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Brand wagon



Of all the misunderstood concepts in HR fuckville, Employer Branding has to hit the spot as nombre uno.  I’ll admit that in my own career I’ve dallied with the concept and probably got the wrong end of the stick on more than one occasion (no sado masochistic innuendos intended) but that was almost a decade ago… why are HR people still getting it wrong now?

To illustrate a point, let me take you back to your teenage years….for some of us that is a longer journey than others, so if you’re struggling I suggest watching an episode of Glee for helpful hints (and not High School Musical!).  You remember the anxiety, the lack of identity, the needing to conform, but wanting not to conform, to be one of the crowd but also to stand out.  You remember the people who you wanted to like you and the people you wanted to like.  The changes in image, the trends, the haircuts, the clothes…..

Now think back to how you feel about that time period now.  Think how you feel if you look at photographs of yourself as a teenager.  There is a sense of embarrassment no?  Because now you know who you are.  You are confident and assured and happy with your lot.  You might not be the coolest, maybe not the fittest, you might have a few extra pounds, a lump here or there…..but you’re you right?

Now think about your organisation.  You will never be Apple, you will never be Google or any other über brand that you choose to pick (just for the record, my organisation kicked their arses in a recent survey…which was a bit weird but also may suggest that they ain’t “all that”).  But you can be happy and self-confident in who you are.  Just like at school, you can’t make yourself cool….you either are or you’re not.  You can’t make yourself in with the in-crowd, if you’re a geek then be proud.

Whilst I am sure there are a lot of good consultancies out there, there are also a lot of charlatans.  Similar to the endless TV programmes telling you to eat yourself thin, or make your hair fat, or your clothes slim or your teeth wide – or whatever crap they are currently espousing.  There are also a lot of suppliers thinking that they have the silver bullet to improving your brand.  Wanna know a secret?  They don’t.  But they do have the answer to how they are going to pay their next bills.

Put simply, in most cases your brand isn’t a problem.  Because it is the essence of who you are and if you want to change that, you need a hell of a lot more time and investment and probably an imperative driven from a crisis situation.  You might want the organisational equivalent of a hair cut, to go the gym a little, to buy a few new clothes….but that is just evolving who you are and you don’t need someone else to tell you that.  

Put simply, there are a lot of people out there that look like you, feel like you and want to work for you.  And there are  a lot of people who try to make a living out of telling you that isn’t the case.  Just like in your personal life, be content, be happy and most importantly be yourself.  The rest will then come naturally.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 05/11/2010 07:47

    You’ll be telling us that Extreme Makeover is not real next!

    Great piece, beautifully written and soooooooo true.

  2. 05/11/2010 08:00

    Actually, in all seriousness, the important thing I’d like to add is that Employer Branding can often be sold in to a company as a communications exercise in reaching out to potential recruits. The danger here is if you attempt to over sell yourself as an unfeasibly amazing employer rather than being honest with yourselves, what results can be a bit of a car crash where the expectations of new starters are smashed against an unhealthy dose of reality. Don’t do it!

  3. 05/11/2010 10:36

    I agree with Jon. I was involved in a company a few years ago who asked me to lead an employer branding exercise. The company had been through a tough period and there had been lots of casualties – some of which were still working for the company. I tried to persuade the company that the employer branding had to be cross both external and internal communications. However, once the initial enthusiasm had died following a successful mass recruitment exercise, the company abandoned Phase 2 – the internal re-branding. As a result, the new starters had a different mindset to those currently employed which led to poor retention rates and low productivity.

  4. 05/11/2010 15:24

    HRD, a subject close to my heart.
    My understanding is that some clever guys that graduated from the Added Value school of marketing consultancy realised there were just as many suckers in HRD roles than CMO roles. Together, they created a market. The rest, as they say, is history; spawning the birth of EVP’s – a way for recuitment advertising agencies to post-rationalise their ad straplines!
    If there is any truth in branding it is that there is ony 1 brand, the amount of confusion that is introducing an ‘Employer Brand’ is mindboggling.
    RIP EVP.

  5. 05/11/2010 17:22

    Am I the only person who reads this who actually knows what you were like as a teenager?

    I can reveal all for money.

  6. lenamaurer permalink
    05/12/2010 04:51

    “there are a lot of people out there that look like you, feel like you and want to work for you”… Really??? Where are they??? I want them now!!! I need hols!!!

    …I really didn’t want to say this… but… nombre uno? hum… numero uno would be more like it…

    Oh and… fernandomando? Where should we send the money?? LOL!

  7. 05/12/2010 08:11

    @Jon – Thanks for the comments. I totally agree. How many companies out there are making ridiculous promises and commitments that they can’t fulfil. The sad thing is in most cases they probably believe that they do.

    @karencwise – Welcome and thanks for commenting. I guess this about being true? And matching the external with the internal? Either honestly reflect who you are or alternatively get yourself in shape first?

    @Sean Trainor – Interesting comments Sean. I don’t disagree but I think sometimes the Marketeers take a very narrow view of brand that excludes, foor example, customer experience because it is “someone else’s problem”

    @fernandomando – No is the simple answer. And what would be the fun of that!

    @lenamaurer – “nombre uno”…….was a joke….I’m not that much of a linguistic idiot! I’ll put it down to the long hours you’ve been putting in and the stress! 🙂

    • lenamaurer permalink
      05/12/2010 12:46

      oh dear… I am losing my sense of humour… am I not?
      yes… put that down to the stress and long hours… oh and could you send word to my partners that you would recommend hols?? 🙂

  8. 10/07/2010 14:18

    When you brand something, it burns, deeply. It hurts too. And it’s permanent. So when you try and change a brand, expect trouble. And therein lies the problem of rebranding. Moooooo!

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