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employment brand

Brand Like a CMO: A Recap


Brand Like a CMO: A Recap

Last week, we hosted our inaugural class - Brand Like a CMO - as part of our learning series. We invited speakers from non-HR functions to educate employer brand practitioners on the fundamentals of consumer marketing. Speakers included: Steve Hoeffler, a marketing professor from Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of ManagementMitzi Gaskins, VP of Luxury Brand Management for Marriott InternationalCaroline Frisbee, VP - General Manager for Delk; and Peter LaMotte, Chief Digital Engagement Officer for Levick. Participants came from all over the country (and Canada!) and from a variety of industries. 



HR and Talent Weekly Roundup: Brand Building Edition

With the end of the year approaching, you're thinking about wrapping things up or budgets for next year. What if instead, you started thinking innovation? If you've struggled this year making a name for your company in the talent market, it's time to determine what you can do differently next year to build your employer brand.

This week we've rounded-up some posts to get you thinking--can't 2014 be the year of the creative? First things first: you've got to define your employer brand. But once you've done that, here are some ways to jumpstart your brand:

1) 17 Employer Branding Strategies for 2014 from SocialTrex

"Start with the loudest part of your brand, the career landing page and create a visually appealing and near textless career portal [and] ensure your talent community is worth joining.  Does it provide something your job notifications, social channels and ATS don’t?  If the answer is yes, then you are doing it correctly."

2)  HR Evolving To Become The Marketers Of The Employer Brand from SAP

"How is the role of HR changing? HR is moving from the department that finds talent, vets candidates, hires and administers benefits to a group that is responsible for Marketing the brand to the best of the best potential candidates.  They are now in charge of customer experience for the first customer of any organization which is its employees."

3)  Employer Branding – What Matters To Your Organization?  from Arlington Transportation Partners

"The perception and image of a company to outsiders is often based around the organization’s culture, how well they treat their employees, and how these factors are made public through a company's website, social media, and external resources. While there are many issues that can have an impact on an employer brand, addressing topics such as employee health, commuting concerns, and environmental impacts can play a major role in recruiting and retaining today’s top talent."

4) Four Ways to Build Your Brand in 2014 from

"The winter holiday season is a time for looking back and looking forward. As you review the past year and make your resolutions for 2014, consider these four ways to become a better marketer and boost your brand.: 1. Audit your brand, 2. Broaden your scope, 3. Spark your creativity,  [and] 4. Shake things up."

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.


Employer Brand Measurement: Introducing Source of Brand


Employer Brand Measurement: Introducing Source of Brand

If there's one thing that corporate America drills into your head again and again, it's ROI. Especially during budget season. And while I don't miss those complicated Excel models, I'm constantly reminded of the importance of measures. You need an argument for making one investment choice over another. As a former boss always reminded me, "data drives decisions." The problem in our line of work? The data is often flawed. For example, human resources has been relying on "source of hire" for years  and it's one of the most imperfect measures in human resources. I have long argued there is no such thing as a single source of hire and thus no accurate way to measure one. Even pre-Internet, job seekers may see an ad in a newspaper but were informed about the job from friends, family, college professors or career offices.


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QUIPS #3: What Your Employer Brand is Desperately Missing

QUIPS = QUIck Problem Solving*. Quick ways to begin to address and solve common talent challenges when resources to tackle the challenge holistically or over time aren't an option. Here is QUIPS #3: What Your Employer Brand is Desperately Missing. You know your organization. You know the politics, the business, the industry, the challenges. And you know the people. At least you think you do. Especially if you work in HR. But you don't. You may have a pulse on their happiness or engagement, but do you know who they really are? If you don't, then you can't build or execute a real employer brand. So what do you desperately need?

Research. Real, detailed, holistic research.

I'm not talking your typical engagement survey. That's just a measure of satisfaction and productivity.  And according to Gallup, we're all in big trouble when it comes to engagement anyway.  Stop asking employees if they have a best friend at work. Start asking who they are. Then use the results to understand the composition of your workforce: the actual people who are doing the work. That's the heart and soul of your employer brand.

And yet almost NO companies do this. They create employer brands based on assumptions or what creative agencies pitch. They focus on best practices instead of what makes their organization unique. They package it up and call it an employer brand. It isn't.  No real brand can be created without consumer research. And in your case, your consumers are employees and candidates.

Consumer marketers know research is essential but expensive. However, the results can be mindblowing--and have multiple purposes. But here are four ways you can get started:

1) Create a new knowledge base 

Categorize  and ask for employee information in a way you never dreamed of. Go beyond the basic demographics your HRIS captures and brainstorm--what would you want to know about our employees if you could know anything?  No one has 9-to-5 employees anymore. You have real people. So what about them as people would be helpful to brand development and HR decision-making? Think about the impact data on their commuting habits. hobbies, social media use, family structure and personal interests could have.

2) Hold employee focus groups

The classic marketing tactic, when done right, focus groups are powerful. Don't think about developing or evolving your brand without them. Make sure they are moderated by a trained facilitator, are representative of your workforce and are planned well.  They have to have a purpose and scripted questions that allow you to probe for deeper feelings, emotions and reasoning that you can't get from a simple engagement survey. They answer the "why" to all the data you've already gathered.

3) Use orientation wisely

Wow. A group of new hires all in one place at one time? Don't ignore this opportunity for feedback. I don't mean simple feedback on the hiring process. I mean detailed feedback on who these new hires are and how they feel. What did they do when they got their job offer? (Jump for joy or stress about the low starting salary). What are they most excited about in their new role? Most fearful? This is the kind of valuable data you can use.

4) Completely rethink your  surveys

Sure, there's validated research that says it's valuable to ask employees if they have a best friend at work. But what if all they're doing is commiserating together?  You don't know if you don't ask. Follow those questions up with questions that get at the deep detail--why does having a best friend matter? And what do they talk about? How often do they talk during the day and where?  THAT's the kind of data that you can use to develop a brand. It gives you the essence of your brand.

You wouldn't market a peanut butter without tasting it, understanding what it's made of and how it's different from other peanut butters. Don't market yourself as an employer without doing that research first.


*Speaking and consulting with HR professionals, I often hear how hard it is to take best practices and actually implement them. The grand solutions shared at conferences and in whitepapers often come from companies with big staffs, big budgets and a supportive and forward-thinking HR team.  What if that’s not you?  QUIPS = QUIck Problem Solving. These are quick ways to begin to address and solve common talent challenges. We give you simple, easy ways to address the problem in the absence of time, staff and money. Previous QUIPS include:

  • QUIPS #1: quick ways to address the candidate experience problem.
  • QUIPS #2: why brand ambassadors are good for business.

Have a problem you need to solve but don't have the resources? Let us know what problem you want us to tackle in our next QUIPS.


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QUIPS #2: Brand Ambassadors

exaqueo recently introduced QUIPS: QUIck Problem Solving. These are quick ways to begin to address and solve common talent challenges.  You may not have the resources to hire a consultant or tackle the challenge holistically. But you can take some steps on your own. In our first QUIPS we talked about quick ways to address the candidate experience problem.  Now, in QUIPS #2, we're tackling brand ambassadors. Everyone knows they're good for business, but you can't just pick and choose who plays that role for your company. Here's what you can do: QUIPS #2: brand ambassadors can be golden for both your consumer and your employer brands. But you can't always choose your brand ambassadors. In essence, anyone who talks about or represents your company can be an ambassador or detractor.  Just because someone likes buying your product or working for your company doesn't mean they 'll talk about it in a way consistent with your brand or even share actual truths. But they can be valuable.  Here are four quick things you can do now to ensure you're thinking about brand ambassadors in a value-driven way:

1) Find out if your employees actually understand the company: Do you know what your company does? In all business units? How about your customers? Your growth plan? Product and service innovations? If you don't know all of these things, your employees definitely don't. Find out what they do know about the business and how they communicate it to friends, family and peers in the space.

2) Create opportunities to understand: Once you have a solid sense of what employees know and how they communicate you can find the gaps and fill them with education. Create sessions for employees to learn about new business units. Make earnings calls a team event. Task employees with researching roles, jobs, and parts of the business totally unfamiliar to them and report back to the group. The more they understand the better they can advocate and evangelize.

3) Make sure you have a good employer brand foundation: Your employer brand isn't your latest recruitment ad, or the headline on your careers site. It's the value proposition of the experience stakeholders have with you as an employer. So it has to be an honest and realistic assessment. If you're struggling with your employer brand--don't start with brand ambassadors. Start with ensuring that foundation is right. Here's a 45-second primer.

4) Align, align, align: every communication is an opportunity to align your brand message (assuming your foundation is spot-on--see #3). And that's where that brandline and other communication tools and channels come in. Use a clear, relevant position to express the brand and then ensure it's aligned with your master and consumer brands. Then ensure it's aligned across your candidate and employee-facing channels. More consistency of message that supports the brand foundation means your brand ambassadors will sharing a consistent message.




Experiential Marketing: Emotion and Employer Brand

Experiential marketing has successfully been used by brands over the past few years to connect with consumers to drive sales and profit. Appealing to a variety of senses, the goal of experiential marketing is to establish the connection in such a way that the consumer responds to a product offering based on both emotional and rational response levels. Are marketers missing an opportunity to make an impact on the employer brand at the same time as using experiential marketing initiatives to build consumer brand equity? The role of experiential marketing in branding:

There’s no doubt that brand is about reputation. It’s what you hear, think and feel about a organization and its product or service--that’s the brand. What’s changed is the role people play in brands. We care more than ever about what other people say about a brand, or how they rate a product. In fact, 2012 marketing data shows that conversion rates are 105% higher when ratings and reviews are used by customers.

It just means that as customers, we’re smarter because information about a product or brand is more accessible. Since that information is there, we use it, we experience the brand before we make a choice.  And marketers are increasingly taking notice of this. I don’t mean social media--we all know marketers are making exceptional use of online channels.  I mean experiences--marketers aren’t just introducing products and brands. They’re giving customers ways to experience the brand in increasingly personal and emotional ways.

Think about it this way--you’re at the grocery store staring at the shelf trying to decide which shampoo to buy. There’s no interaction and likely no emotional component. Instead, you’re just recalling information consciously and subconsciously in your head: commercials you’ve seen, what your friends use, what you’re typically loyal too. Then you make your choice.

But marketers have evolved. They know some things either can’t be sold on a shelf or can’t be sold well. In 2011, Nokia embraced this, launching their Lumia 800 phone with a dazzling 4-D light show featuring the popular cult DJ Deadmau5.  It's a wild show with incredible technology and pull-through marketing from the light show graphics displayed on the side of the buidling to the Deadmau5 ears given to attendees. Recently, Nokia jumped the most it has since 2008 primarily based on sales of the Lumia. Is experiential marketing the culprit? Well, the light show has over 4 million views on YouTube. You be the judge.

Using experiential marketing to build consumer and employer brand equity

Every time a company markets its products, there’s a secondary benefit to marketing the employment experience, especially when employees are a part of the activity. When employees are shown using, endorsing or supporting a product or a brand, it lends extra credence and authenticity. In pay-off terms, this kind of shared marketing saves money and shows employees’ pride and commitment.

Consider The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Long revered for their commitment to service, guests regularly stop employees (called Ladies and Gentlemen) to ask about the service and the little wallet-sized cards they carry around, called Credo cards. Those cards define the way the Ladies and Gentlemen provide service, thus defining both the consumer and the employment experience. If you can’t deliver the service and values dictated on the card, you’re not a ‘cultural fit’ for employment.

Companies are finally starting to take notice the role employees can play. Apple recently revamped their in-store experience to emulate The Ritz-Carlton and it’s working. Great service focused on building a brand experience serves as a foundation for both brand loyalty and career interest.

Beyond the foundation, there are other ways to infuse employees into your marketing experiences that build brand equity. They can be as big as Nokia (imagine if employees were involved in that light show, or there was a coordinated employee follow-up effort after the event?) Or they can be everyday marketing experiences reimagined as employee showcases.  Consider your average trade show. You might have a few employees staffing a booth waiting for interested vendors, buyers or customers, many of whom may have an employee profile similar to what you hire for.

Rethink that traditional booth from stagnant to experiential. Involve hundreds of employees instead of three or four. Position them all over the trade floor, conference center or hotel engaging with those customers in a way that’s both on-brand and innovative. Your marketing team or agency can drive the experience--the point is the difference that it makes. You’re building joint equity and solving for two unique brand challenges at the same time.

Connecting employees to customers to build employer brand equity

Putting your employees at the heart of your consumer brand marketing can have a positive impact on your culture.  Remember it starts at the top! Consider the role Sir Richard Branson’s antics play in building employer brand equity at Virgin Group. Across its companies, Virgin employs approximately 50,000 people, in 34 countries and had global branded revenues of around £13bn ($21bn) in 2011. Virgin believes in making a difference. They stand for ‘value for money’, ‘quality’, ‘innovation’, ‘fun’ and ‘a sense of competitive challenge’. They strive to achieve this by empowering our employees to continually deliver an unbeatable customer experience.

Each company benefits from ‘Brand Branson’ who’s behaviours espouse what Virgin stands for. Articulating ‘a sense of competitive challenge’, in 1991, Branson became the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. He traveled nearly 7,000 miles between Japan and Canada, and clocked speeds as high as 240 miles per hour. The trip was fraught with tense moments, including the loss of two fuel tanks. The loss of balloon altitude control caused the crew to reach treacherous altitudes, well over 40,000 feet. Pilot and co-pilot later missed their landing goal by 2,000 miles. Originally headed for Los Angeles, they landed in a remote part of the North Canadian Rocky Mountains instead.

Heineken put their employees in the consumer front line at the Heineken Experience, a brewery tour of the global beer brand located in Amsterdam. The centre is designed to educate the public on the process of pilsner brewing as well as bringing the Heineken product and brand to life. The visitor experience comprises four levels of historical artifacts, product exploration and sampling, and interactive exhibits which employ the latest high-tech multi-media technologies. If you’ve been fortunate to visit the centre, you’ll see just how engaged employees are in the Heineken brand, it’s like being at a college end of year party! But you won’t just see 21 year old employees providing the Heineken Experience, you’ll also see the 40+ somethings getting into the action. Consumers have a great experience and employees have a great experience delivering them an emotional connection to the Heineken brand.

Don’t ignore the associated risks

Putting all your eggs in one basket to connect consumers to your brand through consumer brand marketing involving celebrities or employee ‘brand ambassadors’ is not without risk. Consider every single marketing activity Accenture, a global consulting firm, implemented to build brand equity and then consider the impact on the brand once the Tiger Woods scandal broke. The impact was so great I don’t even need to mention what actually occurred (you probably already know from the global media coverage of the event!). But for those who want to know the intimate details a quick search on Tiger Woods Scandal will help you! Brand equity takes years of hard work to build and can be destroyed in seconds so choose brand ambassadors carefully.

Experiential marketing is not popular (or suitable) in all Industries. Oil and Gas companies have to consider carefully how they build brand equity by involving employees in consumer marketing activities. There is a tendency to ‘play it safe.’  It doesn’t matter what BP does, good or bad, it will be written about, and mostly connected to the 2008 oil spill. It also gets attention on sites not endorsed by the company such as the spoof twitter account @BPGlobalPR which has a following of more than 150,000!

With that in mind, here are 10 tips to harness the power of experiential marketing for your employer brand:

1) Think like a marketer!

To understand the how experiential marketing might work for employer brand, you have to start with the basics of marketing. Whether you work in HR or non-related marketing field, if you don’t have an education in basic marketing, get one before you do anything else.

2) Consider emotion.

As leaders we, ironically, get caught up in the business of what we have to do. From ROI to strategic planning, it’s easy to forget that the business is people. Since marketing is about emotion, it’s important to consider the emotions of your future employees and what matters to them most.

3) Build a relationship with your CMO.

To be effective, the employer brand has to be aligned with the master brand, and there has to be a strong partnership between HR and marketing. It’s important that the CMO sees the value employees can lend to consumer brand marketing and the role HR can play.

4) Understand your workforce.

To best use employees for experiential marketing you have to know them--who the best performers are, who adores and evangelizes the brand, and personal and personal habits. Bottom line--you’ll need some data

5) Evaluate current consumer marketing channels for employee participation.

You don’t have to start from scratch to find experiences to use employees. Look at ways to turn traditional channels (like a commercial) into experiences (live events building on the commercials led by employees).

6) Identify and appoint ambassadors to represent your brand and involve them in your consumer marketing initiatives.

Get your leaders leading from the front! Company founders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Tony Hsieh (Zappos) have had a lasting impact at both the consumer and employer brand level for their organisations which has translated into higher revenues and numerous articles about what a great place they are to work.

7) Build market reach and communicate your distinctive assets.

Make others want to share your photos and videos. It will help you reach passive consumers and candidates by exposing your brand to thousands or millions you may never have considered reaching out to. Just don’t market to your existing loyal users, brand growth will come from those who have very little experience with your brand.

8) Connect with customers already passionate about your brand.

To attract staff to work at their mega store in Sydney, IKEA inserted career instructions inside the famous IKEA flat packs. Customers literally delivered the mailer to themselves. They could then also share it with friends and family and many customers applied to work there! Not only did it talk directly to those who love the brand, it created a whole new media channel – the flat packs themselves. The campaign resulted in 4285 applications and 280 hires with $0 media spend!

9) Let your employees communicate your EVP.

You can’t bluff consumers and candidates! They will react to your behaviours moreso than what you say in your communications. This is where experiential marketing can help. Your behaviours are on full show and consumers will judge you on how you behave.

10) Use experiential marketing to make work more interesting.

Employer Brand International’s latest global research shows interesting work is the number one attribute employees are seeking in the employment experience, the reason why they chose their current employer and why they stay. Each year at HeadHunter, Russia largest online job board, they celebrate with a specially themed event. Not to out do their rockstars event  to celebrate the company’s 11th birthday, their end of year 2011 Bollywood theme party had a major impact on the company’s employer brand, already rated as one of best in Russia’s. Thousands shared their videos and photos from the events reinforcing to their customers why they do business with them!

**** This post is co-witten by with Brett Minchington, Chairman/CEO of Employer Brand International. Brett is an International strategist, corporate advisor and author on employer branding. You can follow him on twitter @brettminch or at



45 Seconds to a Great Employer Brand

Today, my former team at Marriott International won "Best Employer Brand" at the Recruiting Excellence Awards--part of ERE Expo. (Congrats team!) The awards are a great way to keep tabs on what's happening in talent acquisition and recruiting and what might work for you. It's conference season after all: "more best practices, please." At the kickoff of the last Recruiting Innovation Summit, I put up a slide that said "don't replicate what you learned today." Then I did a mini-case study of My Marriott Hotel(TM), the social recruiting game I worked on while I was there. But don't copy it. Don't copy anything you see actually. Think bigger picture. What are the lessons you can take away from a conference? What can you tell your boss when you return in 45 seconds to prove it was worthwhile?

Hmm. 45 seconds. I've never said anything in 45 seconds or les. But I love a challenge....

Let's say you're rethinking your employer brand. You know it needs work but you don't know where to start? Here's 45 seconds of boss-worthy strategy you can take away to spur getting started.

1) Know your master brand first.

If you don't have a relationship with your CMO or marketing, get one. Learn their craft and the ins and outs of your master brand. You can't create or evolve an employer brand unless you know how it fits into your larger master or consumer brand. Plus you'll need a good partnership with marketing to make your employer brand work.

2) It's employer brand, not employment brand.

Sure, the brand is about the employment experience. But you're choosing to work for an employer and you might have multiple employment experiences within the context of one employer. Focus on the bigger picture first (and #1) and then connect to the actual process of employment.

3) Strive for alignment.

Global company, employer brand created and only used in North America? Nope, won't work. You've got to have a common thread of alignment first, from master brand to employer brand to employment experience. Then, you can begin to differentiate by geography, discipline and level. But align first.

4) Bring in tools and execute last.

Don't start your brand with product creation. That's like producing a commercial for cereal before you know what it tastes like. If you're in the early stages of building an employer brand, you shouldn't be talking to execution, technology, or social media vendors. Yet. They'll be more effective partners if you have a strategy in place first.

There 45 seconds to get you started. Now use the best practices to get inspired.