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an employer brand breakdown, or “vomit girl”

July 8, 2009

in communication

have you seen these ads? the intel ad’s been making the rounds on youtube, various blogs, and twitter since may; microsoft’s, only since the end of june.

intel’s video nails it, even with an actor playing the role of famed intel inventor, ajay bhatt. that’s because from beginning to end they acknowledge our collective view of scientists as schlubs and nerds and turn that notion on its head. the clincher is their close — “our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars.” they’re telling us they’re not only unique, but enviable. they’re even hot. and i buy it, and swoon, every time.

microsoft aimed for hip and landed somewhere closer to idiotic. they also pulled their ad on july 2, only one week after airing it. their video failed not because it’s revolting, but because it’s not even remotely clever. it’s even been tossed around as the worst tech commercial ever. another reason it fails, IMHO, is because it’s so far removed from our image of who microsoft is: smart, arrogant, inflexible. they’re lots of things, but humorous? that, they’re not.

microsoft’s ad is a “vomit girl” in more than title alone. starting today, i’m coining “vomit girl” as my classy name for an employer brand breakdown. the snafu could be as simple as a promotional wellness piece with a photo of a young, fit black guy when your workforce is composed of a bunch of old, overweight, white hicks. or it could be aarp cutting their 401k. aig giving out bonuses to a few while the bulk face stress, job insecurity, and public harassment. explaining john thain. i’m sure you could name a few (please do!).

employees want to see themselves and the organization — as they experience it — in the way work gets done and in the material they read. if what they read on your intranet, corporate materials, or anywhere else doesn’t jibe with what they experience, you just pulled a “vomit girl.”


Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank July 8, 2009 at 11:29 am

LOL…”You pulled a 'vomit girl.'” That's fabulous…and that MSFT ad was so horrible. I know Bobcat Golthwaite did it, but c'mon. Haven't they heard of a little restraint? That ad could have worked minus the fake vomit. That was so gross it was astonishing.


fran July 8, 2009 at 3:49 pm

sorry, not a big bobcat goldthwait fan. it was an “of course” moment when i saw that he was part of this fiasco. but why they didn’t have dean cain talking at that strangled pitch of goldthwait’s…a missed opportunity.

let’s see if we can get “vomit girl” into the lexicon, or wordnik 😉


autom July 8, 2009 at 11:30 am

effective employer brands should indeed bear a level of integrity that is both authentic and transparent to its employees. the success of an employer's brand authenticity is determined by how well it speaks to and reflects its employees' profile, culture and environment. are employers really paying attention? or ar they still stuck in pre-SM mode? hmm..this piece draws a good parallel. thanks for sharing f – a


fran July 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm

a, sometimes it’s just a matter of forgetting that one has internal customers. and that what you do to and for your internal customers is eventually what your external customer experiences.


Libby Sartain July 9, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Wow, I think YouTube is an excellent way to build an employer brand, but what was Microsoft thinking? Very much off brand and a huge disconnect. Thanks for sharing!


Mark Bednar July 13, 2009 at 10:58 am

my hunch is microsoft has been seeing companies get a lot of attention and splash lately w/ shock or an ad that really stands out and felt it was good time to lose their lamb (and their lunch, ha ha). i think it's an effect of our current advertising climate and what gets noticed. not that there aren't a million other (and, likely, more effective) ways to get noticed… just my hunch


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