The origin of the word ‘brand’ can be traced back to Norseman and the practice of burning their mark of ownership onto their produce. They used the word “brandr” which means to "burn”. For the longest period, the word ‘brand’ has been associated with the physical and tangible aspects of a product, however, the American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” And this definition continues to this day.
Since the advent of positioning as a concept defined and evangelized by Ries and Trout in the 80’s, a paradigm shift occurred in the way brands were thought about, locating the brand more in the customers or audience’s mind than in the tangible symbol thereof. Since then, the term ‘brand’ has become much larger and has been associated with the emotional value of a product as well.
The essential emotional value of a brand is very significantly reflected in Paul Biedermann’s definition of a brand, which defines brand as “the essence of one’s own unique story”. Along the lines, Cohen defines a brand as a “shorthand messages that create an emotional bond with the customer”. In this wider definition, it practically goes without saying that everything is, in a manner of speaking, a brand — because each entity has its own unique story and creates an emotional bond with an audience — whether it involves countries, communities, individuals, companies, governments, products or services.
Accepting the notion that a ‘brand exists in the mind of the audience’ also means that one is, by implication, made to recognize that the same brand can mean different things to different audiences. For example, America means one thing to an immigrant (a land of opportunity) and another to a holiday expert (who provides with a range of diverse experiences to choose from).
This rather long preamble simply establishes that an organization as a brand has different meanings to different target audiences. Moreover, in today’s world, the talent base as potential employees is as much a critical component of branding intent and attention as is the customer base.
In the normal course of any business activity, a company is very likely to set out to create a product or service brand that is tied strongly to its corporate mission, vision and values. In a manner of speaking, the employer brand then starts to get defined during this process — consciously or subconsciously. Iconic brands like Apple and Google, through their strong values of innovation and pushing the envelope, are already beaming signals to consumers as well as employees looking for a workplace embodying those values.
Google is a great example of an organization that has taken its core brand values and segued them into a powerful employer brand. They top multiple lists of top employers including the Forbes – GPTWI (six times) and Glassdoor. What about how Google appeals to the workforce? The answer to this is summed up as “Making a positive impact on lives, genius co-workers, unparalleled career opportunities, great perks”. The smooth meshing of the values of the company actually translates into the specific messaging for the employees.
The key to powerful employer branding is this meshing — this integration or synthesis of the core brand values with the employer brand. In our own space, through Customer Interaction Management, we have redefined the rules of customer service using precisely this philosophy and we call it the Customer Experience — by tailoring the service strategy and delivery to the brand promise. In much the same way, the employer brand has to be designed in such a way that it integrates with the overall brand and is then experienced by the employees at the workplace.
Nothing these days apparently has value unless it is reduced into an “n” step bullet pointed list of “how to”. But logical approach to constructing an employer brand can be defined like this — once the core brand values are captured and defined, all employers must search for meaning in those values for a specific target audience – the talent base. Just like Google, where its core values of innovation, doing good, have translated into value for the employee as ‘making a difference’ and working with a “genius” team of co-workers.
This process actually ensures that not only can you attract a talent base – but that you can also attract the talent base most suited for your mission, vision and values.
Remember to bake your values into the actual experience of the employees when they come on board. Nothing works better in this process than a charged up and motivated team giving the brand a huge boost through word of mouth.