Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Should One Have To Anglicize Their Name To Get Hired?

Name discrimination is something I never thought about at all until recently.

I saw something on the news which bothered me terribly.  A man named José was out of work and having trouble getting interviews; he changed the name on his résumé from José to Joe and started getting positive response (http://bit.ly/1s5fraY) . A couple of weeks ago this was all over the internet and the television news.  Much has been written about this kind of discrimination (see: http://bit.ly/XqD1km as a typical article.) But what has been written is very academic; what I keep thinking about is the human side of this issue.  Name discrimination is apparently as prevalent as other kinds of discrimination but it is much more insidious.

I think it is awful.  But name discrimination may be a sad fact of life.

I once had a candidate who used the name William, although his given name was Guillermo.  He was successful in his career.  He then made a decision not to anglicize his name.  That was twenty years ago and we lost contact.  I understood his decision, but he paid a price for going back to his Hispanic name.  

To change or not to change, to anglicize or not to anglicize?  That is the question.

Advertising, marketing and other white collar jobs aren’t like show business where Archibald Leach becomes Carey Grant or Francis Gumm becomes Judy Garland or Caryn Johnson becomes Whoopi Goldberg, all to increase box office appeal. This is still a country of mainstream ideas, principals and names, particularly in business.  In service businesses like advertising and marketing, do companies actually believe that one's given name could effect client relationships?  It is sad and surprising.  It would appear that companies want to be seen as mainstream, even in terms of the people and talent they hire. Name discrimination is as bad as any other kind of discrimination.

There is both risk and reward in making the decision to anglicize one’s name.  The risk is the loss of identity and, possibly, self-esteem as well as pride.  The reward may be that an Anglicized name is an easier path to career success. It shouldn't be, but it is.

It should be that one has nothing to do with another.  But that may not be the case.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Is Matthew McConaughey An Appropriate Spokesperson For Lincoln?

When I was an account person, the first thing I was taught about celebrity endorsements was that the celebrity had to have something to do with the product.  And I always thought that was the right way to approach an endorsement.

Matthew McConaughey is the spokesman for Lincoln’s MKC, a family crossover car. Clearly, he is the star of the moment; he is a fine actor and is reputed to be a good family man, but somehow, I don’t believe that Mr. McConaughey actually tools around Beverly Hills or Austin, Texas in an MKC (They may have given him one as part of his deal, but if so, what did he drive before, despite professing to have driven a Lincoln in one of the commercials?).

I don’t believe this any more than I thought that Tiger Woods drove a Buick (a although his endorsement of that brand was as much about rallying the dealers as anything else).  On the other hand, Tiger endorsing Nike was a stroke of brilliance (pardon the pun) because his endorsement works for the company’s entire product line – shoes, clothing, equipment – and is totally believable and plausible.  And, despite his current golfing and health issues, he continues to be a great spokesperson.

Looking at commercials and deciding on who are appropriate and inappropriate spokes-people is a fun thing to do.

One of the classic campaigns for Volkswagen in the heyday of Doyle Dane Bernbach was having basketball player Wilt Chamberlain as a spokesperson for the VW Beetle.  It, too, was a stroke of genius.  While he never professed to actually own one, the point was that at 7’1”, he could fit in one – which helped solve a marketing issue for the little Beetle.

Today, for sure, Taylor Swift will be a perfect spokesperson for Coke, Beyoncé may drink Pepsi and use L’Oreal; and Catherine Zeta-Jones may use T-Mobile (why not?), but does Paris Hilton really go to Carl’s Jr (has she ever been to one and does anyone really care?)?  I suppose there is some justification in Florence Henderson touting Polident (does she really have dentures and why would she admit it?).  Does Jessica Simpson really go to or use Weight Watchers products, despite her huge swings in weight?  The list goes on and on. 

There are dozens of celebrity endorsers out there who have little to do with the product, but they feed the client’s ego. Often these deals were/are driven by senior clients or agency people who want to meet and hang out with stars. In my opinion, they are inefficient and may, in fact backfire. 

Last year,  Charlize Theron endorsed Raymond Weil watches, but was then caught wearing another brand at a major event. It created a lot of negative publicity both for the star and for the brand.  She was clearly borrowed interest (how much interest is questionable in the first place). Years ago I worked with Elgin watches as an account person.  They wanted desperately to have a celebrity endorsement.  They managed to negotiate a deal with a popular actor at the time, Lee Marvin (Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen).  When he showed up at their offices he was wearing a Rolex; they had the good sense to cancel the deal.  Companies should think twice about asking for an endorsement which is not a natural fit.

I think in advertising parlance it is called borrowed interest.  And borrowed interest never lasts long.
Matthew McConaughey is, in my opinion, borrowed interest. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fools: Definition Of The 40% Of People Who Don't Take Their Vacation Days

The summer is over.  How many people did not take any time off in the last three months - or the last year for that matter?  No one is indispensable.  No one absolutely, positively has to be there.  I have candidates who proudly tell me that they haven’t taken a day off in a number of months or even years.  They are fools.

I recently saw a study which says that 40% of workers don’t use their paid vacation.  The truth is that it is there for you to take and, in the long run, no one cares if you don't.  You don't get points for not taking time off. The only one who suffers is the person who doesn't take time off.  I learned, fortunately, a couple of years out of college.  During my first few years of working, I took very little vacation time.  And then after a couple of years, I took two weeks.  And know what I discovered?  It really didn’t matter in the scheme of things.

My first observation was that most projects I had been working on had not moved significantly during the time I was away.  I was able to pick up where I left off quite seamlessly. And then I discovered that no one cared that I was gone.  Nature abhors a vacuum and people will find a way to fill in.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t missed; it just means people will rise to the occasion and get the work out.

It was a hard truth to discover that I was not indispensable. but it was an important revelation.

In fact, when people brag that they haven’t taken time off, I think that they are foolish. Study after study has been conducted that people who take time off are actually more productive than people who don’t take vacations. Anyone who thinks that they are indispensable is either a bad manager or is kidding themselves. 

The Huffington Post recently published an article about vacations, who takes them and who doesn’t.  The most revealing thing was the excuses given by people who did not take time off.  40% were afraid of the pile on their desk when they returned (ridiculous); 35% believed that no one could fill their job while they were gone (are you communicating and training properly?); 33% were worried about being able to afford the vacation (understandable, but not a reason to take time off) and 22% felt that they may be seen as replaceable (get to a shrink, please) by their manager or boss.

The one thing I discovered in business is that there is never a good time to take off.  There is always a meeting, a presentation, a report or a client.  Something always comes up which is critical and may prevent some people from taking a holiday.  It is just the way it is (by the way, this is also true about people who are unhappy in their jobs but can’t find the time to interview).  Smart people swallow hard and take their planned time off.

If you are one of those people who doesn’t take their allotted vacation.  Think twice and go.  You will feel better and perform better once you return.  

Years ago, the personnel department was renamed human resources to better reflect their role in protecting and promoting every business's most valuable resource.  I would suggest that starting at the beginning of the fourth quarter of every year, HR should look at employee attendance records and start bugging people to take their allotted vacation time.  Since vacations lead to healthier, happier and more productive employees (I wrote about this previously), HR would be doing a big service to their companies and employees.
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