Symbiotic Branding

30 09 2011

I have an annual pass to the Singapore Zoo. I often catch an early bus up to Mandai so I can grab a coffee and a chat with my friend the Sumatran Orangutan. On the last couple of visits I noticed something unexpected and intriguing in the orchid house.

Turns out that most orchids (and I presume we’re talking about the epiphytic orchids, not the ones that grow in soil) have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus, without which they would not be able to feed. Even more interesting, orchid seed is so fine that there is effectively no room for any stored food, just genetic coding. Once again, fungus is the secret solution; the seed collects some fungal spores and on landing the fungus grows and provides food for the orchid seed.

I haven’t had time to explore this (probably 5 minutes in Wikipedia would do it) in order to learn what the fungus gets from the arrangement, but I’m sure there is something. (Okay so I did go to Wikipedia and learnt that “All orchids are myco-heterotrophic at some point in their life cycle“, but that the benefit to the fungus is largely unexplored. Doctoral thesis, anyone?)

So from orchids and fungus let us segue smoothly (like an 18-wheeler through a garden wall) to recruitment and branding.

Brands have tiny seeds, so small that there is no room for food, just genetic material. Attempts by brand experts and marketeers in the past to propagate brands by tying them to pretty logos and witty advertisements have resulted in significant media spend but little growth in brand value. (Much as I love the Guinness mud-skippers and the Old Spice “Man your man could smell like”). Turns out that to grow and reproduce, brands have to be in a symbiotic relationship with people; not customers in the first instance, but rather employees who embody the brand’s DNA. That is how a brand grows…

If you accept this premise at all, then you will eventually conclude that there must be a pretty important symbiotic relationship between brand and recruitment. Recruiting the right people is critical if customers are to experience the brand as it is meant to be; and that experience of the lived brand is critical to build the employee experience required to make the brand desirable as a potential employee to the right people.

Cycle from recruitment via customer experience to brand, and back via employee experience

Grow your brand without chemical additives

Of course this doesn’t just apply to orchids. One word: Apple.

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