If your company is more than a few years old, you’ve probably given a lot of consideration to your consumer brand. A strong consumer brand is essential for any product or service to differentiate itself from the competition and build a base of loyal users.
The concept of branding has been around since nearly the beginning of commerce, when artisans would mark their product and farmers mark their livestock. Employer branding, however, is a newer concept that originated in the mid-1990s, when employers began applying well-developed product branding principles to the employee experience.
As you set out to develop your employer brand value proposition, consider these five important ways that your employer brand is different from your consumer brand:
1. Audience. While your audience for your consumer brand is people who buy your product, your employer branding audience is your employees (both current and future). A much broader range of people will likely work at your company than those who buy your product. In fact, they may not be in the target audience for your company’s product at all. Not everyone who works for a children’s brand has children, not everyone who works for a medical device company uses that medical device.
The audience for your employer brand is also likely much smaller than your consumer brand. A food brand may sell millions of packages of food per year, but may employ only thousands of people and need to make only hundreds of hires per year. Your employees need only to believe in your product and mission, not necessarily use it.
2. Branding communication. Your consumer brand can be communicated to your target audience in many ways, including marketing, your customer website, social media, advertising channels, press and product reviews. However, your employer brand is communicated through your careers site, job descriptions, job ads, company reviews, press and social media channels.
A consumer brand’s communication exists primarily to sell products, while an employer brand’s communication exists to hire and retain staff. Because of this, the brand is communicated in different places. The employer brand is found on your careers website, job sites and review sites. It’s rare for a company to advertise jobs in places where consumer advertising appears, such as television, radio, or Internet display ads. Both the employer brand and consumer brand may use social media and press, and both prospective employees and customers may look for reviews.
3. Product experience. For your physical product or service, your consumer brand product experience probably includes what your product looks or feels like. However, your employer brand product experience is more about employee experience -- including benefits, perks, culture or career development opportunities.
A consumer product experience is usually something that can be seen, touched, heard, or tasted in the case of a hard product. Or it can be experienced through digital (e.g. software) or interpersonal (e.g. services) means. The employer product experience happens mainly through interaction; it’s the sum of all your prospective employees’ interactions with the company through viewing your branding communication, speaking with recruiters, hiring managers, employees, and reading reviews. For your employees, the employer brand is the experience of working at the company on a day-to-day basis and interacting with colleagues.
4. Engagement. Engagement with your consumer brand is transactional, and may be short term. Typically, people buy a product and move on. However, your employer brand engagement is likely to be long-term, considering your current employees stick with you.
Depending on how much your company’s product costs, the length of time consumers spend engaged with your brand can be very short (e.g., food products). Some products, such as cars or technology implementations, may have a longer engagement time, but it’s still a transactional relationship. In contrast, the employee is intimately engaged with your brand, spending eight hours a day or more within your walls and with the other people you hire. The choice of an employer requires significant consideration as the quality an employee’s livelihood and career trajectory depends on it.
5. Competition. In terms of your consumer brand, competition is limited to the companies who make similar products or services to yours. But in the world of employer branding, your competition is anyone who could be poaching talent from your pool.
If a customer doesn’t like your product, he or she can choose another. The product might even be returned or traded in for a competitor’s product. Consumer brand competitors are easy to identify because they make products that serve a similar function. In contrast, changing jobs is often a life-altering event, and job seekers may consider jobs with companies in a vastly different market. A graphic designer could work for a social media company or a shoe manufacturer. Because of this, your employer brand may have more competition than your consumer brand.
As you embark on the journey of communicating and strengthening your employer brand, download our eBook, Employer Branding For Dummies, to get a full employer branding primer.