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Employer Brands Require More Than Slick Marketing

Successful internal brand building requires more than a marketing campaign and the involvement of the marketing department. Key people in the organization (HR managers, senior executives and middle managers responsible for creating the “product” - in this case, the employee experience) play a vital role in marketing the brand. Employees today are too savvy for marketing-style campaigns alone to work.

Be Your Message. Employer brand building efforts MUST be aligned with management and people practices that ensure an employee experience that matches the image portrayed. It’s true - actions do speak louder than words. Companies that are truly serious about creating compelling employee brands find ways to “connect” with the dreams, hopes and deepest beliefs of their employees – they don’t simply indoctrinate them with the values and beliefs that the leaders of the company decide they should embrace.

It’s not an accident that many companies with strong corporate brands like Southwest Airlines, Nike, Apple Computer, Virgin Group, and Harley Davidson demonstrate management behaviors and people practices that link to the innate emotional drivers of commitment in both their employees and customers.

While these companies are brilliant brand builders and marketers, none overtly ‘sells’ their image to employees. Instead they allow the work environment and experience to speak for itself. Their talent management systems - recruiting, hiring, orientation, learning and development, and appraisal and reward - continuously and explicitly reinforce the core beliefs of the organization and make them implicit to everyday behavior and work.

These successful examples of employer brands demonstrate that far more than a clever marketing and communications campaign is required – an effective and coherent talent management system is demanded as well. Without a system, the promise that is implicit in the brand image will most likely NOT be delivered in the real world experience.
What’s your company handprint? The most critical challenge related to employer branding is discovering and articulating your company’s unique identity – your handprint. This is more than simply creating and marketing an image. Once you know what your company is about, the challenge is to make sure this unique identity is connected in compelling ways (not just any way) to the individual identities and aspirations of your employees - current and potential. To succeed in this effort, a company must be prepared to honestly assess its value propositions to its employees:

What are you really offering to workers, is it just a job, a place to pursue a career, to practice a profession?

Or do you offer something a little deeper, such as a vehicle to pursue a noble calling, to maintain a cherished lifestyle, to share a passion with colleagues or to bond with others with similar, strongly held values and beliefs?

Answering these kinds of questions requires understanding the innate characteristics of your organization’s culture and the emotional drivers of your workforce. It requires a little soul searching, not just slick marketing.
Rebecca Ryan is founder and partner of Next Generation Consulting. She drinks coffee from a mug that says, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Next Generation Consulting is a thinkubator committed to building Next Generation Companies and Communities. Her columns address the work and life trends of today’s young, tech-savvy talent as well as the tools, tricks and tips for those daring hot companies they work with. Please e-mail topics, suggestions and feedback to Rebecca at

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