“A commission is like a fortune cookie—sometimes there is no need to split it to succeed.”—recruiter fortune cookie

RECRUITMENT TOOL/Photo: with permission of B. Gutierrez

No. Not a joke. Seriously—consider contracting with a Chinese fortune cookie manufacturing company to make “recruiter fortune cookies” as a promotional tool.  The idea is serious enough for it to have been and remain a standing practice for more than 25 years at a Texas regional office of a huge Fortune 500-level national network of personnel consulting offices (that provided me details of their promotional program anonymously, for reasons to be explained below).

What I have elsewhere called “Make-Your-Fortune” cookies could be a monster hit among the hundreds of thousands of recruiters everywhere—without even contemplating the numbers of recruiters in mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong who would stockpile these (at least for their Western guests and associates who expect fortune cookies with every Chinese meal).

Moreover, Recruiter Fortune Cookies (RFCs) would be boffo with superstitious time-on-their-hands job applicants waiting in offices for their appointments and, if cleverly worded, could be deal-makers or breakers, as desired and if subtly color-coded or otherwise distinguishable by the recruiter (only). “Great job is at hand!”—there, that’s a deal clincher, or at least greaser. “A wise man looks more before he leaps!”—for the applicant you hate to say “no” to directly. (Humor alert: just kidding here, and only here.)

The Serious Business of RFC Manufacture and Distribution

Again, this core idea is no joke. If anyone corners or at least explores this market niche, they are going to have a shot at a vastly expanded network of recruitment industry contacts, because every single RFC recipient is going to be an agency, a company, a recruiter, a job applicant or someone somehow in the recruitment sector.

As for start-up marketing, I have checked and found that www.recruiterfortunecookies.com and www.recruiterfortunecookie.com are both available as domain names. However, undertaking the manufacturing of RFCs yourself is neither necessary nor necessarily smart. That’s because the next step, finding a manufacturer, is apparently just as easy. Branding can be done under the aegis of your existing corporation or proprietorship, with manufacturing delegated to the experts.

A quick google search turned up http://www.customfortunecookies.com/, a Houston-based 27-year-old company specializing in the custom manufacture of any-size shipments of customized fortune cookies.  Their website notes that their cookies have appeared on “Good Morning America!”, “The View” and in the movie “Freaky Friday”.

As for pricing, 1,000 customized cookies with up to 45 different messages will cost 22.5 cents each, plus shipping and handling, with the cost dropping to 17.5 cents each for orders larger than 9,000.  (Note: I have no connection with the company, never heard of them before writing this article and am not looking for a job as a fortune-cookie writer or taste-tester and don’t expect cookies or anything else in the mail—until I place my own order.)

In a phone conversation, Custom Fortune Cookie company founder and owner, Bonnie Gutierrez, informed me of the above-mentioned prominent recruiter firm, a client of long standing, that has been distributing fortune cookies as a whimsical promotional item at its Texas trade fairs since the 1980s.  In a follow-up telephone conversation,  top management at that personnel consulting firm said that the customized cookies are used only at such trade shows. Among the giveaway RFCs is a prize cookie redeemable for a cash prize. Noting such promotional applications of the cookies, Ms. Gutierrez said, “I am constantly intrigued by how customers use the fortune cookies at events.”

Cookie Wisdom: Be Careful What You Wish For

The reason for the personnel consulting firm’s request to remain anonymous is also a reason for caution in developing the RFC idea: The spokesperson’s take on the RFC concept is that it has always been and should always be limited to casual venues and situations such as trade fairs. Otherwise, the source said, “It would be unprofessional”—reflecting some deeply and broadly entrenched ideas about the scope and limits of professionalism and the role of “seriousness” in providing high-level executive placement and consulting services.

So, you’ve been warned. Nonetheless, you are the best judge of how playful or not to be in your promotional efforts. Google’s April Fool’s “Google Motion” video (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/01/googles-april-fools-day-joke-gmail-motion_n_843449.html) was a deadly serious marketing move to playfully promote the Google Empire, and maybe even to test some technological waters. It works for Google; it might work for you.

(I would do it myself—seriously, I would, were it not for the fact that I’m busy and would rather run out for fortune cookies than run a Fortune 500 company, since I have no entrepreneurial drive whatsoever. For those of you in Canada who do have such ambitions and who may think the currently very favorable exchange rates won’t last, here’s a Canadian personalized fortune cookie manufacturer: http://www.fortunecookiescanada.com/personalized-fortune-cookies.php).

Cross-Marketing and Other Congruences

You may scoff and continue to laugh, but the RFC business is potentially huge, and is a perfect match-up of two well-established industries: fortune cookie manufacture and Fortune 500 (or more) recruiting.

Look at the points of congruence of their respective priorities and attributes:

  • CROSS-MARKETING: Traditional fortune cookies sell Chinese dinners and vice versa, with the cookie functioning as both a reward at the end of the meal and as a trigger for wanting the meal in the first place.  In recruiting, hiring from a website that recruits customers for its goods and services, e.g., Mercola.com, operates the same way.

An RFC business could cross-promote from recruitment to cookies and from cookies to recruitment, as the business sells, as well as gives, cookies to recruiters, job hunters, companies, other network members, etc., and then utilizes those contacts for recruitment purposes. In this model, the recruiter is not limited to just handing out promotional RFCs, but can also be a partner, for example, an affiliated distributor for the primary manufacturer.

  • GLOBAL REACH: Fortune cookies are globally distributed with far-reaching networks, as are modern recruitment operations, with ease of localization being an important shared feature, e.g., switching languages, superstitions and cultural icons referred to in the cookie’s fortune mirroring local accommodation of recruiter client language needs, cultural sensitivity, etc.
  • PROMOTIONAL GIFTS: Conventional fortune cookies and RFCs are, at pennies per, as mementos and brand icons, both cheaper than monogram pens, lapel pins or key chains.
  • TIME-SAVING: Fortune cookies are perfect for those in a hurry, with no time for an elaborate dessert— people like the many recruiters, clients and candidates wolfing down quick lunches.
  • TIME-FILLING: They are perfect for those with lots of time and their hands, to spend ruminating on what the fractured fortune (cookie) really means—like job applicants waiting in outer offices as well as couples getting better acquainted over a table in a Chinatown restaurant.
  • ENERGY-SAVING: They are, again, perfect, for people who don’t want to read anything long—again, many busy recruiters and job applicants, as well as kids fidgeting in their restaurant seats.
  • FORTUNE-ORIENTATION: The traditional focus of fortune cookies is “fortune”—good fortune and making a fortune. Ditto for recruiting.

There’s the blueprint—or recipe, so to speak. The rest is up to you. You have choices: You can sit back and wait for others to make the bold move—and see how the cookie (opportunity) crumbles. Or you can do the smarter thing.

Buy some fortune cookies and see what they suggest.

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