Employment Branding

Toys"R"Us Career website

With many of today’s recruitment tactics of taking the candidates perspective (in order for them to screen themselves in or out), there are several career websites communicating the aspirational and emotional appeal of the job via company culture and employee’s personal ambitions.  The Wall Street Journal states that ” in a recent survey of 2,457 college students and recent graduates, Potentialpark Communications found that the best career sites “go beyond information, and offer inspiration,” appealing to “the emotional decision centers of their visitors.” Potentialpark ranked the sites on the basis of usability, branding, relationship building, application management and recruitment process.”

The work that we are doing at Science Creative seeks to continue the employment branding work we had done for our previous clients such as The Home Depot and Toys”R”Us where we lead the development of candidate focused communications in which the career was more than a job, more than a paycheck – it was a calling.

Image: Toys”R”Us – Aaron Gresham and Ian David

Employment Branding

These days with the economy still fragile many HR Managers may be thinking that they have a lock on retaining their top talent because they may be too nervous to even think about looking for a new position. Think again. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, in February 2010, “the number of employees voluntarily quitting surpassed the number being fired or discharged for the first time since October 2008.”

The reasons come down to the perception that the economy is in fact getting better (and for those who held tight during the worst of the recession they’re now ready to bolt), and, according to the WSJ article, is “the effect of the heavy cost-cutting and downsizing during the downturn on workers’ morale.” Executive recruiter, Brett Good, said “employees feel disengaged with their jobs, which is going to lead to a lot of churn as we come out of the recession… they feel like ‘a bird in the hand’ isn’t good enough anymore.”

This just proves that internal branding and communications with employees even during down times still needs to be in effect. When I was working with O2 ideas we developed an employee program for our home building client, Taylor Morrison, that both solicited their input and rewarded them with a vacation. The program (called The Big Idea created by Ian David and Joey Graddy) included a cool downloadable PDF guide and stylish T-shirts that everyone wanted. It was a huge success and helped make the employees feel as though they were part of a company that cared, was fun and where they wanted to be. The program represented an ongoing commitment by Taylor Morrison to engage their employees. It may not have prevented  some employees from eventually leaving but it did a great job of promoting the company as being a fun and rewarding place to work.

So, it’s important for HR Managers to keep in touch with their employees and to continually develop internal communications programs that will engage employees and help keep the pride they have for their employer as well as for their positions.

Employment Branding

In recent years behavioral marketing has joined product placement marketing in TV programming. Will this tactic follow into movies and other forms of electronic entertainment as well? It remains to be seen, but the answer is more than likely yes depending on whether there is a good fit between the marketer’s product and the film’s plot or video games theme. The bottom line is with so many new ways to reach audiences (and with much of the audience being fragmented) marketers will have to continue to find new and inviting ways to sway consumer behavior that is favorable to their product or service.

A recent Wall Street Journal article focused on NBC Universal’s programming that includes behavioral placement – which “is designed to sway viewers to adopt actions they see modeled in their favorite shows. And it helps marketers who want to associate their brands with a feel-good, socially aware show.” So viewers of 30 Rock and The Office will see familiar characters being good stewards of the environment by recycling and doing things in a matter of fact way that tends to resonate with viewers. The article goes on to state that “the more seamlessly integrated the behavior is, the less it feels like the show is trying to manipulate.”

In some ways behavioral marketing may appear as new a fad. When marketers try to do something that they hope will be the next “hip and/or cool” trend the audience will often become cynical about the effort unless it seems genuinely real and original. The WSJ article continued by stating that NBC incorporates messages “that tend to be fairly innocuous… [and] the trick is not to turn off viewers by being lectury or too obvious…”

One could also compare behavior marketing to sponsorship marketing – being that it connects its product to a sport. Red Bull is a master of attaching its product to extreme sports and is always present in the background when the athletes are snowboarding, skate boarding or surfing or whatever. The Red Bull logo is always present and strategically placed in every frame. It’s a familiar set of tactics that has been around for decades, but Red Bull does it exceptionally well. Does this blatant logo placement turn off the fans of these sports?  No, because the target audience understands and appreciates the connection and are aware that the sponsors pay the athletes and event organizers huge sums of money. (A position several aspiring wannabe athletes/couch fans would love to be in.)

So what about behavioral marketing? Can it be used in a similar fashion? Could for instance someone as famous as Shaun White be persuaded by a group of  marketers to be seen casually recycling (or just acting in a manner that is environmentally conscious) on the street, at his house or when on the slopes? It may be also wise to have the rest of Mr. White’s competitors also casually follow this behavior (but never over the top). As noted in the WSJ article, marketers and advertisers will then gravitate towards an attitude and a behavior that falls in line with their products and will therefore be more inclined to be associated with these activities.

The idea is to incorporate behaviors in such a way that it just seems natural and barely noticeable. Wearing seat belts, turning off lights when leaving a room or automatically inserting ear buds when heading out for a run are behaviors that many people do– so why not market it as a behavior? If we see a character on a popular TV show board a plane and automatically put on their noise-canceling headphones will the audience see that as the norm? And will we make the connection when during the commercial break, low and behold, there is a spot for Bose headphones?

Are marketers are being too manipulative? Possibly, but the fact is we are so saturated with blatant messages, that it seems inevitable that behavior marketing will be expanded into every facet of our online, TV and film viewing and consumer experience.

Employment Branding

Check out a great example of true employment branding in Fast Company where employees “live” the brand and are effective at becoming evangelical about the business (their employer). The company builds loyalty with its customers when employees have a passion for their work because they are empowered and have fun at the same time.