In this conversation, Shachar Meron, Partner and Creative Strategist at Bluegreen Branding, discusses various aspects of branding, including how to talk about your company without being boring or overselling, the process of rebranding, and the importance of trust and ethics in branding. He shares examples of brand redesigns and highlights the unique aspects of branding in the university setting. Shachar also addresses the impact of AI on copywriting and discusses generational differences in branding.

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πŸ“ŒTALKING POINTS

05:22 - The Process of Rebranding

06:27 - Poor Reasons for Rebranding

08:36 - When to Consider Rebranding

17:22 - Balancing Branding with Other Business Challenges

22:56 - The Impact of AI on Copywriting

29:19 - The Importance of Trust and Ethics in Branding

35:01 - The Evolution of Trust in the Workplace

πŸ”—CONNECT WITH SHACHAR

πŸ”—CONNECT WITH TOM

Tom Finn (00:00.732)

Welcome, welcome to the show, my friends. Today I'm sitting down with Shachar Meron. Shachar, welcome to the show.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (00:06.935)

Thanks a lot for having me.

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Tom Finn (00:08.564)

Well, I am thrilled to have you on the show because you are an absolute branding genius. If you don't know Shahar, he has over 20 years of experience as a branding, advertising, and marketing expert and has worked on over a hundred brands, including a few you might know like Boeing, uh, the golden arches of Mickey D's, Johnson and Johnson and Motorola. He currently serves as a partner and creative strategist at a firm called Blue Green Branding and is also a senior lecturer who teaches, you guessed it, advertising and brand strategy at the University of Illinois. So welcome to the show, my friend. First question right out of the gate is one that I struggle with personally, and I think our audience does as well. How do you talk about your company without being boring on one side or overselling on the other?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (01:02.422)

I love this question because my background as a writer and brand strategist, I just wrote this article on like on the story of your brand. Do you start with yourself or do you start with your audience? Right? Who's the hero of this thing? Some people say you always start with your audience because it's their needs that matter. Others say always start with your own purpose because you know, start with why the answer is it depends. But in the end, I always find it's a trick question. Find out where your worlds overlap and start with that I actually had a friend who was a business coach who said, I always start by asking people what they do first, let them talk, and then when they ask me, I say, oh, I help people like you. So generally speaking, that would be the ideal situation, find out their world and then try to figure out how do I intersect.

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Tom Finn (01:45.028)

So is there a balance between sort of not sounding salesy though when you're, when you're doing this? Cause I, I feel like we, we tend to go down this path of let me tell you a hundred things about what I do. And I'm so important. I want you to feel that versus, Hey, you know, just, I just do this one little thing. I do some teaching. I do some brand stuff, you know, which is the boring side. So how do you, how do you actually find that balance? I know you got to ask some questions, but how do you find them?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (02:09.554)

Yeah, usually you try to focus on one thing in the world of brands. You can, you know, your audience has at most the attention span to cover one thing before they decide they want to pay attention or move on. Ideally, you figured out that one thing before you have to answer that question on the spot. But if that one thing is something, you know, if you are genuinely a mission-driven organization, lead with that. If you are all about we do this one thing 25% better than any of our competitors, you know, you could start with that. It could sound very salesy. Most people don't like to begin with things like that it could grab the attention of the person you're talking to depending on what you're going for. I generally like to start in one of those two areas. You know, again, on the creative side, the creative part of me says package it up in something unique, original. People have all kinds of different ways that they do that.

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Tom Finn (02:56.292)

So if I were to meet you at a cocktail party, my guess would be your answer is, I'm Shachar, and I do branding.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (03:04.346)

For the most part, yeah, usually I have to elaborate a bit depending on who I'm talking to, but yeah, more or less. I think I mentioned to you earlier. Yeah, I think I told you earlier, I kind of hedge, I say I shape brands in minds because that covers both my brand consulting world and also my teaching world. But it is a lot of shaping brands, marketing strategy, depending on who I'm talking to, there may be some phrase that they're most associated with-

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Tom Finn (03:09.176)

That's your one thing. So if we went back 20 years, did you want to do consulting and branding or were you focused on the university track to be a lecturer?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (03:37.886)

Neither. I was in advertising. That was my pathway. And I didn't even know what branding was. I mean, we all know what brands are in our hearts once we learn about them, but advertising was my gateway to that. I started as an artist. I was a cartoonist and I didn't want to be a starving artist. So I thought, what's a good profession that like you get to be creative, but you can actually like make some money? And I landed in advertising. It just seemed like a really fun major at the University of Illinois. We have one of the top programs and it's also just a lot of fun as a field through the creative side and then gradually shifted towards doing more strategy. Always kind of staying on the smaller side. In fact, I had a partner that we started our own agency, a boutique branding agency, that ended up selling it, moving on, etc. But got into everything through the advertising side and then just kept swimming upstream. Learned that, you know what, if a company needs an ad campaign, it's usually because they're trying to achieve some sort of a goal. How's their brand itself? Is it in pretty good shape? I'd rather shape the brands, advertising, most of the big decisions have already been made. Most of the creative stuff has already been solved.

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Tom Finn (04:43.232)

Ah, so advertising is a derivative of the brand and the branding, not the other way around.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (04:49.13)

Absolutely, yeah. I always like to think advertising is just this, and marketing by the way, just subsets of what I consider brand communications. You've got the brands, and then there's how they put themselves out there.

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Tom Finn (04:59.548)

So let's do a quick one-on-one on a brand redesign because most people have a brand, they work for a brand, there's a website up, there's a hat somewhere to be found with the brand on it. So how do you actually start the process of taking somebody through perhaps a rebrand of what they've already done?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (05:22.09)

Yeah, rebranding is a lot of fun, but the first question is just why are you rebranding? If a client came to us, for example, and said they need a rebrand, we really wanna get to the why. There are good and bad reasons to rebrand, and I can get into those if you like, but we wanna make sure, at the very least, this is something that is a good idea for the business, and they've thought that part of it through. And then if we are undergoing a rebrand, I mean, there's all kinds of things. Normally, you don't wanna lose the things that they have that are very strong. Normally, or always, you wanna base on reality. You're not just like throwing away everything and changing your persona. That's pretty disingenuous and it'll probably come back to bite you. It also probably means you're throwing away something that already has value. So normally you factor in all kinds of things but you're trying to get like back onto a certain track, right? The reason that people rebrand it's a means to an end. It's like we want to be that company over there in the future and the way that we get there is by shifting gears on you know how people perceive us.

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Tom Finn (06:18.476)

What are some of the poor ways that people come to you and say, I want to rebrand because, and you say, that's not a great idea?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (06:27.274)

Yeah, I'm glad you led with the poor ways. Those are always more fun. Some of the most common ones, the ones when there's new leadership and they wanna make their mark because their performance is reviewed based on did I make changes? And so that could be a CEO, but more often it might be a CMO. You have the marketing leaders. And again, like a lot of our world came through the marketing side, although by now brand is understood to be pervasive through the whole organization. But a new CMO, a new CEO, might look to do a rebranding. Now it doesn't mean that it's the wrong idea because sometimes they themselves were brought in as part of a broader change like this company needs to get back on track that means new leadership that means new branding. You just don't want it to be for the reason of like hey CMO I might only be here for like 18 months and I really want to have some nice thing on my resume that looks like I made big moves. I also have some agency that I've worked with in the past I'd really love to give my buddy some work that kind of stuff happens all the time. So you want to make sure that that's not you know, you do have to respond to outside forces, but people respond to the wrong outside forces, so sometimes people are responding to what their competitors are doing, which is not terrible at the end of the day, but don't define your brand by what other people are doing. Otherwise you're always just going to play catch up and you're never really going to be yourself. What people should be doing is responding to any massive changes in what their customers are thinking and feeling, because those are the people that you need to reach. So if they are behaving differently than they did 10, 20 years ago, they have different priorities, et cetera, or just preferences. You know, you have to really think about, are we addressing those? And sometimes it just involves little changes, like we need to be completely thought of in a different way for these people.

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Tom Finn (08:07.78)

Okay, so what I'm hearing here on rebranding is pretty straightforward. If your chief marketing officer wants it for their resume, it's a no-go. If you're just trying to mimic or copy competitors, also a no-go. And if the market isn't shifting and moving around a little bit, you probably wanna stay consistent there too. Now, on that third one, I think most of us know that the market is moving constantly, so kind of gives you an excuse to rebrand if you want to.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (08:36.822)

That's right. And also companies are changing all the time too. So sometimes companies are like, look, we have some new capabilities now that we just didn't have before. And we are selling ourselves short by just calling ourselves the same company. But now we have sometimes that's like a new breakthrough innovation, other times there's like mergers and acquisitions for example. I've worked with a lot of companies that are a completely different company than they were 10 years ago. They have been acquiring and merging things for a while. They are now four times as large, you know, in more countries than before and the actual nature of what they do is different. So at that point they are a completely different entity and they need to like, you know, they're thinking, hey, the way that we position ourselves now is no longer accurate even.

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And hey, while we're making changes, may as well aim for something that's both reachable, but still like aspirational. So we're not doing this again in five years.

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Tom Finn (09:22.872)

Look, I think one comes to mind for me. I don't know if one is coming to mind for you, but I'm thinking right now of Facebook to Meta, right? It's a recent one in the last year and a half, two years or so, and really that's one where we went, you're not Facebook anymore, you're gonna be what? Meta? But then you start to look at all the businesses they're in and all of a sudden you're going, oh, I get it. If you start to look under the hood, they have many, many brands not named Facebook.

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And they needed a, an overarching, uh, company structure or holding company structure that looked and felt bigger than their individual brands.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (10:01.662)

Yeah, that's a great example of both rebranding but also brand architecture, how they choose to focus on that. Because, you know, it's interesting, when Google, the corporate Google, became Alphabet, it didn't seem to make quite as much noise. Partly because Alphabet's more behind the scenes. Google itself has a lot of brand equity. People love it. Or, you know, however they feel about it, mostly is positive and very well known. So, you know, Alphabet's fine to be the holding company, mostly behind the scenes.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (10:31.916)

They have had their own issues. And so in that regard, it reminds me, I actually used that as a case study, Meta, as a case study in class. The closest equivalent I can think of is, was it Philip Morris that became Altria? The idea of like cigarette brand, very big prominent industry, went through kind of a shameful phase, realized they had to maybe break some ties with the past and put a new face forward. So that was the closest equivalent I could think of for Meta. Various reasons, we'll find out if it was the right move.

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Tom Finn (11:02.528)

Yeah, time will tell as we sort of go into the future. What types of brands or brand changes have you made that have been the most fun?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (11:13.01)

Oh, the most fun. I mean, I've worked with everything from startups, up to Fortune 500 companies. And so fun can mean different things. Sometimes fun means like, I got to play a pretty big role in it myself. And by the way, sometimes I'll use case studies and I'll be a little bit broad about who the client is because being strategists, sometimes we're very much behind the scenes. But you know, a small business where we're working directly with the owner and founder and it's their baby and they can talk to us about it and the repositioning.

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You know, the rebranding is not just like a new strategy, but it's sometimes even a new name, a new logo, the works. That sort of a thing is really fun. And then to actually like write out, what does it look like and feel like to communicate as this branch to work here? What's the internal culture like? To be able to like impact every one of those elements is a really great time. And then sometimes at, you know, larger organizations or organizations that don't need the works, they don't need everything changed, but they do need like a shift in positioning. You know, I've worked with, you know, companies that are now like, well, we're not just finance, we're also financial technology and data companies. And we don't wanna just be thought of alongside as say a bank, we wanna be thought of alongside of like say a Google, for example, who is in the space of data. That doesn't always mean a rebrand in the way that the average person thinks about it. They have the same name. Sometimes there was a refreshed logo as part of it, but maybe, maybe not a significant change. But the way that they communicate, they go to market, the way they hire people ends up being very different. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that, even though a lot of it, if we do our job perfectly, it's very behind the scenes.

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Tom Finn (12:48.044)

Yeah, look, that's a good place to be behind the scenes. I mean, if we're not creating branding for you, right? The branding is for the brand. So typically, the folks that do that good work are gonna be a little bit behind the scenes. I'm starting to sort of pick off some pieces here. And as I'm listening to you, I'm hearing things like, you can change the name, you can change the logo, you can change the colors, you can change… uh, the type of communication externally, internally, the way you hire job titles, functional roles, those types of things can all be under this umbrella of brand and brand re-imagination, if you will. Is there anything else that we should be thinking about just tactically? These are the, these are the things in my toolbox I should look at. And these are the ones I want to evaluate whether I need to make a call to somebody to help me rebrand.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (13:38.506)

Yeah, you know, we've got a whole checklist of them at the end of this podcast. I'll give that URL for our website. And we actually have a template for doing a brand audit. Went up pretty recently actually. Um, and you know, the idea is it's a laundry list or what are all the elements of a brand and you would consider, am I changing this or not? And why? And to what extent. There's honestly only a handful of elements I normally wouldn't recommend changing except in extreme situations, like for example, things like purpose and values, you know, brand or mission, if that's what you're calling it. Things like that, you might change the way that they're phrased, but to actually significantly change that, somewhat suggests that like you are completely breaking ties to everything that you stood for before. That is a hard thing to do. Normally that requires some sort of a significant life or world shift.

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You need some sort of a rock, something that's at the core that will not change. Purpose often serves that purpose, I guess, your mission. But almost everything else, brand architecture, we talked about that earlier. Sometimes brand architecture is the real rebirth.

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It's like, you know what? We are a collection of products and services that are popular, but our overall company name has been kind of overlooked a lot, and we're doing things really inefficiently. So we are going to rebrand under a master brand architecture approach so that the company name is now the thing that you're going to see all the time and the product names are now secondary. That itself can be a pretty significant shift. Some of the things, like you said, are the aesthetics. So a new logo is not always part of a rebrand, usually the most visible way that it communicates, we've made a change. It is hard to get the public to buy that a significant change has happened if aesthetically you look the same. That said, normally you don't want just a logo redesign because if all you change was a new logo and nothing else, that again is very surface level. It's like, you know, sometimes companies do that. If they're like, hey, we're not seen as very innovative or we're not as popular as our competitors, let's do a new logo. That itself is not gonna solve anything for you. But it is a great like finishing touch as you're changing other things to communicate to the world we have changed.

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Tom Finn (15:39.776)

Yeah, I feel like the logo is the color choice on the outside of your car. And, uh, there's a lot of stuff inside, uh, whether it's battery or gas powered is up to you, uh, but, uh, there's a lot of mechanics that go on under the hood, uh, and in the dash that make that car go and the logo is what you see on the outside, the color of the paint. Is that a, is that a thoughtful way to kind of picture this?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (16:04.234)

Yeah, I mean, you might go a little further and say it's really just the, you could say it's the entire exterior aesthetic of a car. I like a car metaphor because, you know, so much of what makes a car a car is not seen. It's what's happening inside. But yeah, I do love metaphors like that because I do see logo. And again, it's not to diminish the importance of logo. You know, my background's in writing. And so saying a new slogan or a new tone of voice, most people don't notice that kind of a thing. That is not enough of a change that people would pick up on. There's a big difference. But a new logo would communicate that, and normally it comes with other aesthetic changes as well. And if you have a product that is a physical thing, sometimes that comes with new product design as well. And if you have something that is more of like, say, an app or a digital property, then sometimes the user experience changes, and the aesthetics of that changes too.

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Tom Finn (16:52.568)

So when we think about entrepreneurs, one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to figure out is when they're in a slow growth cycle, they're not growing or selling or delivering as much revenue as they would like. They don't necessarily, we collect, the collective we as entrepreneurs, I am in the we, we collectively don't always know what the thing is that we need to change. And of course brands on the table and brand identity, but it's also sales funnel or connections or network. It might be marketing spend on Google ads. It might be Facebook ads, whatever, just advertising. It might be maybe I have the wrong salespeople. Do we have the right product market fit? Do we have the right pricing? All of those things come into play in the entrepreneur's mind. How do we go and zero in and say, you know what, man. It is branding. I really need to focus on branding. It's not my pipeline. It's not my salespeople. How do we eliminate the noise and focus and know that branding's the answer.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (17:58.602)

Yeah, it would always start with research. You would be hopefully looking into different areas of your business. Pipeline is a great way to look at it, by the way. Do I have a top of the funnel problem here? Am I not driving enough traffic? Or do I have a conversion issue going on here? Once they get there, they're not going through to actually make an action. Sometimes it's other things like, my profit margins are too low. Well,

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your brand isn't going to just suddenly make you more profitable. But part of branding is higher perceived value. So it sometimes can address something like, look, my pipeline is flowing through fine, but I'm still not making that much money. So hopefully a lot of research would be done first to help isolate in what area am I having a problem. And normally, I would look at it through the lens of your target audience and throughout the process. When are they coming across you? What are they choosing to do at different moments? Are they behaving and thinking the way that you want?

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Once you kind of isolate where that is, branding, a change in branding is a pretty significant move. So again, my background's in advertising. There are times that it's just, look, we need a new advertising campaign. And even that itself is made up of parts. Do we need a new message? Do we just need a new, like… headline logo, or sorry, headline and design, or do we need like a brand new campaign with a big idea that cuts through the clutter? Or you know what, that feels like a band-aid. We've got a bigger problem going on here, which is people see us as the fast, cheap option, and yet we are trying to raise our prices because we're using more expensive materials now because we're trying to be more thoughtful about quality and sustainability. So how do we change people's perception of us as the fast, quick option? Just new ads isn't necessarily gonna do it.

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Sometimes also a lot of what you're looking at is internal as well. So internal branding has to do with like how do potential employees or current employees see you? Sometimes that's where there's a breakdown as well. It's like we are We're producing our product just as we always have been but we've got crazy turnover with our employees What's going on over there or you know, it could be a matter of morale is down It could be a matter that we're just not attracting the right people in the first place So lots of different degrees you'd look at

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Tom Finn (20:00.948)

Yeah, I think all of that noise makes it confusing for people, right? There's no one answer sometimes. And we're always looking for a branding answer, something that's just going to accelerate us. We're going to be the next hockey stick, uh, the next Google, the next, whatever it's going to be. And the challenge is you can't always put your finger on what problem you need to solve first.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (20:20.394)

Yeah, and lots of times it's not a brand solution. Actually, for my partner and I, this agency, Blue Green, this is our second agency for both of us and for neither of us is it a full-time job where we need this money for the mortgage, right? So we will tell people, you don't have a brand problem right now. You've got after the research that we've done working with you that you said you need to uncover stuff.

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Our insight is you should go back and take a look at how you're doing this with customer service and how you're doing this with operations. And you might have your own experts to handle that. If you feel that after that we want to talk about brand, let's do it. But otherwise, if we don't think branding is the solution, we would never recommend it to people. And lots of times it's not the solution.

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Tom Finn (20:59.384)

Yeah, fair. And I think that's the way everybody should do business. It's not always the way it happens, but I like the way you're approaching it. So let's talk about the university setting. What about the university setting is unique and different today in branding? What are we teaching young people in this space?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (21:15.914)

Yeah, you know, there's what's evergreen and has always been the same and then there's what's changes year to year There are aspects of a brand strategy that I feel have not changed which is, you know Understanding your target audience and what they care about The idea of the importance of focus of there's a lot of things you could say about your company or product or brand, but we've got to pick one to really focus on, and that's your brand positioning. So some of these things are timeless. Starting with target audience and being focused does not change. However, the tools that we use, the channels that people use in order to communicate, those change all the time. I'm right now, I have to reboot my copywriting class because AI exists. And chat changed a lot of things when it comes to copywriting, not just in the classroom, but in the industry future copywriters, I want them to have a job waiting for them that they can earn as opposed to, you know, they've just lost their job to an algorithm. So that kind of stuff changes. I can't pretend that, you know, well, all the same rules still apply for syntax and yada yada. It doesn't. So it is a matter of kind of separating out what's timeless and what is always changing. Advertising, you know, response to things like pop culture and technology, those things change all the time.

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Tom Finn (22:31.012)

Okay, so you said it, so I'm going there. You said copywriters should have a job. Okay, convince me that a human copywriter should be paid whatever they're paid per hour or on an annual basis, and somehow we shouldn't use chat GPT or the emergence of other generative AI. Convince me that should even exist because right now I'm not convinced.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (22:58.854)

Oh, yeah, I mean, I think it's the way you phrase it, I think might be a false choice. I wouldn't say don't use chat. I use chat. I'm going to instruct my students on how to use it. I feel like having been a copywriter for most of my career, I feel like I've been a carpenter my whole life and someone just invented power tools. It's very exciting. In the wrong hands though, it is worthless or even really dangerous. And I'm talking now about copywriters. I'm not talking about the overthrow of society or anything like that. That's a whole other topic. But… For somebody to think that they could open up chat, ask a question, get a response, and just dump it in and be done, that's not gonna be effective. People that try that professionally are just multiplying the noise that's out there, wasting their clients' dollars, and it's not going to really help.

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But somebody who knows a good prompt to get a good content and then can do follow-ups and then at some point takes it themselves and works with it to try to get it there, that I think as of now still requires an expert human touch. And that's what I instruct my students on, especially the ones who want to use chat to just do their homework and move on with their lives. I tell them, listen, if AI can do your homework, then AI can do your job in the future. And you've got to ask yourself, we all do, what do we bring to the table? And so I do think there's a place for copywriters but I'm not going to lie and act like all those jobs are safe and will stay the same. I think entry-level copywriting jobs in particular are the most at risk because I think that senior copywriters and creative directors can now use chat and things like that where otherwise they might have turned to a little pool of you know junior copywriters and interns and say hey give me 50 headlines by lunch.

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Tom Finn (24:34.464)

Yeah, now we can get 50 headlines in what, three seconds?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (24:37.59)

That's right. That'll actually be my first assignment for the students. It used to always be, give me 50 headlines. My first boss would tell me, give me 50 headlines by lunch. And now that prompt has to change for the first time in 20 years.

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Tom Finn (24:48.98)

Yeah, it's really wild how much it is changing the writing community. And I think you're right on that the prompts have to be accurate and you have to understand how to use the tool. And your example of, hey, I'm a carpenter and I just got power tools, it's changed my life, I think is a perfect analogy for this space.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (25:08.682)

Yeah, and you want to see a child with a power tool? Does that instill you with a lot of confidence? So we got to make sure that people know how to use this stuff.

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Tom Finn (25:15.668)

Yeah, that's right. That's right. And look, I think personally, I think it's been very helpful. I think it speeds up your ability to communicate more effectively and it can help you sort of reword things that perhaps you're stuck on, right? You're stuck. You're, you're feeling like there's a blank page staring at you. You can at least put some ideas down from chat that will help you ideate a little bit more on your own and then be able to develop the content that needs to be developed.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (25:42.974)

Yeah, the ideation part is one of my favorites to use AI for. I do a lot of naming in my career and it's a great way to get the process going. Hey, give me 10 metaphors for fast. Give me 10 mythological creatures that represent whatever. You know, things like that can be awesome. Also as a strategist, by the way, I love AI for that as well. Sometimes it's like, use the AI to create an audience persona and then bounce some questions off of it. That's not in lieu of interviewing human beings, but it's a nice supplement to it. If it's like, ooh, I wish I asked that question earlier on or I wonder how they might feel about this. So there's all kinds of interesting uses for that sort of a thing.

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Tom Finn (26:19.704)

When you're in the collegiate environment and you're Professor MΓ©ran, now I guess you're in Paris, not in Illinois, but when you are teaching, do you tend to find that these young people have a different set of skills, an enhanced set of skills? Talk to me about the generational differences that you're seeing.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (26:46.078)

Yeah, when I started working, when I started teaching about 10 years ago, they were millennials and now it's a Gen Z. I don't like the idea of drawing a line, but I have seen a shift. They are, there are some areas where they've progressed and gotten better and more diverse in their skills and interests, I feel. I feel they've maybe given more permission to… not become jack of all trades necessarily, but just be multidisciplinary to try lots of different things. And I enjoy that. That's a pendulum that swung. I used to think of myself as a Swiss army knife, jack of all trades. And there was a time where I was like, no, it's all about specialization in this world. So I feel like a lot of them are bringing a lot of their personality and skills outside of, say, the advertising and brand worlds to the classroom, which is very cool. Some people ask, are they totally tech savvy? In some ways, yes. They think that they are incredibly tech savvy grading assignments right now, where I asked people to make, you know, use a strategy tool that involves making a three by three grid and move these boxes around. A couple of students still hand did it on a sheet of paper and took a photo with their phone because they're like, I don't know how to do that in a so there are some things they can do that do not come natural to me at all. Or I would say my generation, it doesn't come naturally. However, there's other things that we can do really easily sometimes that they don't get. But it's hard to make broad generalizations of millions of people based on the handful that I've seen. So it can be kind of tricky. They are, COVID changed more than anything, I think. And this is the same sort of a change that we see in the workplace as well the idea of flexibility and balance and making that a core part of the experience the experience that they're getting. That is an expectation that they have. And we can't say something like, well, when you get in the workplace, they're not gonna talk to you about, you know, hybrid working styles and flexibility. Yeah, of course they will. All of my friends that work in the industry also are trying to figure out when and how do we kind of keep a culture going and keep our process going. So the biggest changes I've seen have been post-COVID, not necessarily because of things like, say, changes in pop culture and...

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Tom Finn (28:50.444)

Well, I think there's a lot of news and information swirling around generations these days, right? So everybody's got their different take on what the strengths and weaknesses are of each generation. And I'm just interested in your conversational kind of input here because you're on the front lines, right? You're working with these great young people that are going to be the next generation of workers in our workforce. And you said something really interesting there. You said, gosh, you know, we do talk about balance and life and… integration and I'm hopeful that the next generation of workers understands how to work hard and achieve goals and meet expectations, but also balance that out with at the end of the day, hate to say it, we're all going to end up in a box. So you got to enjoy your life and you've got to enjoy sort of the people around you, family, friends, your activities that make you you, as well as delivering on the expectations of whatever team or organization you're a part of.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (29:49.142)

Yeah, the way that we look at things in terms of our work and how it fits into our life, that does become a lot of a generational thing. Actually talking about differences and similarities with generations is one of my favorite topics, largely, like you said, because I find myself on the front lines. I never liked making too many broad generalizations because I don't like generation wars, partly because I'm Gen X and it's just kind of in my nature to be like, I'm out of this one, you guys. When millennials and boomers go after each other, I just grab the popcorn, it's a great time. But… Yeah, I think one of the biggest changes that I've seen, this might be the biggest one, is when I was an employee, you start from a place of you have to earn their trust, of your bosses, of your… clients, you have to show that you can get into work on time every day, work the full days, hit your deadlines, hit your deliverables, and then over time they start to trust you more and then they start to give you more responsibility, but then they also start to give you a little more leeway. You know, you're telling me that you've got to really focus on writing for the next day and that you're just going to be off site tomorrow? Okay, you can do that, but only because you've worked here for a year and I know that you'll be productive and you'll get it done. That is a very big difference than now where employees, and not just employees, just people expectation of you should trust me. You should start by trusting me as a human being that I don't have to earn your trust that I'm gonna do the right thing. The fact that you hired me means that you should already believe I'm gonna do the right thing. So I should be able to get some of those flexible days and a little bit more understanding with things like deadlines from the get-go. And then I will show you that by you giving me those extra confidence and trust, I will deliver for you. That will be the exchange. But it's sort of like you pay me first and then I'll give you what you asked for. So I think that was the biggest shift. And I could start when I started teaching telling them, you cannot expect that you can walk into a workplace and already have their trust. But I can tell you that right now, 10 years later, there is that dynamic going on. And employers, because it's a talent war out there, they are also encouraging that. They are hiring people on the basis of, if you're hired here, you're already part of the family. We already trust you. We are going to give you our full confidence. And in exchange, please come through for us. That was not the dynamic when I started.

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Tom Finn (31:57.728)

Yeah, I feel the same way. That was definitely not the dynamic when I started. It was you, you show us that we should give you anything, right? You had to earn it and earn it and earn it. And I don't think, I don't think that the young people today are not earning it. I don't feel that way at all. I think we're just, as you said, trying to instill more human trust right out of the gate and say, look, we, we put you on payroll, we gave you the salary you wanted. You agreed to it. We agreed to it. We obviously like you. So just come in and prove it. Right? But we trust you to work from home and hit your deadlines and all those things. Do they understand, does the next generation understand that once trust is broken, it's very hard to have it repaired?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (32:40.85)

Oh, totally. I feel like I should grab, I have four kids, so I've got a bunch of Berenstein-Bear's book upstairs, and there's one about like a broken lamp and how it represents broken trust and you can't put it back together. Yes, they hopefully understand that. That's the funny thing is at the end of the day, the end result is there's just as much trust as there was before. It's just what order is it given or earned or whatever, but most relationships in the professional world are happy ones to the extent that, not that everybody loves going to work every day, but most of the time, employers are pretty happy with their employees, right? Employees are fine going to work at this job kind of a thing and it works out. But yeah, broken trust.

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If somebody breaks your trust, it is, I think maybe now you get one more strike than you used to kind of a thing. I'm trying to judge all of society and as succinctly as possible. There's, it's pretty rare of like a zero tolerance policy when it comes to ethical lapses. When it comes to performance lapses, people tend to be more forgiving at larger corporations, larger entities, I should say, because universities is the same way. People tend to get kind of more strikes at smaller organizations that move faster.

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But yeah, I feel like breaking trust on an ethical level, that is, there's a shorter forgiveness for that than ever before. And I think that that's correct. In terms of performance, I think people have kind of a longer leash than they used to. Everybody's patience wears out eventually. That's less of a break of trust. It's more like, hey, I hope you can do this job.

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Tom Finn (34:09.564)

I agree and I love the fact that you're bringing in these sort of ethical conversations into this because it's so important that people behave ethically when they're given more freedom to move to the home office or partial work in the office or whatever that looks like, you're looking for people to actually perform, right? So whether it's performance or ethical lines being blurred a little bit, it's really important that people understand that there is some level of tolerance, but at the end of the day, if you're talking to a boomer who happens to be running your division or your entity or whatever it might be, that boomer has a certain level of expectations on performance and ethics that they are not going to compromise. Now you and I as a little younger generation, right? You're an X. I'm kind of a millennial kind of an X. I'm right on the border. Um, yeah, I'm like, I'm right there. But.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (35:01.27)

Either Xenial, that's, I identify as that too, yeah.

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Tom Finn (35:06.576)

I identify maybe more as a boomer. My work style sometimes is more deliberate, right, and functioning quickly. But for everybody out there, I think it's important. Trust is important. Ethics are important. Those are all important words to understand and know how to behave.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (35:24.458)

Yeah, trust, by the way, is one of the biggest themes in the brand world as well comes up a lot. Brand is just a promise. I trust that if I buy this thing or use this thing, it will deliver as it says that it will. And trust extends in a lot of different ways than to human beings. There was a great coach or consultant I heard once years ago that said, trust can be broken down to two parts, character and capability. Like, you can trust that someone's gonna do the right thing ethically, and you can trust that somebody is going to be able to perform the way that they said they were. Those are two different things. They're both important. It's like if you have a friend that you're gonna be out of town for a week and you trust them to come in you're like, hey, can you come in and feed my cat each day? You know, you might say like, yes, I trust them to do it. Or no, I don't trust them to do it. But is that because you think they're going to flake and not like follow through? Or does it mean you're afraid they're going to get in your house and rob you? Those are two different forms of breaking of trust. So either way, trust is important. We should always work.

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Tom Finn (36:15.776)

I love it. I love the way that trust and ethics are really important in branding. Uh, and you've done a lot of great work in branding, Shahar. So thank you very much for the work that you do. Uh, if somebody wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about branding, maybe they want to do an audit on their own brand, figure out if it's the right time for them to look at, uh, improving their branding, how do they go about finding you?

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (36:39.498)

Yeah, so my consultancy, Blue Green Branding, it's the best place I put all, my partner and I, we have all of our resources in one spot. So if you go to bluegreenbranding.com, you'll see there's articles and do-it-yourself templates and things like that. We specialize in business-to-business brand strategy consulting. We work with a lot of tech and financial companies, so sometimes you see things in those worlds that are even specialized, and other times they're more broad like, hey, here's how you do brand architecture or brand messaging. You'll also see all my old cartoons in there that I still continue to do from a former life. And then I'm on LinkedIn quite a bit as well, often just kind of sharing those different resources with people and trying to share opportunities with my clients and students.

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Tom Finn (37:18.264)

Shachar Meron, thank you my friend. We really appreciate you being on the show, Talent Empowerment. Check out Blue Green Branding, and check out Shachar on LinkedIn, and appreciate being on the show.

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Shachar Meron - Bluegreen Branding (37:29.622)

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Tom Finn
Podcaster & Co-Founder

Tom Finn (he/him) is an InsurTech strategist, host of the Talent Empowerment podcast, and co-founder and CEO of an inclusive people development platform.

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