What Christmas ads teach us about employer branding
Last week most of the major retailers launched their annual Christmas ads. Now, you might love ‘em or you might hate ‘em, but you can’t deny that these sugary campaigns are powerful: John Lewis reports achieving 70% of its turnover between October and January each year.
Oh yeah, Christmas is big business.
But that’s not the real reason these ads work. In fact, they’d actually work at any time of year (and sometimes do). No, the real reason they work is nothing to do with how much money people are willing to spend or what the company is advertising.
It’s because they’re not selling anything.
But what has this got to do with employer branding?
Well, think about it. Even if you find some of them annoying (don’t talk to me about the Venus Fly Trap), you’d have to be a bit of a Scrooge to not feel anything when you watch one of these carefully crafted ads. After all, they’re designed to pull at the heartstrings.
And that’s the point. Unlike ads released during the rest of the year, these ads don’t sell products. They sell feelings, experiences and – most importantly – values. Whether it’s love, friendship, sacrifice or togetherness, they’re not promoting something to buy, but something to feel.
Which is exactly what employer branding is all about.
As the saying goes, you might not remember everything someone says or does to you, but you’ll always remember how they made you feel. That’s because when we experience something emotional, our brains are hardwired to remember it more vividly. It’s a human thing.
Emotion is your secret weapon in your recruitment campaigns. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s the number one thing you need to remember when thinking about the big picture of employer branding. You’re not selling your candidate a job – you’re selling the way you’ll make them feel.
Candidate experience isn’t just words
So how do we do it?
Well, firstly, recruitment marketing isn’t just about listing the skills required for your roles. It’s about creating an experience. Because when candidates apply for a job, they’re not just assessing the position; they’re evaluating your company as a whole.
And the way you make them feel can either be a deal breaker or a deal maker.
Here’s how to get it right.
Know your candidate
It sounds basic, but find out what matters to your candidate. But go even further than that. You need to know what matters not just to them, but their social group. That means digging deep into candidate personas and understanding the values, ethics and priorities of your intended audience.
Show the benefits (and I don’t mean free parking)
In all your recruitment marketing you need to show your candidate the benefits of working for you, not the features. That means not just listing salary, pensions, great coffee and staff discounts, but showing what working for you will bring to your candidate’s life.
Find the bigger picture
This saying about advertising rings true:
“People don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits. They buy quarter-inch holes so they can hang their kids’ pictures.”
This means showing the candidate the bigger picture of your purpose as a company – something you won’t do with a simple ‘we’re hiring’ campaign. Remember: just like the retailers who produce Christmas ads, you need to sell the things you stand for, not the things you sell.
Guide the candidate to visualise
In other words, help your candidate put themselves in the role. To do this you don’t have to ‘create’ emotion in recruitment campaigns – you just have to tap into an emotion that already exists. Compassion, belonging, inspiration, excitement: if they’re important to your candidate then they’re already deeply embedded. Your campaign’s job is just to piggy-back on these feelings and make the candidate associate them with your brand.
You don’t have to make a schmaltzy ad to promote your employer brand, but there’s a lot you can learn from them. Most importantly, hiring great talent is about how you make them feel, not just promoting a role.
If you do it well, the best talent will buy into who you are, not just what you do.