The third of our blogs looking at factors influencing employer brands right now. Building back better is rooted in hope for the future. There's lots that employer brands can learn from that.
You’re almost certainly familiar with the phrase, Build Back Better. You’ve heard it, repeatedly probably, on news shows, seen it on backdrops for political conference sets, heard it as a soundbite designed to re-focus attention away from the here and now, towards hope for the future. You’ve read it on Twitter, in the paper and now, here. In a blog about employer brands. Lucky you!
Did you know though that this extraordinary piece of alliteration isn’t the creation of Biden or Boris. It was coined as a phrase by the UN, as part of a strategy aimed at reducing risk to humans in the wake of disasters in the future. Essentially, preparing for the future and future events before they happen.
For me, it now has a life of its own. It captures a sense of future betterment. It suggests that we will all be able to cast off the unpleasant and unnecessary elements of society past - as we re-create, post-pandemic - what happens next. It's very now. And it's where employer brands should be. for two reasons:
That core idea of preparing for the future and for future events - creating what’s next, is implicit in all marketing and communications. Marketing is rarely about what’s happened recently, or in the past, in my experience.
There’s a clear and obvious link to the world of employment. The principles of fairness and equality, the ideas of wellbeing and mental wellness, investing for the future and for growth, for young people, education, for working better.
Without a doubt, it wasn't intended to be a call to action that sat at the intersection of marketing and employment. But it does. It sits squarely with employer branding. And so is an important thought for how you (and we), build (back better), brands as employers.
But better than what?
When I began my career in the late 90’s employer branding was a new discipline. I’ve seen it move from fringe activity to mainstream, from one campaign to an anchor for the experience that an employer delivers; from just one ad to run over and over around the world to a framework that respects local differences; from broadcast to dialogue. It’s been through a process of ongoing evolution. Continuously getting better.
Mark and I, and our team, have built Tonic to explore the edges of this brand evolution, pushing the boundaries to find a competitive advantage for our clients. It is what makes the discipline of employer brand interesting.
So what will better look like for employer brand, what are we building towards? Where will you find stand-out and cut-through?
The answer should be to move closer to the people you (and we) are targeting with our messaging. Building relevance - brands need to understand what people are thinking about, and try to understand how they can add value in that context - and that then allows for marketing to truly cut through.
Three important states of mind to use to build brand relevance out from.
There’s obviously a lot going on at the moment. A lot on peoples minds. But these three we think are universal - and give each brand an opportunity to build a meaningful dialogue in terms that serve both the brand and the audience.
Restore or re-think? We all seem to be one or the other. Either people who want to get back to life as it was as quickly as possible, to restore. People who want employers to deliver that for them without delay. Or, those who see the re-set after the pandemic as an opportunity to change the way they work and live. They need something different. What does your brand do for both groups?
The whole person is now in play, not just the worker. Until now employer brands have been largely focused on the investment in the worker only. What they can do to make the person more skilled, more efficient, better at delivering more for them. The best employer brands are now starting to think about the whole person, considering how they can provide support more broadly - to be the best parent, the best carer, the best sportsperson, the best at whatever’s important to them. People want to hang on to the flexibility and time that they’ve gained during the pandemic for a reason. Great employers will think about the full package - and how the mutuality of employment extends beyond work, into a full life support system. (We explored this for the first time in a brand clinic recently). Think broadly about this and it’ll change your perspective on where your competitive advantage really is.
Hope is a very powerful emotion. Employer Branding - whether focused on recruiting or retaining talent - is at its heart, about asking people to change their life for the better. Your offer is better than that other firm right?
You’re selling them the hope of something better.
A better life - a better job, a better home, a better car, a better holiday, better. You're selling them hope that the future will be brighter than the present. You're asking people to change their life by selling hope. And that's an awesome responsibility.
This is the third of four deeper dives into the changes that are affecting employer brands right now. The blog that summarises these is here, with more detailed looks into Collective Experience and Brand Inertia linked too.
Next (and last) up - The Great Resignation. Why, who, and what to do about it.