Complex Employer Branding of Large Organizations- The “Nobody Gets It” Syndrome

NOTE: This month’s focus is on
Branding Q and A. All Q’s welcome- Jody


I’m trying to create an employment brand for a company that houses several well-branded independent brands. What are your thoughts on that? It seems unrealistic to maintain so many different brands in an employment space, however, we’ve been totally ineffective trying to collect the group under the segment name – nobody gets it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to attract and retain talent in a segment with so many personalities!


Unfortunately, it’s a prevailing conundrum — one that we’ve heard before. People tell us that their organizations are too entrenched with big-named sub-brands to really benefit from one holistic branding effort. Of course, nothing is further from the truth.

The good news is that in reality, you can pick from 3 strategic approaches. Each with their own risks and rewards. To help guide you through the process, think about how the company operates from a Talent Management perspective. If there is trending evidence that rewards mobility throughout the brands, ie critical inter-brand experiences are required for progressively more senior opportunities, then option one is the best choice.

Option 1: Master Brand- unite all sub-brands (and all their employees) under one cohesive, motivating, strong brand.

This approach hinges upon finding the fundamental similarities, and success factors of employees (and the employee experience) across all sub-brands and creating a brand architecture that leverages them.

This isn’t about tangible similarities like “they all pay well,” but rather the cultural, psychological similarities that exist (if any).

For example, “all successful employees are out of the box thinkers and share a passion for pushing the creative envelope.” Conduct research to find the core insights on which you can build and operationalize an authentic and unifying brand (culture).

Note: It’s critical to do qualitative research, regardless of how well you know the organizations, because connecting all sub-brands will require very keen insights that will not yet be apparent to the naked eye, ie not functional similarities. Furthermore, involving executives and employees in your brand discovery process is actually a great way of generating buy-in at the onset. How can anyone not get it if they were a significant part of making it happen?

Option 2: Sub-brands
You may find that there are no cultural themes that extend throughout all the brands.

In that case you can identify and embrace the individual cultures of each of the sub-brands. Certainly this is the consumer’s view of the world — — so it makes some sense to build off the individual identity that each already has.

You would then go through the exercise of defining the employer brand for each property, and showing the stakeholders at each how to “use” and maintain the brand. Defining the brands isn’t the hard part, it’s finding the right people to make it work on the ground level for each brand, so it’s not up to you to do this for all of them. You’d need to identify the right stakeholder for each to take the brand and make it happen.

You might also find that there are key pillars of the brand architecture that are shared, and tie things together tangently. I suspect this will be the case.

Option 3: Change Management

Start from the beginning, whereby you identify the traits that you (and management) would like to extend across all brands, and start hiring according to the new brand ideals. Slowly over time your brand would grow stronger.

The important thing to remember is that whichever option you move forward with, the fundamental operational alignment to the brand will bring about the change you wish to see.

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