Thursday, October 29, 2009

Atlassian - if I could critique for a moment

Yesterday, I went to the fantastic Open House at Atlassian (feature pictures are owner-entrepreneurs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, both 29).

Atlassian are an amazing growth story. And recently, they have been making waves in the recruitment industry, by taking a firm approach with recruiters, and a word-of-mouth campaign to influence software developers to head their way.

There's no denying this is a very very smart company. Product-wise, culture-wise and peer-wise, it's up there with Google. But it's a very interesting time for Atlassian, since it's starting to reach that size where it stands the risk of losing its close-knit feel. It's gone from one garage to a series of 'international garages'. It's owners are young, innovative and driven, and they're refreshingly informal in communicating what they value.

But, even though this potentially-stellar business is recruiting an extremely sought-after group of people with a $4.5million investment, the one thing they don't seem to have is an advertising strategy.

A glimpse of the future? I for one, hope not.

You see, Google doesn't really appear to have a particularly strong or noticeable recruitment advertising strategy either. But then, they're the seventh biggest brand in the world right now and everyone knows that the hurdles are high to get there - because it's seemingly the best place to work, learn and develop.

(That's not to say that all views about Google are accurate - I'm sure there are many misconceptions out there. But right now those perceptions are not enough to stop Google attracting the best of the best.)

Atlassian are not necessarily wrong in their strategy: it's clearly a choice they've made, a channel they've chosen to avoid, and it may pay-off. I hear they've already attracted a high level of talent, somewhere in the region of 600 shortlisted candidates*, simply by this approach informing people of their benefits, values and culture. Good on 'em I say - much better than the 'post and pray' approach of so many others.

*Please correct me if wrong.

But by not having a clear advertising strategy, they are still only promoting words on a page, as surely as if they tried to sell me a Mars bar by saying it's smooth, chocolatey and sweet. Sure, those are benefits. But that's not enough to give me the impetus to buy it, even less to buy it when a Snickers has nuts in it, and, well I prefer smooth, chocolatey, sweet and nuts.

I digress, but only slightly. What Atlassian appear to be missing is an central 'idea' which leads to a certain ideal set of attitudes, beliefs, and ultimately, behaviours. One thing Google has going for it is a powerful brand identity which is a powerful tool for their recruitment. Ultimately, Atlassian should be aiming to create something similar - when I think of their name, I shouldn't simply be able to list some facts like 'one week's paid holiday before starting'.

Atlassian needs to be assoicated with positive experiences. When I think of Atlassian, I want to feel something about them.

Let's say someone already works at Google (potentially the 'ideal candidate'). What is it about Atlassian that makes them want to leave Google and join them (since surely that must be the aim)? What conscious or sub-conscious drivers tie them so strongly to Atlassian that they'll throw their hat in the ring?

Sure, there are perks at Atlassian. But will the ideal candidate buy the Mars bar, or will they stick with the Snickers because it's got nuts in it?

Once the newspaper has been binned and the last beers from the Open House are drunk, where's the one cruicial touchpoint that acts as a consistent reinforcement of the main messages - a strong employer brand and advertising strategy?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey Hey It's Black-up-day!

Maybe I'll never be a sub-editor with that catchy headline, but jeez.

Can anyone in their right mind, who isn't Alf Garnett, or Bernard Manning, or Hitler, or doesn't live in the 1950s, or doesn't agree with the slave trade, or isn't a member of the Ku Klux Klan, please explain how the presenters of the Hey Hey It's Saturday show can possibly think it acceptable to paint their faces black and mimic the Jackson Five.

It's not as if any member of the Jackson Five has ever painted their face white, is it? I mean, at least not in any kind of jokey ironic way, at least.

Seriously though, if you did this in the UK, you'd be shot. If you were the BBC and you did it, you'd be shot in public, and quite possibly have your MBE rescinded.

Special guest on the show, Harry Connick Jr said:
If I knew that was going to be part of the show I definitely wouldn't have done it.

I bet.

And which Hollywood megastars are going to be queuing up to be on the show, after this? Maybe Seinfeld star Michael Richards? After all, it's all in the name of comedy, hey (Hey)! If you don't get it, well, that's not my fault. You obviously don't understand cutting-edge humour. You're not down with it.

Seriously, I hope that Australia is not 'down with it'.

I hope that now everyone's seen the base, juvenile - erm - racist stuff they put on this show, the guests will dry up and the presenters will cry a little, and the audience figures will send Hey Hey back to the graveyard of crap lite entertainment shows.

Hey Hey Good Bye!