When you see certain logos, you just know. It’s not surprising you can easily make that connection. Coca-Cola, Apple and McDonald's fall into this iconic brand category. No matter where you are in the world, most people will recognize the golden arches or color scheme.
But how does a world-renowned and recognized brand translate into an employer brand? Are they the same thing? It’s safe to say that most make the simple assumption that it is. Ask a recruiter at a not-so-well-known company to tell you what it would be like to recruit for a top 50 brand and they’ll likely roll their eyes, assuming their team never has sourcing issues and their pipeline is consistently filled with the best talent.
And that’s a mistake. Unfortunately, there’s not a huge correlation between brand recognition and hiring. While it may make it easier to hire in certain departments, it doesn’t make it easy across the board. Just because you’ve bought a laptop, you don’t consider working for its maker. What happens behind the scenes and the key moments of impact for a candidate are often lost in a consumer interaction.
Consumers don’t typically make the connection that typical roles exist at these iconic brands. They may not make the connection that there’s an innovative and forward-thinking software development team at a fast food company. That’s where your employer brand comes in as a supplement to a corporate brand.
drawing the difference
Think of it like this. If I were to draw a Venn diagram to explain the correlation, corporate brand is a large circle and employer branding is a smaller circle inside the corporate brand. It exists as a sub-category but is distinctly different - one that may flex the rules of typical brand storytelling to hyper-focus on candidate experiences, insights and opportunities, rather than products.
There are five key ways in which employer branding and corporate branding interact with people. Each is instrumental to delivering an employer brand that can persuasively communicate the brand’s culture differentiators and convert consumers into candidates.
1. Audience: When you consider the scope of consumer audience for these well-known brands, you’re literally considering the population of the world. The audience is much smaller for employer branding, and the language you use should be focused on that one-to-one connection. “You” and “we” are vastly more impactful than “our” and “us” in most situations.
2. Communication context: Iconic brands are everywhere ﹘ from billboards to digital ads ﹘ and even on taxi cabs. We interact with these brands even more than we recognize. When it comes to employer branding, the branding opportunities happen in limited contexts, such as the careers website, job descriptions, Glassdoor reviews or social media versus a typical branding impression that can happen anywhere, anytime. When developing a distinct employer brand, it’s important to use these key conversion opportunities to focus on the accomplishments and culture, instead of sharing content on the latest sale or product offering.
3. Product experience: Remember that in consumer goods, there’s often a product to hold or use when we interact with the brand. The employer brand is far less tangible. It’s typically a digital experience that leaves little room for making a huge impact, unless you get it right and build opportunities for candidates to experience your environment. Think virtual reality over the standard video.
4. Engagement: The corporate brand can drive transactional behavior. In a number of product and services settings, the ultimate goal of a marketer is to connect with its consumers via a range of "touchpoints" to influence the end user to go in, buy what they need, leave and then repeat. This is never the case with the employer brand. The role of the employer brand and its stakeholders is to always build a strong relationship. A long-term interaction that evolves over time, ideally into the loyalty and pride of an employee that refers future top talent.
5. Competition: Finally, the competition is far more drastic and broad for employer brand than corporate brand. If you’re selling cars, your consumer brand is competing only against other people who sell cars. If you’re hiring a developer, you’re just one of thousands of roles in thousands of companies that all offer highly competitive salaries and benefits. What will you do to stand out in that crowded marketplace?
The biggest difference? Simply that we acknowledge that employer brand must be focused on people. The stories we tell must look deep into the context of what motivates our people, not emphasize that your company is the best. The best candidates want you to convince them why they belong.