Employer Brands and The Real Reason Elon Musk talks about Mars.

A few years ago, on a course at The London Stock Exchange, I was introduced to the concept of Employer Brand Strategies. This was something new to me, which I found especially surprising, as I have spent so much of my career developing, implementing, learning about, writing about, and talking about brand strategies. 

I had always looked at brand strategies through the lens of how a brand appeals to a customer or potential customer. What was pointed out to me is that this is not the only audience that needs considering from a brand perspective. Another very key audience is employees and potential employees. Companies need to build an Employer Brand; a brand that makes people want to work for the company, something that not only stands out in the ads for roles you put live, but also hopefully drives enough in-bound approaches from people looking for exciting new challenges that you can build a pool of potential candidates when you aren’t actively recruiting. 

The single best implementation of this I have seen is SpaceX.

To understand, we need to look at what SpaceX actually does to make money. It sends stuff into space cheaper than anyone else. With SpaceX, you can get something into space for as little as $1m. That is apparently about 10x less than its closest competitor.

SpaceX is the Easyjet/ Ryan Air/ Southwest Airlines of space, but that is not how it is seen.

To do what it does SpaceX needs to hire some of the best and brightest people in the world… it is literally rocket science!!

However, if you were a rocket scientist and you had to choose between Nasa and EasySpace (I obviously made that up!) would you choose EasySpace? I doubt it, unless they offered you a huge amount more cash… and even that might not be enough.

On the other hand, if you were a rocket scientist and you were offered the choice between Nasa (who haven’t done anything big for a long time and are subject to government budget cuts) and the company with the cool space suites, who put cars in space for no good reason and who (apparently) are working on getting humanity to Mars, who would you choose then? Of course, you’d choose SpaceX, and you’d probably accept a lower salary for what would be ostensibly the same job, and most importantly you would feel better about the company, your job and what you are (apparently) doing for humanity.

Brand Purpose comes into play a lot here, but it is not just purpose, it’s more of the feeling of pride that people can get from being part of the company and part of the mission and how this is communicated to this audience (who may not be your direct customers). Plus, as my cynical article on Purpose Washing shows, all companies say that they have a ‘Purpose’ now, but you would never be able to feel proud of a company like Philip Morris’s purpose of a ‘Smoke-Free world’ when your job is to sell cigarettes for them!

That is the role of Employer Branding, a very overlooked cousin of the brand world and to be honest, one that I don’t think we focus on enough at Pooch & Mutt. Recruitment is really hard at the moment. Looking at how your employer brand appeals to potential new employees to get them to choose your company can only make things easier.