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Marketing, negotiating and HR misconceptions Add to ...

Forget traditional demographics. Don’t think of customers in terms of the year they were born or the amount of money they make. What’s critical, advertising guru Roy H. Wilson says, are the desires, beliefs and values of their “tribe” – the group they select to join, whether for a leisure pursuit or political action.

“We unconsciously join a tribe when we see and feel and think as they do on a particular subject. Tribal marketing simply reflects back to a tribe their own vision and emotion and logic. Brilliant ads are built on this concept,” he says on his Monday Morning Memo.

He points to Chip Wilson, the Vancouver entrepreneur who made millions of dollars selling specialized clothing to the snowboarding tribe and then billions more by appealing to the yoga tribe. He understood that marketing is about identity and purpose. These days, many marketers are focused on millennials. But millennials are actually a collection of many tribes, Mr. Wilson warns.

Rolex understands. Rolex makes watches for tribes: the Submariner for the scuba tribe, the Daytona for the car-guy tribe, the Yacht Master for the boating tribe, the Air King for the airplane tribe, the Milgauss for the technical tribe, the Explorer for the outdoor tribe, the President for the business tribe.

Think tribal marketing instead of traditional target marketing.

Quick hits

– When negotiating price, never begin by offering a round number like $10,000 or $1-million, which signals you don’t know the true value of what you’re buying. When you offer a precise bid, it appears you have thought things through carefully, and it’s more likely to be accepted (and often at a lower amount than had you started with a more general, round number), research shows.

– Leaders must be willing to be goats – scapegoats, providing cover for their team, especially during crises, says Daron K. Roberts, founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation.

– If you currently follow the two-minute productivity rule, responding immediately to e-mails and tasks that can be completed in less than two minutes, you may want to reconsider, since it often diverts you from priorities. If the issue’s not a priority, put it instead on a 2-minute list and tackle these quick hits when you are between important things.

– “Would you rather be respected or feared?” is a favourite interview question of Michael Gregoire, chief executive officer of CA Technologies. The best answer depends on what the job and situation requires.

Beware of these HR trends

It has been popular to decouple performance management from compensation, separating those into two conversations with employees. But HR blogger Laurie Ruettimann says that’s nuts: Performance and compensation are linked – in your mind, and your employees’ – and they need to understand the connection. “Employees know that performance is the bedrock of compensation, and to decouple the performance discussion from the compensation process is disingenuous and alarming,” she writes on her blog. Indeed, if they’re not linked, you may have to call the lawyers to defend yourself from lawsuits.

Another HR trend worth some caution is the shift to blind hiring – stripping résumés of the candidate’s name or educational background, which might bias recruiting managers; holding anonymous interviews in chat rooms; and asking prospects to work on mock projects. HR writer Roy Maurer spoke to critics who suggest it lengthens the hiring process and turns off candidates who won’t work for free on those test assignments. It also can prevent you from judging the emotional intelligence of recruits by taking out the human element.

Improving feedback

The widespread advice on feedback tactics misses an important element: Intention. “The motivation of the feedback-giver trumps the techniques. The spirit of the message overrides its syntax,” consultant Julie Winkle Giulioni points out on her blog.

She asks whether the advice you give is “feed (I’ll cover my) back,” or “feed (I’ll get you) back,” or “feed (I’ve got your) back?” The latter – intending to help others – will lead to more fruitful discussions, so rather than worrying about choosing your words carefully, gauge your intentions wisely.

Today’s quiz

What’s your curiosity profile? Take this quiz from Tomas Chamorro-Premujzic, of University College London and Columbia Business School.

Improving meetings: Helping introverts contribute

Introverts can freeze when asked direct questions in meetings, not comfortable with spontaneous, let alone free-wheeling, discussion. Blogger Ron Edmondson urges you to give them time to respond. “This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer,” he writes. Ask them specific questions ahead of time, so they can think it through, alone. If there are numerous introverts in a group, he usually figures out a way to allow them to respond in writing – even texting or e-mailing him during the meeting.

Closing Tips

– Try a power hour in your office, an hour each day in which there are no meetings, phone calls or e-mails among staff, David Horsager suggests in his book The Daily Edge.

– Consultant Art Petty still remembers being part of a struggling team whose new boss turned it around in the first 10 seconds of the initial meeting with just two sentences: “I’m here to work for you. What do you need from me to help you succeed?”

– With widespread concern about having accounting firms providing tax services to the companies they audit, a new study shows, intriguingly, that they claim 30 per cent less in aggressive tax benefits, perhaps because they have more to lose than other tax preparers by being reckless. The main concerns, of course, have been about the dangers of pulling punches in audits, but the researchers say this suggests more financial probity by the firms than assumed.

– Wonder whether there’s something valuable below the first page of Google results but not willing to plow deeper? Try the Million Short search engine, which will allow you to remove the first 100 1,000 or even million results and reveal what’s next.

– Consultant Wally Bock’s mother wrote three thank-you notes every day of her life. “There’s always someone to thank,” she said. Have you done it today?

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