives. And in that was, they too, I mean, they got a ton of backlash and people were burning shoes. And everybody said that was the death of them. And in reality, their stock was higher than it ever was. 90 days later, and their sales were higher. And yet there still some soul searching that had to be done on their own diversity, particularly at the leadership level.

Chris Kneeland (12m 1s):

Nike has done that a couple of times, gotten some black eyes with things like labor practices and whatnot, with sweatshops overseas as well. So, I mean, you do have to decide if you're going to be a brand and many people call them. Now, a lot of people are pursuing B corporations where we're going to exist for beyond profits at Patagonia and Ben and Jerry's are kind of the most popular examples. Then you better make sure you're walking the walk because there's just way too much transparency now, but it is holistic. It starts with your noble brand purpose. It should attract, it should be a magnet that will attract both customers and staff to your business.

Chris Kneeland (12m 41s):

And it becomes a core differentiator. Otherwise I think taking a stand can be sort of topical kind of be in the moment. I don't think that Acura should be penalized if they made that super bowl commercial a few years ago and it's not on their career page now, I think that they were just being a bit opportunistic and if it's done tastefully and, and well, then it's like, yeah, it's just, it's kind of adding fuel to a current fire and that fire doesn't necessarily have to rage forever.

Chad (13m 10s):

So let's, let's roll into another brand Oreo or Mondelez. And they take on the LGBTQ kind of uncomfortableness of family in some cases. So a daughter comes home to her family, brings her female partner, mom, lovingly greets the couple and dad kind of is, you can tell he's, he's incredibly uncomfortable. He nods from afar. He keeps his distance. Her sister comes over with the kids and the husband, dad hugs and greets the husband while the gay daughter takes notice, but you can tell during the whole time the daughter and father are struggling to find their way back to each other.

Chad (13m 51s):

And after the father watches the, the couple interacting with a judgy neighbor, he has kind of like a point of self reflection. And at the end of this, I mean, he makes this big statement where he paints the white picket fence, a rainbow color, everyone cries, there's an embrace. And at the end, the message is a loving world starts with a loving home, bringing families together for over 100 years. So Chris, why, why are these brands trying so hard to stand for something it's a cookie? How does a high purpose or a higher purpose, sell cookies or cars and drive shareholder value?

Chad (14m 33s):

Or is that even what they're going for?

Chris Kneeland (14m 35s):

Yeah. I really struggled with this one because it is first and foremost, a beautiful piece of creative. I mean, it's both, it is the production of it is fantastic. The, the amount of storytelling that happens and whatever it was, two or three minutes, it felt you watched a 20 or 30 minute sitcom. You knew the backstories, you just felt like you knew these characters and what they were dealing with. So huge shout out for the execution of it. My least favorite part of that commercial, was the end when Oreo pops up, because I, it was, it was a WTF moment. Like, I mean, that could have been state farm insurance. It could have been Macy's it could have been Toyota.

Chris Kneeland (15m 15s):

Like, I mean, they just, any brand that wanted to have a feel-good moment could swap their logo on there. I think there was one little, one second snippet where you saw like a home video of them eating an Oreo cookie or something like that. And I'm not suggesting, I think they would have ruined the creative if they tried to make it more commercialized. I'm just suggesting what's Oreo doing, having an opinion about any of this stuff? Like that's not anything to do with the Oreo brand. That that is not what I think the Oreo brand stands for? I don't know what the topic of reality was in terms of making a stand, but that just felt like greenwashing to me, in the sense of, you know, somebody they're trying to do something noble.

Chris Kneeland (15m 60s):

So I felt, it felt tone. I want to say tone deaf. It just felt off-brand frankly. Now you ask the question, why would a brand tempt to do something like this? And, and you haven't seen this type of strategy? Well, let me rephrase that. Cult brands like a John Deere, for example, or a Carhartt have been leaning into what they stand for more than what they sell for decades, if not a century or more. So there are some brands and you can see it in their use of advertising. I don't think advertising is the best manifestation of your brand purpose. I just think it's the most pervasively consumed. I actually think hiring practices is a much better demonstration of your brand purpose than your paid TV commercials, but TV commercials have a certain sex appeal and people watch them.

Chris Kneeland (16m 48s):

It's a way of saying, there's not that much special about our, about our business. We're we're, we're commoditized, you know, and you know, there's 10 peanut butters or 17 ranch dressings. There's 18 four cars sedans like, you know, one, one car tire looks like the other.

Chad (17m 5s):

Well, don't you have to stand for something though, because there are a thousand cookie brands out there? how do I break out and actually get into the hearts and minds of people so that they come buy some fucking cookies?

Chris Kneeland (17m 16s):

That means that that's the point. So somebody sits around a boardroom and says, with the lack of meaningful differentiation across our product, our pricing, our distribution, our features, whatever we need something. And so most brands would say, well, let's just scream louder. So they advertise more. Other brands might say, let's discount more and just bribe people better. And some brands say, well, maybe if we had a noble purpose, we would endear people to us and you know what? It works. It works Jiffy doesn't talk about no salt, no additives, dollar cheaper, better peanuts. It says, choosy moms choose Jif. They stand for mom. They stand for discernment. They stand for being a mom is hard and it works wonders.

Chris Kneeland (17m 59s):

So I think people have seen enough positive examples that some businesses, some brands have transcended. So maybe we should too, but now we just have a lot of reckless transcending, a lot of records that Tim's of brands that are failing at it.

Chad (18m 14s):

I think this, I think this is an amazing employer, brand commercial. I think it w w when I want to go work for a brand, this is something I think that that would actually impact me. What, what are your thoughts?

Elyse Mayer (18m 27s):

Yeah, I just was going to mention really quickly. Cause one of the first things I did, I mean, I clearly don't follow like Oreo and their stances. And interestingly enough, I mean, Mondelez is a house of brands. So this whole stands by Oreo. You don't go work for Oreo. You work for Mondelez, which is a corporation with a lot of brands. So that's kind of a separate thing we can get into, but it's one of the, to, to respond to Chris really fast. The first thing I did was like, was this their first stance on like LGBTQ plus? Do they do anything like, did this come out of left field because I'm, I'm just not familiar. I work much more in the B2B space. I, I did see that like back in 2012, they posted like, and I think every year since have been posting things, they made a stance with just the rainbow flag cream within the Oreo.

Elyse Mayer (19m 11s):

I just kind of wanted to get your perspective on if you kind of knew some of the history, or if you still feel like it's still coming out of left field, kind of like out of their space, but it does seem to be that they had some history, at least taking a stance year over year around this issue.

Chad (19m 27s):

Do I think they're taking a stance around this issue?

Elyse Mayer (19m 30s):

I just, when, when Chris kind of mentioned that he kind of felt like, Oh, it's maybe like out of left field. Why are you taking a stance now? I just wasn't sure if like, kind of that history, I'm just really interested in his opinion on like, does that history allow them to continue? And it doesn't really seem like it was totally something they'd never spoken about or had a stance on before.

Chad (19m 51s):

Yeah. But here's the question. Does it matter if you come late to the party, as long as you come to the party

Elyse Mayer (19m 56s):

Late to the party? I think they'd been making like a stance about this, at least from what I was looking at since like, since 2012. So I guess my perspective was it didn't feel like they were like, Oh, here I am in 2020, like, let's just make a stance as Oreo. It does seem to have been kind of a, like a thing that's been going on with the brand year over year. I

Chris Kneeland (20m 15s):

I would argue, I don't think it's whether they are late or not to the party. I just think it's, they're popping in making an appearance and leaving early. It's like, if you're gonna, if you're gonna stand for it, again, that's the difference between, you know, just the Oreo stand for equal rights or even, you know, something even, you know, do they dis- and we're seeing this so active right now with black lives matters. And it's like, are you going to be anti-racist? Are you going to be racist? Are you just going to be not racist? You know, like there's, there's a spectrum there. And it's one thing to say that we will, you know, once a year, spend a couple million dollars out of our billion dollar ad budget to put a nice piece of creative out, or are we going to, you know, support causes, take our product off of shelves of retailers that don't align with our ethos, only hirem go proactively, bring in a minority or, you know, people into the business.

Chris Kneeland (21m 14s):

Like there's a, there's a difference between a program that says, this is who we are versus a token nod to, you know, once a month, once a month, once a year on pride month, I'm going to run a nice piece of creative.

Chad (21m 26s):

But Chris, I don't think, I don't think marketing understands any of that. And I don't believe they coordinate with HR or talent acquisition to take a look at diversity initiatives or initiatives around LGBTQ or hiring veterans or anything like that. So I guess the big question is, is this just a huge blind spot for marketing where they're trying to make a point, but they don't understand they're actually hurting themselves more than helping themselves?

Chris Kneeland (21m 53s):

Yeah. I think that that is where this isn't, you know, I call brand strategy business strategy. It's not for the marketing department to decide it's for the C-suite to decide this is who we are, and this is what we stand for. And then you have to look at the holistic organization to decide from supply chain to types of products that we sell to customers that we service to vendors that we bring on board to employees that we hire. Are we actually living up to that noble purpose? You know, I like to say, if you, I'm not a big fan of corporate values statements, because I don't believe they live anywhere other than annual reports or are painted on walls and lobbies of their headquarters.

Chris Kneeland (22m 34s):

It's like, if you're not hiring and firing and losing business as a result of your values, then you're never going to attract the right types of customers, the right types of staff, or when the type of business of people that say, I want to align myself with a business that believes those types of things.

Joel (22m 49s):

So, Chris, do you think, do you think it was a strategic decision because there is a recruitment element to the Oreo ad? Do you think they fell into that? Or do you think that was a conscious move on their part?

Chris Kneeland (23m 0s):

I think it was conscious. I know some of the leaders that are behind that brand and they have for a while been trying to lean into purpose driven branding as a way of differentiating what is otherwise a purely commoditized category. And, it also diverts the conversation away from things like childhood obesity, for example, or diabetes. You know, these are not health, food categories. These are snack food categories. So I act, I mean, I'm not critical of them. I think that it is better than nothing. I think it's okay if brands want to dabble, I think it's, they have to set expectations that unless you're willing to dominate, you're never going to receive the benefits of a cult-like status.

Elyse Mayer (23m 46s):

You're just going to get a nice creative award. You'll start some conversation and you might make some people feel good, but that's different than saying the way that we're going to create shareholder value and that we're going to overcome our competitors is by standing for something.

Joel (24m 2s):

So I want to talk real quick about risks of this. Obviously when you take a stand, there's a risk, I mean, maybe less so with equal pay for, for women and men. But when you start going into things and Chad and I talk a lot about when NASCAR made it illegal or wouldn't allow Confederate flags at NASCAR events anymore, obviously they knew they were going to lose a lot of NASCAR fans, but it seems like the trade off of being on the right side of history is more valuable than the risk that you have of losing customers. And I would imagine that some Mondelez employees may have felt threatened by that ad and decided to leave the company.

Joel (24m 45s):

So both from a customer's perspective and an employee perspective, what are your thoughts on, is the overall benefit greater or is the risk greater and making these kinds of moves, at least from our employee standpoint. And I guess Chris, from a customer standpoint,

Elyse Mayer (25m 1s):

Yeah, I was going to say, I think from an employee standpoint and you know, I, you know, Chad, I saw your LinkedIn posts and that's kind of reiterate my comment. I mean, one of the things that we hear so much from these big fortune 1000 brands is that like, we just have too many people, we can't sort through them all. We have too many applicants. We have too many of the wrong fit applicants where it's different from a consumer. I'm sure Oreo wants to sell as many cookies to as many people as possible. Mondelez or whoever works on the Oreo brand only has so many people and only so many jobs and only so many of the right people can work there. I think the risk is a huge, a huge upside to getting people that are more invested, more loyal, more productive, you share something like that internally on Slack.

Elyse Mayer (25m 47s):

And yeah, there might be a few people who may not agree, but with the broad kind of consensus of being extremely proud for the brand or the company you work for, I think just far outweighs that. And whether or not this ever sees the light of day and any talent network, email, any career site, any job ad, you probably have those people going home, showing their moms, their dads, their husbands, that they're proud of this and they work for this company. So from an employee standpoint, I think the screening in the people that do care in the screening out of the people that don't just drastically is just drastically outweighs the risk of alienating a few people that you may, you may not have known, you know, didn't, didn't believe in the same things you did.

Elyse Mayer (26m 32s):

So I say, take that risk.

Chad (26m 34s):

And Chris I mean, this is, this isn't really starting a fight, but to an extent it kind of is it's choosing sides, right?

Chris Kneeland (26m 41s):

Picking a Fight is, I mean, maybe read the book. I know you're a huge fan, but the idea of picking a fight is a bit more protagonistic and a polarizing than standing for something. I think the idea of playing it safe is actually far riskier, in my opinion, than taking some big risks. Playing it safe is this painful, slow, drawn out, drifting into irrelevance versus like make some definitive moments that will, you know, be a bit more impactful and, you know, you'll learn, people can forgive you and people still eat it.

Chris Kneeland (27m 21s):

Chipolte day today, consumers have a huge tolerance. Their bark is always worse than their bite. I mean, that's the, we saw that with the Kaepernick thing we saw that with multiple examples of brands that have gone out there and done something and then said, oops, you know, sorry, you know, United Airlines beat up a passenger and threw them off an airplane. It didn't mean people stopped flying United. So I think that, I think C-suites need to be far more comfortable with saying, let's take a risk and let's do it for, you know, for the right reasons, not just to be provocative for provocative sake, but because it aligns with the values that we're using to govern the business. And those should be business values, not C suite values.

Chris Kneeland (28m 5s):

Like it shouldn't change every time a new CEO comes in, they're stewards of the business. I also think you've got to pick your fights in the sense that, you know, some things are noble, equal rights, you know, black lives matters, sexual harassment, me too. I mean, those are like, those are like just kind of almost common sense things. There's other brands that stand for something like Southwest airlines stood for democratizing the skies. I remember you guys had Kathy toll on your program talking about the Vegas idea. I mean, Vegas making a stand for adult debauchery versus family-friendly entertainment. You know, that's not like that's not some righteous indignation or solving some injustice in the world.

Chris Kneeland (28m 45s):

That's just saying we're going to start standing for something that people can associate us with. And you're either going to love it or hate it. But the goal is to create some sort of emotional reaction, not just to be blah, it's fine. There's just way too much. It's fine in the world for brands to survive because there's just too much choice.

Chad (29m 6s):

We'll get back to the interview in a minute.


We'll get back to the interview in a minute. Building a cult brand is not easy, which is why you need friends. Like Roopesh Nair, CEO of Symphony Talent on your side, okay? To become cult brands, companies need to build from the inside out, how can messaging and technology facilitate that type of growth? It's easy to kind of both a so-called employer brand in paper and say, Hey, this is my EVP. And these are my pillars of EVP, but it is much more difficult to activate it internally and ensuring that as you build your EVP, that activation is top of your mind. I've seen a lot of organizations build these awesome EVPs, which stands for who they are, but then not necessarily using that effectively, internally, and some other times it's because the EVP is not created in a very genuine way.


Then obviously it will not stand the test of that internal activation. And hence you need to ensure that it EVP is credible and aspirational as you think about the future, but at the same time, spending that time to ensure that every persona in your company understands what your differentiation is, what do you stand for as a company? And why is it delivering to that particular individual in that particular role is very important as you, as you basically ensure that you're building that, that culture or our employee value proposition inside out, then it's easy to activate it because then you can use your own employees to really activate your EVP and your brand.


As you think about external accusations. Let Symphony Talent help activate your brand and keep relationships at the heart of your talent strategy for more information, visit

Chad (30m 58s):

I think you've just pretty much outlined what HR and talent acquisition is, right. It is kind of like the safe, the mitigating risks. So Elyse to all of those talent acquisition and employer, brand people that are out there, can you please help them understand why it is so important to actually stand for something?

Elyse Mayer (31m 18s):

Yeah, I mean, I think Chris kind of, he echoed my internal sentiment on core values and company value statements, and everyone has the five or six icons that lives on the career site that talks about that. I mean, you invest in one or two core videos like this and you put that in front of people and you want your employees to share that versus sharing a slide with five icons on authenticity, you know, as a core value, it just speaks so much more clearly and so much louder, I think, without having these like formal values to Chris's point, that really just comes back around when you're, you know, you might be reviewing yourself or your direct reports at the end of the year.

Elyse Mayer (32m 3s):

So I mean, why employer branding needs to take more of a stance? I just feel that we relied too much on our people, our differentiator, and we have, you know, you know, seriously five or six core values. Let's lean into that. Let's have employees talk about how they think about the core values. That's all fine and good, but I just don't think it's differentiating at all. I don't think that it's quite as memorable as we think. And this is why the discussion between marketing leaders and talent acquisition and HR leaders is so critical. I do think that some of the storytelling and some of the risk taking that happens a little bit more on the marketing side with the dollars could really help influence what's happening with employer branding and talent acquisition that has just traditionally had very little budget for good creative, very little budget for almost anything, let's be real.

Elyse Mayer (32m 56s):

And, and they're just trying to work out of the constructs of what's been done in HR for the past 20 years. So these conversations I think, are going to kind of enlighten people. I think a great example of someone doing amazing digital and video content is Rockwell Automation, a brand that is very B2B and not super sexy, but you look at the leader over there, Anthony Jones and the type of the type of investment that he puts in not only digital and brand talent on the talent acquisition side, but what he's outputting from a visual standpoint, I really liked to watch what they're doing. So that was kind of a lot, but I think that that's the importance of just stepping out of well, HR is core values.

Elyse Mayer (33m 37s):

Let's actually move the needle and let's actually hear what employees believe, not telling them to talk about what we believe as you know, five words on a page, right?

Joel (33m 47s):

I'll let you guys out on this one. We're recording this the day after an election in the U S we have yet to have a winner, but we certainly, we certainly have a nation divided. So this one's for both of you, Elyse, go ahead and go first with a nation, basically at 50/50 right now, do do brands double down on standing for something after this election, or do they start shying away from taking such stands?

Elyse Mayer (34m 15s):

Oh man, this is a tough one. I admittedly emailed you guys before this to prepare if you are going to ask me about it election. Cause I'm very emotional and heated right now about everything going on.

Chad (34m 26s):


Elyse Mayer (34m 27s):

I mean, my, my perspective is more from, from, from a B2B side. And actually I've had a conversation with our creative director and HR leader as, as honestly recently as yesterday, just figuring out, you know, who are we as a company? How do we approach this? We're, you know, we are a B to B brand. Chris, you mentioned this really way in the beginning. I love to get back to this, but like B2B companies have less aspirations to be special and to stand for something versus B to C companies. So I don't know, I almost got, I feel like this is a bad ambiguous answer right now, but I almost feel like I, no pun intended, can't like stand either, either way yet.

Elyse Mayer (35m 8s):

I'm like, we're still figuring this out as an organization. And because it's just, it is so, so close in America with, with 50/50, I, I would, I would tread lightly and I think it really depends on the business and it really depends on the buyers and, and probably the industry, at least for me speaking from B to B. I know less about B2C. So I'll let Chris speak to that. Yeah.

Chad (35m 33s):

But, but isn't that not authentic to try to actually get, go into, to see what people are thinking versus what the actual culture of your organization is thinking?

Elyse Mayer (35m 43s):

I think like, I just think that a lot of companies actually don't know what they stand for either way.

Chad (35m 49s):

That's a good point.

Elyse Mayer (35m 49s):

And there's a lot. And then there's a lot of pressures right now to say something, which I also feel is quite un-authentic. I'd rather accompany, not stand for anything if they really don't. So like, I don't want to hear what you think about me too, or black lives matter or go tweeting something if you really don't. And so I just feel like it takes more conversations and there's so much pressure across the board from so many people speaking on social media that like, everyone wants to hear a statement from everyone on everything. We get a lot of pressure from employees too. And I just really think leaders have to look inward and really figure out, is it something that we want to stand for or do we not have to yet?

Elyse Mayer (36m 31s):

And until, until we have something, I think this is what we've been talking about. Right? Like, do you take a stand in the moment and then, and then regret it, something around this, I think can be quite, quite controversial. And I would just advise that leaders, marketing leaders, brand leaders, aren't feeling forced to make a statement within the next few days, if it's really not something that anyone has aligned on or that they don't believe strongly. That's super, that's super un-authentic to me.

Chris Kneeland (36m 56s):

Chris. Yeah. I think there's a huge opportunity. And one of the things I'm most excited about with the career path that I've been on the past 10 years is that businesses, not all, some, have this wonderful opportunity to step up and to play a much more meaningful role in people's lives because the normal institutions that we have grown up believing in are crumbling a bit. Our political institutions, our religious institutions, many of the kinds of clubs and associations, you know, whether it's old-school things like the rotary club, for example, I actually spoke at a rotary club meeting and it was like me and a bunch of 80 year olds. Like there's no, new chambers of commerce, like all these kinds of organizations.

Chris Kneeland (37m 41s):

Brands are the new club. It's where you associate it's where you get some of your purpose. It's where you find your community. It's where you find some stability. So business is, and again, not all, but there are institutions like a Facebook or an Amazon or a Google or a Lexus or a Levi's or a Nike or a Gatorade that could start to say, we're going to foster a community here and give our people, forget the chaos around us. Maybe there's so little that we can control. We're going to say, we're going to create something special, but we're going to value you for more than just transactional relationships.

Chris Kneeland (38m 22s):

We're going to bring in, value the things that you value, or we're going to take money out of just superficial paid media and advertising and markdowns. And we're going to fund, you know, I know I'm hearing Canada and there's amazing things that Kraft Dinner does to sort of retrofit local community hockey rinks, and to give kids scholarships and to move inner city kids into ability programs. It's like they are fueling a lifestyle and, and creating fandom that makes them far more significant than just a cheap, you know, noodle dinner. And so we try to go into organizations and saying, why just be successful? Being successful should be the outcome of your journey to be significant and to make an impact on people's lives.

Chris Kneeland (39m 7s):

And that could be employment opportunities. It could be philanthropic things, corporate social responsibility, marketing, et cetera. So we're trying to help people live up to some potential. That's likely there, that they don't quite have seeing themselves.

Elyse Mayer (39m 21s):

And that people is why you need to stand for something. Chris Kneeland and Elyse Mayer, thank you so much for taking the time and raising the IQ on this podcast. Elyse if somebody wanted to find it, actually find you and connect with you, where would they do that? Chris you as well? Yeah. LinkedIn, Twitter holler at me. I'm active on both easy, easy peasy. Instagram, if you want to see a lot of pictures of my bulldog and my baby, go for it.

Chad (39m 52s):

She said Hollar!

Chris Kneeland (39m 57s):

Chad (39m 58s):

Excellent guys. We appreciate it! Joel? We out.

Joel (40m 1s):

We out.

OUTRO (40m 47s):

Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any hoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.

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