Recruitment Branding 101

Written by Paul Quinn at Quinntessential. As published in Recruitment Extra, Oct/Nov 2002 issue, pages 16-17.


Russel Hanlin, CEO of Sunkist, once commented "An orange is an orange is an orange … unless that orange happens to be a Sunkist, a name that 80% of consumers know and trust". How many Australian recruitment agencies can lay claim to owning a strong brand that is recognised, trusted and differentiated from competitors? The answer is very few.

Why? Because many recruitment agencies see branding as a costly expense with unmeasurable returns, and when the going gets tough, expenses get cut.

If the lack of branding activity is any indication, many of Australia's recruitment agencies don't fully appreciate the bottom line benefit of growing and nurturing a strong recruitment brand. The irony of this situation is that most agency management would agree that people don't make important decisions such as the choice of a house or the selection of a job on a whim. Research has proven that strong brands simplify a prospect's decision-making process. In positively influencing the decision-making process of your prosects, your brand has enormous potential to favourably impact bottom line results.

Why should you invest in your brand?

A well defined, executed and sustained recruitment brand will help you attract the prospects you want and help keep them once you have them. Put simply, strong brands give you an edge over your competition.

In the Australian recruitment industry, barriers to entry remain low and competition for business is fierce - there are currently over 2,000 agencies in operation. Adding to the competitive landscape are clients who are actively pursuing in-house recruitment strategies, challenging agencies to demonstrate where they add value to the recruitment process. Having a strong and differentiated brand with a relevant message can help insulate against these factors, and protect in situations where many less established brands are left struggling to compete.

What's more, the realities of future demographic supply and demand will dictate the need for recruitment agencies with a desire for long-term survival to invest in branding. Recent ABS data shows that about 25 per cent of the Australian population will be over age 65 within 40 years (more than double today's proportion) if the birth rate continues to decline. In addition, recent US figures show that more than 40% of the current American workforce are headed toward retirement in the next 10 years. Smart companies realise that they must start winning the hearts and minds of our emerging leaders today - they have long memories and it takes time to build a strong and trusted brand. It's no good waking up in 15 years and saying, "There's a huge shortage of good talent - I didn't see this coming".

There are plenty more compelling reasons why companies choose to invest in their brand. At its most powerful a strong brand is able to help you achieve the following:

Influence people to choose your agency over your competitors.
Attract repeat sales without advertising - loyal customers will often return without prompting.
Charge premium margins - research has shown that people will pay more for brands they know and trust.
Gain a business edge that your competitors can never take away.
Simplify your customers' decision - when they need your service they need only to think of you.
Build customers' confidence and trust before a sale is made.

Effective branding requires consistency.

People trust brands, and consistent delivery of the branding message at every contact with the customer helps build people's confidence. They like knowing what to expect, that it will be the same.

Advertising expert Morris Hite once commented "To establish a favourable and well-defined brand personality with the consumer the advertiser must be consistent. You can't use a comic approach today and a scientist in a white jacket tomorrow without diffusing and damaging your brand personality."

Consistency grows trust, and trust drives sales. BMW, for example, has been calling itself "the ultimate driving machine" for more than 29 years. Whilst BMW's tagline has become engrained in our minds through consistent marketing efforts over an extended period, many Australian recruitment agencies don't bother to promote a tagline at all.

Four Steps to Branding Success:

Step 1: Research.
Recruitment agencies need to intimately understand the needs of their client and customer base, and continually update and refine their understanding of this information. You cannot presume to understand what your customer's value without asking them first. In establishing this information, you dramatically increase the chances of developing a marketing message that is both relevant and effective.

Step 2: Strategy.
The development of a branding strategy is a crucial step to growing a strong and healthy brand. What is more, it is a crucial ingredient to the ongoing success of your company. In utilising the information gathered from the research stage, and integrating this into a comprehensive branding strategy that defines core brand values and unique selling propositions, you establish a framework for branding success.

Step 3: Delivery.
In the delivery stage you execute the activities defined in the strategy. The branding strategy should define what messages get sent via which mediums at what time. The scale and type of branding activities largely depend on your budget and target market, but may involve initiatives such as print advertising, direct mail, merchandising, sponsorship and public relations. You must also ensure that your message is continually communicated throughout the year. It's no good planning a flurry of activity in February only to remain silent throughout the winter months. Your brand is trying to build a relationship with your prospects - relationships require constant attention and nurturing in order to flourish.

Step 4: Measurement.
In much the same way that human personalities change and evolve over time, your brand personality should not remain static. You need to regularly measure changes in the needs and desires of your target market and consider carefully refining your branding message accordingly. For example, an agency may decide to repeat the research conducted in stage one and use the earlier results as a benchmark. Be careful, however, when making changes to your brand. Coca-Cola, for example, does not change their logo every time their research centre uncovers a new market trend amongst teenagers. Remember that when it comes to branding, consistency is king.

A Compelling Investment

"Trying to differentiate one recruitment agency from another is like trying to tell the difference between a dot and an upside down dot" - Candidate

Effective branding is all about telling your customers who you are, what you do, and how you do it differently in the most clear and compelling way possible. Your job is to create a powerful impression that there is no other product or service on the market quite like yours. Ultimately, having your customers relate to your brand and elect to engage your services, and then retaining their business, is the real goal and the real victory.

What exactly is a brand?

Advertising guru David Ogilvy once described a brand as "The intangible sum of a product (or service's) attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it is advertised".Put simply, a brand is a promise. A promise to deliver a product, a service or an experience. The brand is represented in a huge number of ways - from your logo and tagline, from newspaper ads to corporate websites, from the décor of your building to the smile on your receptionist's face as s/he greets you. To ensure branding success you need to take all of these things into consideration and get them working together to present a consistent and relevant message.

Brand Health Check

How Well Do You Know Your Recruitment Brand?

Do you know what your clients, candidates and staff think about your brand?
Does your brand reinforce why someone should choose you over your competitors?
Is your branding message easy to identify and understand?
Do you know your brand's core values? How well do you promote these values?
Is your brand promoted consistently throughout your organisation and across all mediums?
How well does your brand align with your client and candidate needs?
Have you identified your Unique Selling Propositions? Does your brand reinforce these differences?
Do you have a brand positioning statement? How is it promoted to your target market?


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