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Thoughts about CareerBuilder and Monster, Indeed, Seek – and you

CareerBuilder and MonsterYou’ve probably already heard about the ‘merger’ of CareerBuilder and Monster. It’s actually Apollo Global Management acquiring a controlling share of Monster, and Randstad backing out of the job board business. This news comes on the heels of reports concerning Indeed’s drop in traffic and Seek’s exit from Latin America.

Is any of this connected? Well, maybe. And there may also be a lesson in there for the rest of us.

First – CareerBuilder and Monster. As has been discussed previously, Apollo has been busily selling off parts of CareerBuilder for years. Why? Well, that’s what private equity does – it maximizes profits, usually by breaking apart companies and selling the different parts to the highest bidder. Apparently Apollo decided that they’d scraped enough from CareerBuilder, and would now look at other ways of maximizing revenue. Enter Randstad, with Monster, a property they probably never should have bought. Like CareerBuilder, Monster’s biggest asset was its brand. Despite years of mismanagement, it continued to remain a (somewhat) known entity amongst the globe’s job seekers. What do you do with two damaged but still somewhat valuable brands? Well – we don’t know yet. Apollo hasn’t been clear on whether they will merge the two, keep them separate, or re-sell them.

Both sites have already seen significant departures (willingly or not) of employees. So what do the respective bosses (at this point in time) say about the properties?

“Through the combination of Monster and CareerBuilder we bring together two trusted brands and best-in-class solutions to create a stronger job board for our talent and employers,” Scott Gutz, CEO of Monster, said.

“We are thrilled to make this announcement; bringing together two industry leaders to create a force in the market,” Jeff Furman, CEO of CareerBuilder, added.

In other words, not much.

I’m betting that in fact they will be merged, and that the CareerBuilder name will be retained. Why? Because it’s already generating revenue for Apollo, while Monster has been hidden in the Randstad offerings. I actually think that Monster has more brand equity. But who’s asking me? As the AIM Group points out in a recent article, the merged property would be a solid number 3 in terms of traffic in the U.S., behind Indeed and ZipRecruiter. Then I suspect Apollo sells CareerBuilder and looks for another victim.

And Indeed? Well, the site that built its reputation on SEO expertise and lots of traffic has seen its traffic decline. Not a good look if your brand is “number 1”. And Seek, who was known in the job board world for job board properties in lots of market, has backed out of Latin America. Although their brand is not as well defined as the others, the move had to affect clients’ perception of the company.

In all of these cases, you have job board brands at various stages in their lives – and let me point out that historically all have been very effective in developing and using their brands to generate high levels of revenue. It’s kind of amazing that older, damaged brands like CareerBuilder and Monster are still kicking and throwing off literally hundreds of millions of dollars. But there are limits to what even historic brands can do in the face of new competitors and declining traffic. Particularly if the owners don’t invest in them.

Indeed – well, I have no doubt that it will bounce back. But traffic declines and failed product launches – plus competing with former clients in new markets – seems to be making the job harder. Is there still a clear Indeed brand out there? I’m not so sure. And Seek – well, I don’t count them out at all – but I wouldn’t want to be their VP of Marketing right now!

So the lesson for the rest of us? Whether or not you’re CareerBuilder and Monster, Indeed, Seek – or you, it’s critical to keep your brand clearly defined – and to invest in it. This is a job that only gets harder as your success increases. It takes a long time to build an effective brand – but not so long to destroy it.

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