Recruiters and HR folk are playing more and more in that floaty, conceptual brand world where marketers usually hang out.It makes sense. Employer brand’s role in attraction and sourcing the best candidates isn’t going anywhere. And especially for the big retailers, there’s a growing awareness that the line between employer brand/candidate relationship and corporate brand/customer relationship is becoming increasingly blurry.

Is that a candidate or a customer? I can’t even tell anymore

A strong employer brand will make lasting impact, adding weight to everything you do, helping you cut through the clutter. In essence, your employer brand lets you build real, lasting relationships with people. A weak employer brand is a barrier standing in the way of those relationships. At best it’s a difficult hurdle. At worst it’s actively damaging your ability to do your job. That’s why getting fluent in the language and practice of building brand is a good move for people-people. The good news is there’s a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be tapped down the hall in your marketing department.Your marketers are expert in finding small, simple ways to bring your values to life in everything from your websites to your advertising. They instinctively know how to segment audiences, connect with them on an intimate level and then keep them on the hook en masse. They're also really practised at spotting how you can make the biggest impact with the most people for the least money. And let's face it, big impact for small money is music to...well, everyone's ears.Tapping into that knowledge doesn’t just make your job easier. Those companies where marketing and HR work closely together (like the awesome team at Progressive Insurance) gain a significant head start over those whose departments keep their distance. As you and your marketers get cosier, here are 5 insights you can take from some of the world’s best brand builders that you can start applying to your employer brand today:

1. Creativity isn’t just fun – it’s also effective

How that applies to your employer brand: Using creativity in your employer brand campaigns will make budgets go further and help attract exactly the people you want.

"Two decades of international research measurably demonstrates that creative campaigns are more effective campaigns, and that more creative businesses are more successful. Creativity works by making campaigns more likely to stand out, more likely to be recalled, more likely to be talked about and more likely to persuade people."  James Hurman, The Case for Creativity.

Since the days of Mad Men, marketing has intuitively understood the value of creativity. Brand strategist James Hurman put that gut instinct to the test. In his book The Case for Creativity he demonstrated through 15 major research studies that the more creative a brand is, the more effective they are convincing the right people to buy. Your employer brand is selling a product too – the roles at your organisation, with top talent as your target. That means that pushing for recruitment campaigns that go beyond the traditional is worth it – you’ll make more noise, be more attractive to the people you want, and have more lasting impact than you would with a ‘safer’, more traditional approach. As an example, L'Oréal’s creative “are you IN?” campaign didn’t just break the mould, it also returned in a big way. They grew their LinkedIn fan base to 300,000, with 70% of those interested in a job opportunity with them. Now that’s what I’d call a successful Expressions of Interest drive.  

2. Build your brand by connecting with people emotionally

How that applies to your employer brand: In a nutshell? Pay attention to the candidate experience.

“I create messaging that forms an emotional connection with people. My boss has referred to my job title as Chief Emotion Officer.” Kelly Bennett, CMO of Netflix

When building your employer brand, attracting someone into a specific role right away isn’t always the immediate goal – what you do always want to do is get people hooked on your culture. That’s about connecting with people, giving them insight into who you are and leaving them wanting more. That paves the way for the future, and adds power to the next message - when you’re advertising a role that might fit them well. Building emotional connection means all your candidates – even the unsuccessful ones – should leave with a great feeling about your company. The candidate experience, therefore should reflect who you are as company. Don’t be afraid to move away from dry corporate imagery or language. Every touchpoint, from the job ad to the application experience to the emails you send during the process is an opportunity to share a bit of your brand and connect with your candidates on an emotional level.

3. Stand for something.

How that applies to your employer brand: Attracting the right people is more important than attracting the most people. As recruiters, we often do this refining at the screening stage. Great marketers know the smart money is in doing this at the attraction stage, and they advise doing it by taking a clear position with employer brand.

“Brand must be part of culture to be successful, so the challenge is to find the purpose and connection. It’s critical to have a sharp point of view and stick to it. If that means there are some people who are not part of your customer base that’s ok, as long as you believe what you’re doing is right.” Seth Farbman, CMO, Spotify

Marketers know that accessing more customers isn’t always the goal - sometimes (often!) it’s about singling out the very best customers - the best ones who will engage deeply and become passionate advocates. The earlier in the process you do this, the more efficient your process becomes.The same applies to your employer brand. Even at a most basic level, drowning in huge volumes is nearly always a negative. What is ideal is if the right candidates apply - those are the candidates who, yes, have the right experience and skills, but more importantly, are the ones who share your values and mission. They’ll be driven by the same things and passionate about what you’re doing.

A bit of CX/values inspo from our pals at Atlassian

These people will be more engaged in the process, add to your culture, stay longer once you hire them and help drive the productivity of your teams. And if you need some data to support that claim? Here’s a crowd-sourced list of research and articles we’ve been building over the past few years.

Emily Culp, former CMO of Keds supports this idea, “Everything we do is designed to build culture and establish what our brand stands for.  A solid grounding in understanding the day to day purpose of our brand frankly helps me motivate my team. That work helps all of us do our jobs better and helps us stay passionate about our consumer.”

Just as in marketing, attracting the right talent means taking a brave (read: honest) stand in the market, shouting from the roof about who you are as a company and being clear about who you aren’t. Are you a youthful, edgy brand? Go ahead and use slang in your communications - you’ll certainly put off some candidates (ie. the wrong ones) but you'll connect with the right ones. Do you have a clear purpose, attitude or mission? Build that into everything you do. This bleeds over into your internal relationships resulting in better retention of talent.

4. Listen to your audience and give them what they need

How that applies to your employer brand: Listen to your talent market and get flexible with your approach and offering.

“To be truly customer-centric [the head of strategy and insight] and I have to be working hand in glove. I see her as a key partner in bringing the truth of the customer to our team, and using that to build the marketing plan,” Morgan Flatley, CMO Macdonald’s USA

A marketer’s role goes beyond spitting out marketing messages, in exactly the same way as a recruiter’s roles goes far beyond sorting resumes into piles. They often are instrumental in changing the products or services to better align with the changing needs of their audiences - essentially asking, what can we do to make it easier for our audience to buy from us.The same goes for you as you build your employer brand - what can your People team do to make it easier for the talent out there to choose you. Put an ear to the ground to discover who your potential talent pool really are - what drives them and what they’re looking for, then adjust the way you’re communicating and what you’re offering accordingly. That’s almost certainly not just about salary raises - it could be around things like flexible work opportunities, charitable initiatives or a unique way of working.

5. Evolve, but stay true to your core

How that applies to your employer brand: Keep up with changing times, but don’t lose sight of who your company is at its centre.

“We make sure that everything that we do is very true to the values of our brand and bring that brand to life in a way that we protect as much as possible,” Julia Goldin - Chief Marketing Officer, Lego

Lego has always been focussed on diversification. For decades that strategy worked well for them, until it went too far. In 1998, the company posted its first-ever deficit - it cut jobs, and faced more falling sales in the early 2000s. Their new CEO in 2004 was tasked with refocusing Lego back to where their heart is - building and creation, messages that had become muddied amongst their wildly growing product portfolio. Their huge come-back success can be attributed to this commitment to their core values, even while continuing to evolve with the needs of their audience. For your employer brand, the need to evolve is, of course, paramount. As new trends emerge and the needs of candidates change, it’s tempting to throw everything out and jump on every shiny bandwagon that goes trundling past. While that can work at first, it will have a shelf life - eventually these new policies or approaches will begin to clash with the core principles, values or missions of the company. For example, is really clear, honest communication a fundamental part of your culture? Chucking a buggy chat-bot or confusing gamification experiencing into your recruiting process might seem like a cool, down-with-the-millenials idea when you’re cruising HRTech conferences. But if it’s making your communication less clear and less honest with your candidates, it’s muddying your employer brand. It’s a brand-crime. Just like Lego is working hard again to ensure all their activities support their core mission, every change in your HRTech stack or process should start with one question - does this support and reinforce our values?

Bring your marketers into your world

Wherever you sit in the HR or Recruiting team, core marketing skills are becoming more and more integral to your job. Understanding how to build and harness brand to build meaningful relationships with talent will give you a significant edge. In the same way TA and HR teams are working together to define and build employer brand, how about you rope in the marketing crew down the hall to give you some tricks for communicating it?

Weirdly turns your employer brand into a super-slick candidate experience. Integrated in your existing application process, we make sure the first touch people have with your employer brand is a positive one - whether or not they end up getting the job.