Battle of the Brands

I’m new to the job search, and there was a point last week when I decided that I hated it enough to succumb to rejection. I haven’t hated and given up on many things throughout my 21 years thus far until this conversation I had with myself on my way to a huge career fair last week. (Sidenote: hopefully you aren’t judging me for conversing with myself in my head at public events. I can’t be the only one doing it, right? Id and superego, anyone? The id was winning big time on this particular occasion, however.) Walking into the career fair and seeing the immensity of well dressed, wildly involved students who all hoped to leave with a golden ticket to the most innovative firms in the workforce, turned me into a human grumpy cat.

This particular career fair was a monster in comparison to my previous experience in job seeking. I pictured recruiters huddled in a stuffy conference room with job seeking college students gripping their padfolios with sweaty palms. With 280+ employers present, a large event center was essentially consumed with business professional attire and awkwardness. (Disclaimer: I am indeed thankful for the immense resources UGA provides to their students… However, I also hate forced situations. I am convinced that nothing is more forced than a memorized ‘elevator pitch’.) The week prior to this fair, I chose to embrace the awkwardness that I was sure to face. I challenged myself to knock this career fair out of the park. What I didn’t realize, however, is how different I would perceive the fair after taking MARK 4450, a social media marketing strategy class.

Instead of the stuffy conference room vibe, I found 280+ booths with 280 different messages. Most importantly, they exuded different branding and heavily pushed social to their top candidates. Walking by the elite real estate brokerages and investment firms, you could almost smell the money. Their recruiters were dressed to the nines in crisp black suits, and were all very attractive yet inviting. Well done, Worthings. Their social media message sent the same energy after further investigating. Ten feet to the left, there was a plethora of “red” everything. Red tablecloths, red clothed recruiters, red promotional materials, red balloons; what brand would you guess would make their booth a red eyesore that you can’t help but love? Target, of course. (Disclaimer #2: I am partial to Target. I am also mildly convinced that Heaven will be similar to this retail chain. I love that place.) Target pushes the bright red energy on their social platforms as well, which was absolutely consistent at this event. You could tell where the “Big Four” consultancies were as well when you stumbled across the corner where accounting majors were clawing each other’s’ eyes out for their chance to hop onboard with KPMG and shower in money after selling their soul to financial advisory. Again, these firms are respected and admired as the big leagues, and their social doesn’t fall short of this reputation. Then there were the uniquely bright, innovative consultancies with well-designed booths exuding youth and “bring your dog to the office” vibes as well. (Please hire me… one of you life-loving digital firms, you.) I digress. However, my point in explaining all of this is simple. I actually ended up having a blast looking at each brand’s message and stayed at the fair for three hours analyzing the competitive spirit of each brand and talking with people from every industry and corner of the workforce.

What were these brands trying to sell? What energy were they exuding? Was there Beyonce hits in the background with dancing recruiters? Were their people wearing suits or Converse? Did they have extremely amazing business cards made out of heavy papers with the most beautiful graphic design I’ve seen? (Sidenote: nerdy about graphic design…) I stopped and smelled the roses after realizing each brand was competing for the best students. Students and firms alike were throwing brand lingo back and forth. The elevator pitch is dead, in my opinion. You introduce yourself and show your personality, and they tell you about theirs. It’s as simple as that.

From their perspective, when else will your brand be five feet from an industry rival? How will they sell their brand over the next company? Why would I want to work for a stuffy digital marketing consultancy when I could wake up and change the world while dancing like a fool in the office? I presume this is my ‘millennial mindset’ surfacing, and I openly accept any and all criticism. Maybe it’s just me, but the power of good branding was something to behold from my perspective.

I got excited about the differentiation of all the various brands and went home to compare their digital and social media presence because I’m fascinated by this aspect of marketing. It was unique to see which brands maintained consistency digitally with what they presented earlier that afternoon. Many of the brands who had the best digital presence in my opinion promoted their social at the booth while you spoke with them. Many companies followed me on Twitter after my having left their booth, which made me feel extremely special until I realized the magic of marketing automation. Small victories just don’t exist anymore…

All in all, career fairs are a social media, branding battleground. It was pretty neat-o. Until next time, let me know what you think. Best of luck to my fellow job seekers.



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