What Makes a Great Employer Brand?

We know why we need an employer brand and what a good, solid brand does for our business. But what makes a great employer brand? You know, how do you get one? We all want the press Zappos gets. Or to be awarded like the Container Store or SAS has been. So we try to mimic them, but that’s the wrong approach.Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) produced a new documentary last year: “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” It was Spurlock’s attempt to make a documentary about sponsorship that’s completely sponsored.

As he goes from brand to brand trying to convince them to sponsor his movie, he stops in to visit the brand marketing team for Ban deodorant. At one point Spurlock asks the team: “What are the words you would use to describe Ban? Ban is ______.”  He’s met with total silence. Followed by the response “that’s a really good question.”  (You can see the full scene  here at about 10:05 in.)

Oof. If you know anything about branding, you know that’s the worst response a brand manager can have. Great brand managers know exactly what makes their brand distinct. That might be why there’s no mention of Ban in the top five deodorants.

How do brand managers develop great (employer) brands?

1) Align with the master brand

A great employer brand has to support the master/consumer brand of the organization both strategically and tactically. This means that it supports and pares well with the existing consumer brand architecture regardless of whether your business is B2B or B2C. This happens when both marketing and HR work together and see the value they each receive from strategic alignment.

2) Make sure it is research driven

It has to be born from insight that comes from your current workforce as we last wrote about in QUIPS 3. Too many employer brands are built on assumptions or a big-picture assessment of the organization–the old school “employer value proposition.” Like a consumer brand, an employer brand must be based on detailed research so that you build and understand the detailed components of the brand. This goes beyond employee engagement or satisfaction surveys.  It’s about understanding who your employees are as people, and finding the common themes and threads that unite them as a workforce.

3) Make sure it’s easily defined

Don’t be like the Ban brand managers. Know your brand inside and out: its attributes, it’s voice.  It has to have the ability to be distilled into simple, concrete messages. When asked, employees should be describing the brand in a similar way without hesitation that’s how you know it’s aligned). And that happens when employer brand leaders have a marketing strategy that delivers the brand consistently so all stakeholders can easily relate and easily define it.

4) Treated with the same respect as a consumer brand

We spend so much time, money and attention on our consumer brand but neglect to apply the same level of rigor on our employer brands. The reality is, your employer brand can be a powerful part of your sales strategy–look at how GE showcased their employees in their Super Bowl ad. Companies must allow employer brand functions to build out and apply the same level of interest.

Make your brand your own.

Comments

2 Responses to “What Makes a Great Employer Brand?”

  1. christopher demers says:

    a great write, and a painful display for the (i am sure) former ban brand managers… but therein lies the point: do you know your employment brand? why do people opt to work – and stay – for you as opposed to, dare i say it, Brand X?

    it’s true that the employer brand is a long way from well-defined for most companies and HR geeks; i’m no exception. and yet, when i think of the companies i work with each has image, a mental picture i instantly recognize them for. and, whether it’s the image they want or not, it’s there. and so is the employer brand.

    my take away? dig until you find that brand, craft, shape and hone it till it represents what you desire (tied with the master brand), and then sell the hell out of it. great post.

  2. Thanks Christopher–I love the way you say you have a “mental picture.” This is why research is so important because you can dig into that mental picture and understand the similarities and differences between the mental pictures your employees has.

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