How to Align Your Employer Brand with the Customer Brand
Your employer branding strategy needs to complement your customer brand when possible. Maintaining consistency from your employer brand to the customer brand depends on how closely the corporate and customer brands are associated:
- Corporate and customer brands are identical or nearly identical. In many organizations the corporate brand name is carried by the company’s products and services, as is the case with Apple, Shell, Vodafone, and Deloitte.
- The corporate brand name is carried by a leading product. In some cases, the company name is carried by the leading product or service within a wider product portfolio (for example, L’Oréal, Coca-Cola, and Ferrero).
- The corporate brand name is loosely, if at all, associated with products. The corporate brand name may not be used directly in naming any of the company’s products or services, as is the case with Unilever and P&G.
After recognizing the relationship between your organization’s corporate and customer brands, you’re ready to start thinking about how closely you want to align your employer brand with the existing brand associations.
Aligning your employer brand with existing brand associations
When corporate and customer brands overlap to some degree, start with an understanding of how the products and services are perceived and the kind of brand associations the customer brand marketing team is trying to promote. Then decide how closely your organization’s employer brand should be associated with its existing corporate and customer brand identities.
To build an employer brand that’s closely associated with your organization’s corporate and customer brand identities, develop a relationship with the customer brand marketing team to agree how you can support each other in building a brand reputation that works for both employees and customers.
Your employer brand reputation inevitably reflects the customer brand. For example, L’Oréal is widely known for its female beauty products, and inevitably its employer brand is generally more attractive to women than to men. Vodafone’s customer brand campaign “Power to You” inevitably shapes expectations of employee empowerment.
Diverging from existing brand associations to develop your employer brand
If your employees have needs that differ from those of your customers, create an EVP. The EVP draws focus to the attributes of your organization that are most relevant to the talent you’re recruiting. Identify which brand attributes the customer and employer brands can and should share. For example, at McDonald’s, certain brand associations are shared between customers and employees, while others are not:
- Family feel: Shared by customers and employees
- Low prices: Valued by customers, but likely to discourage candidates
- Future focused: Valued by employees, but neutral for customers
When envisioning an employer brand, be prepared to break away from an existing brand identity that’s likely to discourage targeted applicants. For example, Citibank’s advertising line “Citi Never Sleeps” was designed to appeal to customers, but it was far less appealing from the perspective of potential candidates.
Choosing to align your employer brand with a corporate or customer brand
If your organization has a corporate brand along with multiple customer brands, consider the degree to which you want to align your employer brand marketing within specific business units with the overall corporate brand or with the more immediate customer brand that those employees will be working for. For example, would candidates prefer to work for Bentley or Volkswagen (the parent company)? Would they prefer to work for Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever?
Discuss the options with your organization’s senior management team. A strong desire to build the corporate brand may influence you to align your employer brand more closely with the corporate brand. On the other hand, a desire to maintain the distinct character of individual brands within the portfolio (including strong employee identification with the customer brand) may encourage you to create a range of employer brands with the corporate employer brand playing a more supporting role.
If you choose to create a range of employer brands, consider using the corporate brand as the “management brand” for those likely to seek a wider career across the group, with the customer-facing brand playing a more dominant role in attracting and engaging local, frontline employees.