Brand vs. Culture

01-3013057_0x440We recently made a tough decision to politely decline partnering with a well-known activewear brand on a few searches. Actually, it really wasn’t a difficult decision at all. I had heard from a number of industry connections over the last year that the culture was challenging. That’s putting it lightly. Demanding pace, micromanaging, a revolving door of employees. Despite the rumors, I took the call to learn more directly from the source. I was curious, what was their perception of their culture?

I always ask new clients if there are any rumors about their company or any negative perceptions in the market. To my surprise they were very well aware of their company reputation. HR shared with me most of what I had heard from candidates. She added of course some of the benefits of working for this brand, which while were not without merit carried more weight in terms of office aesthetics. Surprisingly unapologetic with little desire for improvement in the future health of their company culture. I wondered, why would someone want to work for your company? So, I decided to ask her directly. Her answer was simple, yet telling. It went something like this, we have a great product, brand and loyal consumer following.

Hmm, I thought. You haven’t really answered my question. Is your goal to attract more consumers or talent? That begs the question, does an equal parts great brand and product translate to a great place to work?

You tell me? As an industry professional are you more inspired by the brand and product they create or the culture in which you work?

Naturally we gravitate towards product that we relate to. Particularly in the performance and outdoor market segments there’s an emotional connection to the activities we personally enjoy. But is it enough to warrant a less than desirable work environment? I suppose it depends on what drives you and what you hope to gain with a specific role. For the most part, the candidates we encounter want both a brand that inspires and a healthy culture.

Acknowledging that no company is perfect, knowingly promoting a company that has a notorious reputation for turning and burning employees was not an offer I could accept in good conscience.

A few days later two senior level employees from this brand reached out to me personally. Informing us that they are confidentially seeking new opportunities. Apparently the brand / product superiority was not enough for them.