From Brand Awareness to Brand Vitality

Posted on Mar 2, 2016

Recruitment marketing success tends to be measured in terms of relatively short-term results (engagement, applications, hires). However, it is also important to consider the more cumulative, longer term effects of these marketing activities on employer brand awareness, familiarity, consideration, preference and reputation.

Brand reputation can be a complicated and slippery concept to pin down. Employer brand reputation tends to vary significantly across different target audiences depending on people’s level of familiarity with your brand and their personal perspective and preferences. It also has highly permeable boundaries overlapping considerably with your overall corporate reputation, perceptions of your product and service brands, industry reputation and perceptions of the company’s country of origin. Nevertheless, by breaking the concept reputation down into its component parts, it is possible to deliver some very useful measures and analytics.

Step 1 - Brand awareness and familiarity.

What percentage of your target audience has heard of your organization and know what your organization does? 
It’s important to distinguish between familiarity with your products or services, and familiarity with the kind of employment opportunities you might offer. In many cases potential candidates may exclude themselves from considering your organization as a potential employer because they only associate you with the jobs they can see or imagine. People typically underestimate the range of positions available in support functions. For example, from L’Oreal to P&G, STEM graduates often fail to consider the range of scientific and engineering roles required to deliver familiar products and services. This is one of the reasons that a favourable impression of your brand may not equate with consideration of your company as a potential employer. It’s also important to distinguish between perceived familiarity and accurate knowledge. People may hold a negative view of your organization, because they have a misguided impression of what you or your industry does. 

Step 2 Consideration and preference.

What percentage of your target audience would consider you as a potential employer? 
If possible you should try and determine relative levels of consideration among active job seekers vs. passive targets. High levels of consideration among active targets could be driven by the perception that you hire a lot of people rather than your relative merit as an employer. The true test of your employer brand equity is consideration among targets who are not currently active in seeking a job. Another good indicator is the proportion of target candidates agree to a job opportunity conversation on the strength of your brand name. 

The next level on this brand affinity scale is preference. What percentage of your target audience rates your organization higher than your immediate talent competitors as a potential employer? 
While a high level of consideration is no doubt satisfying, preference is the ultimate objective as where talent is concerned most companies want the cream.

Step 3 - Employer brand image.

How strongly are your EVP pillars and other desired image associations perceived by your key target audiences? 
To fully understand the vitality of your external employer brand image it is important to understand the strength, consistency and relative appeal of each image dimension and how it compares with your leading talent competitors.

You should also measure the strength of these image associations. Moderate strength of agreement scores often result from general ‘halo’ positivity if your corporate, customer or employer brand is generally well regarded. They are also more likely to result from general associations with your industry sector. To be sure your employer brand marketing efforts are getting your desired message across it is therefore important to put greater focus on the ‘top box’ / ‘Strongly agree’ scores. 

Image consistency. If an organization has grown through acquisition or has operated a high degree of local autonomy, associations with the brand can vary significantly from place to place. In some cases this may remain part of the plan, but if there is a desire to establish a more consistent global brand it is important to track and measure these potential inconsistencies in order to target and rectify them. This need not conflict with efforts to tailor the EVP to local target groups. There may always be a benefit in highlighting some image attributes more than others to match local preferences, however, the primary image components of the brand should always be present and positive. 
Another aspect of consistency that is important for you to consider are any potentially significant gaps between external perceptions (brand reputation) and internal perceptions 
(employment experience). Where external perceptions fall short of positive internal perceptions you can communicate these strengths with confidence. Where external perceptions are significantly more positive than internal perceptions, you clearly need to tread more carefully in making employer brand claims. These finding should also prompt action to address internal weaknesses that are likely to lead to post-hire disappointment and attrition.

Step 4 - Competitor benchmarking.

This will enable you to confirm and track your points of parity (POPs) and points of difference (PODs) over time. The competitive environment is constantly changing and it is vital to keep a weather eye on those areas where your relative advantage may be under threat. To preserve the vitality of your brand reputation you need to be continually strengthening and distinguishing your own offer to ensure it remains differentiated from your leading competitors. This requires a broad understanding of your relative standing in relation to general image dimensions like teamwork, innovation, autonomy and learning and career progression. However, it should also ideally include a more specific evaluation of the more specific points of difference you are communicating.

Written by: Richard Mosley

Richard Mosley is widely recognized as one of the leading world authorities on employer brand development and management. His first book, ‘The Employer Brand’ (Wiley) published in 2005 has become a global best-seller, and the sequel: ‘Employer Brand Management: Practical Lessons from the World’s Leading Employers’, published by Wiley in September 2014, tracks the evolution of the discipline over the last 10 years, highlighting the latest best practices and trends that are likely to shape the future of recruitment, employee engagement and HR / talent management

Richard’s thinking draws on over 25 years’ experience in both brand management and HR consulting, and has led global employer brand development projects for a host of leading companies including Bacardi, BP, Coca-Cola, Ferrero, GSK, HSBC, Lafarge, LEGO, L’Oreal, JTI, Met Life, Nokia-Siemens, PepsiCo, Santander, Unilever and Verizon.

Today Richard serves as Global Vice President of Strategy at Universum and Senior Advisor for the Employer Branding Academy.

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