As featured in Brewers Journal Magazine

Every organisation has one. Some are aware of it and others less so. Some really ramp it up and truly maximise its value whilst others all but ignore it. What I am referring to is an employer brand. Up until quite recently, those companies who have been consciously developing their employer brand have done so primarily to differentiate themselves in the labour market. A strong employer brand enables an organisation to compete for the best talent and goes a long way towards establishing credibility.

When employer brand first became a popular HR notion few thought to expand it out beyond talent management. It is estimated that 80% of job seekers research an employer online before deciding whether to apply to a position there. When candidates don’t find enough information to convince them the organisation is worth working for, they pass. That much is obvious, but employers are now beginning to reckon with the consequences. In other words, job seekers are making a consumer decision, too: If the organisation isn't good enough to work for, why buy anything from them?

Boston lager brand, Sam Adams have taken employer branding several steps further and turned it into a consumer-facing marketing exercise, showcasing their employee’s at work. Based on the belief that demonstrating the real pride and confidence their employees have in their company sends a strong message: “These are our employees. See for yourself how they make our company great.”

In the case of Sam Adams their branding message centres around their employees explaining what the company stands for and the sort of work culture that results. As one employee extols; “We bring our best friends to work. We treat every day like casual Friday.”

When most other beers focus on their product and apply a generic approach in an already overcrowded sector, Sam Adams don’t even talk about the beer, yet they manage to connect on a much deeper level. They 'humanise' their brand and they differentiate.

They also delve deeply into the consumer’s curiosity, and give us an authentic 'behind the scenes' glimpse of the very people who make the beer we suddenly really want to taste. These people are not paid models reciting a marketing-derived narrative, they are the guys who actually craft a drink they want to drink themselves. You would struggle to get a better recommendation. Consequently, the consumer subconsciously wants a slice of their relaxed, happy culture.

The narrative is totally unexpected and, well, refreshing!

Heineken have taken a different approach to the way they maximise on their employer brand. They offer consumers a memorable interactive experience of their beer with the ‘Heineken Experience’. This 'Museum to Beer' has become Amsterdam’s most visited attraction and has had a halo effect on the overall brand. By focusing on creating internal and external brand ambassadors and getting them to mingle amongst the visiting crowds, Heineken have taken their beer beyond its generic brand messaging and have turned those working at the Heineken Experience into enthusiastic walking, talking brand models. In so doing it has also influenced its consumers into becoming brand ambassadors themselves.

Of course using your employer brand as part of the overall marketing exercise will only ever be effective if it is the genuine thing. It is all about finding what your employees have that is unique and then flaunting it. It is not about turning employees into something they are not or forcing them to become brand ambassadors when they may not actually enjoy working for the company. Bringing employees into the mix will also give them an additional emotional stake in the organisation.

In an era where consumers are demanding total transparency employer branding could deliver a tailor-made solution. It offers an authentic insider view of the company that produces a product they are considering consuming. It also offers a narrative that comes straight from the heart, it contains no artificial marketing jargon, it doesn’t add an unnecessary gloss over the facts, it is real and it is down to earth. There is no better way of connecting with consumers who are tired of being given a manufactured brand that doesn’t truthfully reflect what they are purchasing.

Employees could just be the vital key to taking a brand that next step closer to its target consumers!