In 2017, Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative Inc. embarked on a project to understand the employee view of the employer brand. Since publishing those results (you can download the executive summary here), I have received a few queries from persons seeking to understand their organisation’s employer brand and how to assess its strength.
What is an employer brand?
The concept of the employer brand encompasses all aspects of an organisation’s reputation as an employer, and embodies the idea that companies should have an articulated value proposition for its employees. The strength of the employer brand, therefore, captures the extent to which your organisation is known, liked and trusted by its current and prospective employees. You may argue that the customer brand and the employer brand are the same, because you cannot separate the two. But, I’ve not found that to be the case. There are many companies whose products and services we happily consume, but we would never want to work there. From where we stand on the outside, these companies do not appear to be a good fit for us when we consider its corporate culture and career development opportunities.
So, how do we figure out how people view our organisation as a place to work?
Understanding perceptions of your organisation’s employer brand can be approached in much the same way as understanding perceptions of your consumer brand, but with some obvious adjustments. Good sources of input include current employees, recruitment agencies and persons that visit your career pages and/or apply for a vacancy. For feedback from the general public, which would include persons that have had no employment-related contact, you can consider surveys. It is critical that in this research phase, you seek to uncover not only what people think, but also why they think what they think.
How do we use these insights?
Armed with a deeper understanding of how your employer brand is viewed, HR and Marketing can now begin work to shape perceptions. LinkedIn, online careers pages and all forms of recruitment should be aligned to convey what it would be like to work for the organisation.
Marketing efforts alone, however, will not be enough. Existing employees will have to be engaged. Similar to product brands, persons verify or refute your brand’s promises when they interact with the brand. For example, if a company advertises that its widget is the longest lasting widget in the market, but when you use it it falls apart after one use, you no longer trust that company. A similar thing happens with employer brands. If a company states, for example, that it has flexible working conditions, and employees are always complaining about lack of flexibility, then odds are prospective employees will not trust the company.
If I’ve peaked your interest and you’d like to learn more about understanding and strengthening your employer brand, let us know and we’ll walk you through it.
Marketing is a broad field, encompassing everything from market analysis to branding to advertising to customer experience. Marketing is so broad, that some of its functions are often broken up into smaller departments or teams within organisations; common examples include customer experience, market research and public relations. So, what do we mean when we refer specifically to the role of marketing strategist?
For us at AE, marketing strategists are responsible for determining the best way to promote a product/service or gain customers. There are two broad phases: 1) market analysis to determine the overall positioning and 2) creative direction to attract ideal customers.
Phase 1: Market Analysis
Having agreed that marketing strategists have to conduct analysis to determine how the company will achieve a competitive advantage, the next step is to gather the data. Typically, you need data on customers and competitors.
- Who are they? Demographics, social indicators, values, lifestyle, attitudes, etc. Age, gender and income are simply not enough.
- What problems are they using your products/services to solve?
- What do they value in products/services/companies like yours?
- How much are they willing to pay?
- Where do they go looking for similar products/services?
- Who and what influences their decisions (e.g. media platforms, friends and family members, research publications, and so on)?
On the competitive environment:
- Who do your customers consider to be your competitors?
- What do these competitors offer (products/services/value proposition)?
- How is the market divided in terms of market share?
- What do these competitors do well/poorly?
- How dynamic is the market? How quickly do market players respond to change?
Phase 2: Creative Direction
Once you understand the market, have determined your ideal customers and can anticipate competitive reactions, now you need to provide direction to the company on how it should attract and retain its ideal customers and thus achieve and defend its competitive advantage. Other functional leaders within the organisation depend on marketing strategists to help them determine where to focus their investments. For example, the distribution manager needs market insight to determine which retail outlets ideal customers would frequent; product development needs to understand which features should be included in new products; and corporate strategy needs to understand how consumer trends could influence the long-term positioning of the company.
To provide this creative direction, predicting and shaping where markets will go is more useful than working solely with current information. Prediction requires an understanding of (and data on) the drivers of change. For example, in Barbados, a larger proportion of young adults in 2010 were renting than young adults a decade prior. They also were renting to a greater degree than older generations. The marketing strategist needs to understand why this is the case in order to predict how it will evolve. It is not enough to simply accept that it obtains today and assume it will continue into the future.
If you believe that you lack the information you need to excel in your role as a marketing strategist, we can help you close your information gaps and add even more value to your organisation and the customers you serve.