Crisis marketing: A conversation with Gene Pease

How do you market in a global crisis? Bret wanted to find the answer to that question, so he called up Gene Pease. Gene is the founder of Mighty You, a new performance management solution. However, earlier in the 2000s, he was the founder of a company called Vestrics that ultimately sold to Ultimate Sofware. But at the time, Vestrics needed to grow significantly through the Great Financial Crisis of 2008–09 (GFC). Gene knew he needed to build a polished brand and accelerate his marketing efforts — but that takes money. During a global recession, convincing investors to give you …

Podcast: W.O.R.K. it

We at The Starr Conspiracy hope you had a restful weekend this Labor Day. If you’re seeing what we’re seeing, you’ll need it this fall. We’re talking to many brands that are going to invest heavily in marketing between now and the end of the year. That’s not just in categories doing well, like learning, well-being, and communication. It’s in every category. Even in talent acquisition — which has been pummeled this year — we’ve talked to brands that are seeing revenue up 25% to 30% in 2020. The next four months are an unprecedented opportunity for Work Tech brands. …

Well-being: Work tech’s next big market

There is a major story in work tech right now: Well-being is going to be yuge. Why? That’s what Bret wanted to find out. He sat down with Vic Strecher and Eric Zimmerman of Kumanu, a well-being company focused on performance, to understand the big drivers behind this category. Eric argues that since religion and other purpose-driven institutions are on the decline, many employees are seeking that same fulfillment or meaning making at work. “That is a business driver in a very literal way,” he concluded. Bret pointed back to 2008 as the archetypal framework for what’s driving the well-being …

It’s Time for Work Tech to W.O.R.K.

If you’re looking for yet another way to kill some time, go research the old game show The $64,000 Question. The show ran from 1955 to 1958, so it’s pretty safe to say that most of us haven’t seen an episode recently. (I watched reruns when I was a kid.) The premise of the show was simple. Contestants were asked a trivia question, starting with a prize of $1. If they answered the question correctly, they could take the prize money or keep going with more questions (each more difficult than the last). And with each new question, the prize …

I can't prove it, but I can say it. — Stephen Colbert

Post-pandemic growth in work tech

Many believe this is a time for restraint and defense, when we should all wait around for the second shoe to drop. But falling into the current doom loop is missing the greatest opportunity to build market share in recent memory. Let’s dive into why that might be the case. As the Quarantine Summer comes to an end, some people are holding their breath. What’s next? Will the U.S. presidential election keep software buyers playing wait and see? If 2020 were a Gartner Hype Cycle, this current moment is certainly the Trough of Disillusionment. There’s a lot of good news though. …

Emerging market: Mental health and well-being

Had enough yet? If so, you’re not alone. COVID has created an enormous mental health challenge for employers, creating a burgeoning work tech market.  Research from the nonprofit Mind Share Partners, conducted in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP, found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined since the coronavirus outbreak began. And according to U.K. well-being startup Unmind, more people are turning to their employers for help. Since the beginning of May, their data shows that 79% of businesses had seen a rise in staff requests. None of us can do this alone. We all need …

HR Tech and others go remote.

Well, it finally happened last week. What we all knew was coming finally became official: the 2020 HR Technology Conference & Exposition® will not be an in-person event. Instead, it will become a free virtual event held from Oct. 27–30. Just one more feather in the ol’ remote-only cap… But virtual life can do some good. Think about this: Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley are all reconsidering whether their employees should return to their New York City offices. That’s not to mention big tech making other big moves. These banks, according to Boston.com, have been “a pillar of the …

Q2 Work Tech Investments

Want some good news? The Starr Conspiracy has broken down the Work Tech investment numbers for the first half of 2020, and 2020 is on an almost identical pace to last year’s investments. For the period April 1–June 30, we tracked 99 Work Tech deals worth $1.7 billion, compared to $2.2 billion in Q2 2019. However, when you compare H1 2020 to H1 2019, investment is almost even, with $3.78 billion this year, compared with $3.92 billion last year (I mean, what’s $140 million, right?). When you drill down into Q2 numbers, you’ll see some interesting stuff: HCM, $514.8 million: …

Slack files complaint years after full-page ad

Looks like the competition is heating up. Remember when, a few years ago, Slack pulled a daring marketing campaign to taunt Microsoft as the latter entered the former’s territory? No? Well, they took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to call out the Bill Gates Behemoth. Here’s a picture from The Verge. One of the lines reads, “This is harder than it looks.” Apparently for Microsoft, it ain’t that hard. Enter: Microsoft Teams. Years later — ahem, today — Slack filed a competition complaint against Microsoft in the EU for bundling Teams with their Office products. As …

Buy the ticket, take the ride. ― Hunter S. Thompson

Welcome to the Studio.

Over the last few years, many thought leaders have written about “authenticity” and “bringing your whole self to work.” At first, most people argued for “bringing your whole self to work,” but now many criticize the idea. Should you bring your authentic self to work? Who is that person anyway? For example, Marc Effron from the Talent Strategy Group wrote an article called “Why the Fake You Will Outperform the Authentic You,” arguing that “chameleons” who adapt to their surroundings are better off than employees who are genuine. You’ve probably heard similar arguments on LinkedIn, Twitter, and popular magazines. However, …

Masks and marketing.

Back when I was a kid, you had to put a yard sign out front for people to know who you were voting for. Now everyone can tell simply by whether you’re wearing a mask or not. If you posted #blacklivesmatter on your social feeds. Or some other nuanced variation of a thousand things people see and hear you do — or don’t do — every day. It may be jarring that issues which seem essentially nonpolitical, like responding to a global pandemic or ensuring racial equality, have become red meat for party voters. But it shouldn’t be surprising.  Moral Foundations Theory …

The employment situation

You could argue that employment numbers look better this month, meaning the economy is headed toward recovery. New government numbers showed payrolls added 4.8 million jobs in June. The unemployment rate lowered to 11.1% from 13.3% last month. Similarly, ADP’s latest employment report shows an additional 2.3 million jobs. The markets responded positively to the news this morning, with the S&P 500 up almost 1% as of this writing. And that’s after the markets had their best performing quarter in more than 20 years. However, digging deeper, we see all may not be well. Coronavirus cases are rising, eviction moratoria …

The new quarantine: H1B visas

Last week Donald Trump suspended H1B visa applications for foreign workers, freeing up around 525,000 jobs for American workers, according to Reuters. This created some fierce opposition from tech companies. Why? Because they’re the largest employers of H1B visa holders. Here’s a breakdown from Revelio Labs in their latest newsletter. What kinds of jobs do these applicants occupy? Mostly tech and math, which makes sense. I wonder what this says about the US education system, or perhaps our expensive workers…

I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too. — Mitch Hedberg

Things must change.

2020 has been filled with unexpected turns and challenges, creating new realities for many people all across the world. Unfortunately, the events of the past week have reminded us that the reality for Black Americans has remained largely unchanged throughout our country’s history. The reality is that the dehumanization and murder of Black Americans by those we’ve empowered to protect our communities have become commonplace in our society. The reality is — unless we change, nothing changes. We can no longer be silent. We can no longer be still. We can no longer exercise our privilege to  stand to the …

Back in business

The Wall Street Journal’s newsletter Real Time Economics reported that business activity is slowly stabilizing, with many leading indicators showing that the worst is over. Here’s what they wrote this morning: The worst may be over. Truck loads are growing again. Air travel and hotel bookings are up slightly. Mortgage applications are rising. And more people are applying to open new businesses. These are among some early signs the U.S. economy is, ever so slowly, creeping back to life. Plenty of data show the country was still mired in a severe downturn in April and May, with overall business activity …

The straw that broke the camel’s tuition

Many schools have canceled classes for the rest of the year, right? Students are going online, they’re requesting returns for their room and board money, tuition is at astronomical prices—you get the point. Okay, so what happens when the entire economy of college towns collapses because there aren’t college students there, which can contribute to a majority of these towns’ economies? The Wall Street Journal investigates. This is an important point because just last year McKinsey branded these so-called ”niche cities” as economic powerhouses, estimating great growth over the coming decade. What happens to those cities—and the people who live …