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Does Your Brand Repulse New Hires?

RepulsedThe National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) has done some studies that confirm what everyone reading this will already know. The primary concern of middle market companies in the US today is finding and retaining qualified people to get the work done. It’s a problem, in fact, that’s approaching crisis-level concern. But the NCMM isn’t content with simply restating the obvious. They’ve looked deeper to determine why this is such a chronic problem and what middle market businesses can do about it. They’ve found that most of these companies have neglected to build what they call an “employer brand” and an “employee value proposition”. But is building a completely new brand, specifically designed to appeal to job candidates, really the answer?

In my experience, that’s an unnecessary innovation. The “employer brand” is simply the organization’s already-existing brand – but as seen from the point of view of the employee and job seeker. If there is no employer brand, it’s because there is probably no brand strategy at all. And if a brand strategy does exist, it has to be a pretty weak one considering they forgot to think about current and prospective employees. When constructing a brand strategy, one has to remember all constituencies (defined as any group whose perception of the brand is important to its future). Employees experience the same brand that customers or clients do. They just experience it somewhat differently.

A strong brand strategy will be appealing and attractive from 360°, no matter who is encountering it. The same brand strategy that attracts your best customer will also attract your best employee. As a clear example, look at Tom’s Shoes. Buy a pair of shoes from them and they donate a pair to someone else who needs shoes but who doesn’t have resources to buy them. Their brand attracts a certain kind of customer who appreciates the altruistic nature of their business model. It also attracts employees who want to work for that kind of an altruistic company.

One of NCMM’s studies interviewed job candidates who turned down perfectly good job offers. They discovered that fully 50% of the prospects turned the jobs down because they didn’t like the employer’s brand! Shocking as that number at first appears, it doesn’t necessarily mean the brands are weak. McDonalds is a very strong brand but not everyone is cut out to work there, even at the executive level. When brands are sure of themselves and the strategy that drives them, they might even welcome losing a candidate this way. That person was probably not going to fit in and was likely to become a problem hire anyway.

50% of prospective employees who turn down your job offer
do it because they don’t like your brand. 
Time to get innovative.

But what of all the other brands out there? What of the businesses that don’t invest in their brands the way McDonalds does? What about all the small and middle market companies that never give a thought to what their brand strategy might be? They just let their brands grow on them – like mold. How many good people are they losing because they choose to neglect their brands?

In the good old days, not so very long ago, an employer only had two hiring concerns. To attract top talent, they had to offer a) a competitive salary and b) a decent benefits package. For that, even the best people would dedicate their entire careers to the employer. But those days are gone. Today, a competitive salary and a benefits package are just the starting points. Everybody offers that. The NCMM learned that top talent looks at four additional factors when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer.

1 – They look at the purpose and the mission of the work. How is this work really benefitting people? And how does this company go about delivering that benefit?

2 – They look at the meaningfulness of the work. Nobody works for just money. If someone is going to dedicate even a portion of his or her career to a business, they want to know their life isn’t being wasted. They want to feel accomplished and worthwhile.

3 – They look at the quality of the co-workers. No one wants to work alongside people who are incurious, depressed or just phoning it in. Smart, motivated and energetic people attract more just like them.

4 – They look at the culture of the business. Some people are jeans and t-shirt people. Some are three-piece suit types. Each will want to match up with an organization that shares their beliefs and behaviors.

You might notice that all four of those issues are branding concerns. No brand strategy is complete until it has addressed all of these issues. That means, by establishing a brand strategy for your business, you have created:

•  A platform from which to launch successive – and successful – marketing campaigns
•  A relationship with devoted customers/clients
•  An identity that your best employees can relate to and champion

… among other competitive advantages. But the additional strategic benefits of branding are subjects for future posts. And, while we’re thinking of innovating a brand strategy to attract the best employees, here’s one more thing to think about. If 50% of our prospective employees are turned off by our brands, how many of our customers are similarly disappointed?

Best Branding Reads – Week of February 12, 2019

The new rules of political design
These are the trends, yes. But are they WINNING trends?

Innovation? It Needs to Be Woven Into Every Aspect of Your Company’s Culture
As we promise here at Boardwalk: A kick in the pants is our first deliverable.

Consumers Believe Brands Can Help Solve Societal Ills
What’s more, they tend to disbelieve that governments can help.

How Employee Trust Leads To Trusted Brands
More evidence that consumers will turn to brands for help before governments.

From biting the wax tadpole to rushing towards death, why it’s important to get your Chinese name right
Chinese names for western businesses are vitally important and difficult to establish

How Florence Knoll helped America sell the world on capitalism
A much-too-late acknowledgment of an under-appreciated woman, designer and business leader

McDonald’s loses Big Mac trademark fight
There’s no evidence that McD has used the term: “Big Mac”? Are you kidding me?!


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Best Branding Reads
Week of May 25, 2020

Nation-Branding Soft Power: The Case of Brand China
An engrossing, tragic case of China’s recent brandicide.

How to Build a $100 Million Brand People Love
A really good case study from about four years ago. Worth the short read.

Seeking Sustainability, Finding True Brand Mission
Best possible outcome today. Best possible outcome tomorrow.

Brand Relevance: The Strategy Behind “i’m lovin’ it”
A fascinating deep dive into a slogan with 15+ years of success.

Worst Logos Ever, Redesigned.
Italian designer fixes some really bad logos. Oh, they are so very bad!

Dieline Awards 2020
Best packaging of the year. You see? Something good has happened in 2020.

5 Reasons Empathy Drives Business Success
Hard facts about the soft skills.