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Dec 4, 2018    Burn Book

To Avoid Imposters, Be Unrepeatable


Nothing shakes me. That’s what I thought after owning a business for almost ten years. No morning is the same, just like no day in the wide world of advertising is the same. But some things you just have to file under ‘only a business owner would understand.’

I walked into the office just like any other day, and I see my executive assistant and office manager on multiple phones and managing our chat system. Apparently all these people thought they had been offered jobs by my company. My managing partners were aware and my entire team was mitigating the situation as I would. As the day went on, it slowly became to sink in as I demanded to talk to the owner of We Work Remotely, a jobs listing site hosting positions we had never posted.

I asked the owner how he could NOT require proof in the form of a Tax ID#, an EIN, or any kind of paperwork to protect the public and make sure the company posting jobs is legitimate. It was like talking to an inanimate object. He had convinced my assistant (who sees the best in everyone) that he too was a victim, when in fact, if you did a google search, you’d see tons of other job listing sites that re-directed back to We Work Remotely. He would not give me a digital snapshot of the job posting. Throughout the day, we found out the scammers held interviews over Google Hangouts (which we never have) and then we had to be the ones to break the news to people they did not have a job. When I found out one guy (who messaged us on Facebook) quit his previous job to take our non-existent one, it really, really, sank in and I will admit, I cried that night.

I don’t play the victim well. And I have to note we were not the main victim. My company was impersonated by someone wishing to scam people wanting to work for us, the unemployed, the newly graduated, etc. The worst part? They had to give up secure financial information in the name of ‘direct deposit’ and may also have been victims of a phishing scam.

One insidious element of human nature that makes these things much worse is the fact that people don’t like to admit they got scammed. They might feel responsible, like there was something they could have done to prevent it. But even if there were, we’re all going to slip up sometimes. You can’t live your life every day thinking the world is out to get you. However, when something like this does happen, it’s everyone’s responsibility to make it right––including us and the job listing website (not that they cared).

As soon as we found out about this, we made sure to warn our followers on social media to avoid the fake job postings. Luckily, the fakes were easy to spot. The imposter profile on the job site had copy and pasted the intro from our homepage as the company description, yet somehow managed to add typos that aren’t on the site.

I was saddened to learn that our company’s name was used to hurt people. I am sorry for anyone who wasted their time or put their identity at risk with these sham interviews. This kind of thing shakes your trust in humanity.

But I eventually came to realize that things could have been worse.

This is where the importance of brand comes in to play. As a company with a unique voice and style, we are harder to replicate. We make sure that every social media profile and business listing for my company contains branded design and content. The only way you could successfully replicate Rock Candy Media’s online presence would be to kidnap our designers and writers and force them to make the duplicate.

One of the under-appreciated benefits of having a distinct brand is that it can insulate you from copycats who may want to steal your customers (or job applicants). Why do you think kid’s cereals are marketed so heavily? Because every box of Froot Loops sits next to a similar box with a name like Fruity Circles that costs half as much. Yet people will buy the more expensive of the two. Even kids know the difference between Toucan Sam and Parakeet Steve. If you create a memorable and unique brand, the ripoffs have a harder time of encroaching on your turf.

How do you get to that point?

This is where an agency comes in. Let’s just talk about brand voice for a second. A majority of company leaders aren’t going to know how to design a logo, but they will know how to write. By third grade, most of us know how to write. That doesn’t make them a writer. Practiced copywriters like the ones at our Austin marketing agency are adept at fine-tuning a message to be specific to the tone and attitude of a brand. One brand might simply say, “we’re having a sale!” Another might be more inclined to say, “we’re dropping prices like they’re hot.”

If you cultivate a voice and graphic identity that is distinct, it keeps competitors at a distance.

Here’s a great example of how branding can be a major driver in sales: the growth of direct to consumer products. Leesa mattresses, Quip toothbrushes, Dollar Shave Club all fit this business model. Consumer goods makers used to rely on exposure in retail outlets as a way of getting exposure. I discovered some of my favorite fashion brands at boutiques in Austin and Brooklyn, for example.

But when I go to a clothing or a mattress store, the companies making the products for sale have limited control on whether I buy their product over another’s. When you have a standout brand, people will come straight to you.

So when I started my company, I knew I had to differentiate it among ad agencies in Austin, Texas. I am often surprised at how many digital marketing and so-called creative agencies fail to spend the same effort on their own companies. In the end, I think this helped us in resolving the fake job listing situation. It was clear that we were not creating these listings. If your brand isn’t in the same place, you might consider meeting with us.

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