David Kessler, President & CEO, StarfishDavid Kessler, President & CEO
Founded in 2002, Starfish is a full-service branding and creative communications firm that provides advertising, branding, and marketing services under one roof. The company leverages its deep branding knowledge, two decades of experience, and non-traditional perspective to help brands reimagine themselves with innovative and creative omnichannel capabilities.

In an interview with Manage HR magazine, David Kessler, CEO and Founder of Starfish, talks about how Starfish has enabled its clients to make lasting brand impressions and how its methodology allows them to reconfigure themselves to attain a competitive brand image in their respective markets.

Can you elaborate on the process or methodology that Starfish follows to empower clients with the employer branding?

We have a rigorous and comprehensive process to help clients with employer branding. At Starfish, we believe that a brand’s market position and capability of attracting best-in-breed talents are reflected by the organizational DNA, core values and culture, and competitiveness. The foremost thing we do while onboarding clients is deep-diving into their DNA, which essentially comprises a series of one-on-one IDIs (In-Depth Interviews) with CHROs. It is important to mention that when it comes to employer branding, our sponsors tend to be the CHROs, but that does not limit our stakeholders to only one position. Instead, they include a wide range of executives and entry-level employees. We conduct 25 to 30 interviews with various HR staffers, managers, and people across the entire organization. In addition, we talk to new employees to learn and understand the factors that led them to join the company, and whether or not they like the corporate culture.

We look for organizational characteristics and attributes like awareness of diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility, and a commitment to becoming a sustainable business. We also interact with industry influencers, including career centers, universities, and recruiting firms that the client has worked with, to understand their experiences and perspectives. Lastly, Starfish performs a competitive analysis between the client and other companies in the same domain to understand how the former positions itself in the potential candidate pool. In this process, we laser focus on the organization’s EVP and whether it is powerful enough to attract candidates. If not, we help them enhance their EVP and messaging.

We divide the whole process of understanding organizations and executing branding efforts into four parts: discovery, strategy, creative development, and activation. Discovery encompasses the efforts of conducting qualitative and quantitative research on employee satisfaction, employee retention, and culture, which are, in our opinion, the building blocks of an employer brand. This brings us to the next step of devising the right strategy, which includes several components of the EVP such as its foundational pillars, key differentiators and messages. We also create a narrative for the employee value proposition during this phase of the process. Often, companies come to us for assistance in revising and repurposing their brand, visions, missions, and core values. Once we have the strategy in place, we move onto creative development, which is where we bring the EVP to life with a combination of visual design and copy. The last phase is activation and where we develop specific internal and external/recruitment campaigns as well as wide range of programs that help galvanize the EVP internally as well as externally facing activations such as career websites, recruitment advertising, videos, etc. In the end, a brilliant EVP is only as good as its activation.

What, according to you, sets Starfish apart from other companies in the market?

Our deep understanding of brand experience sets us apart from other market players. We have an unmatched capability to turn ideas into influential and impactful programs that help clients portray themselves in their best version. We frequently see clients coming to us with pragmatic business requirements, for example, difficulty in attracting right-fit candidates, problems in recruitments, attrition issues, or needing help in rediscovering company culture. We have the expertise to dive deep, dig up, and unleash a company’s hidden potential to be the best in its domain, and have a power that can only stem from having the best people within the organization.
  • Starfish has always been proud of its incredibly dedicated and talented employees and the flair for innovation and creativity that helps brands renew their branding and attain success

Could you share with us a customer success story?

Recently, we worked with one of the largest B2B air freight companies, Atlas Air, who wanted to reposition themselves in the market to attract the best talents. The client’s business was expanding, but it did not have the staff under its aegis to cope with the growth. Starfish uncovered a rebranded image of the client that resonated so powerfully with its executives and staff that it solidified or galvanized their culture. The company’s culture, leadership programs, and other initiatives also found a way through our platform to reach employees who were working remotely, even during the pandemic.

Can you talk about the Starfish’s journey over the years?

Starfish has always been proud of its incredibly dedicated and talented employees and the flair for innovation and creativity that helps brands renew their branding and attain success. The majority of our staff members have been with us for 10 to 15 years, which automatically translates into the incredible capability of Starfish in retaining its talents. This is one of the biggest factors that drove Starfish to the success it relishes today. The other prong that has helped in our journey is our digital capabilities. We pride ourselves on being innovative and creative, and this ability has been a blessing, especially during the recent enterprise-level challenges around the pandemic. Our digital expertise has helped numerous brands rediscover and repurpose themselves in a new light and extended their brand message to the right people.