The Power of Branding in HR

I have a grandmother who is 84ish – and she loves Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I only tell you this because I took the boys over to see her on Saturday and we didn’t get to KFC, instead we stopped at McDonald’s and brought her a cheeseburger (Are you glad you stopped by this morning to read this!).  I had to bring her McDonald’s over KFC because of road construction.  My grandmother – like most 84ish Americans, is a Democrat.  I’m not – but I love her deeply, so I try to spice up the conversation and get her going.  Right now in Michigan we have a Republican governor who she hates – but I don’t think she really knows why she hates him.  There is one political commercial that has been running non-stop in Michigan regarding building a bridge from Detroit to Canada.  Now we have a bridge already, plus a tunnel from Detroit to Canada, but a company out of Canada wants to build another.  This would make it that much easier for people, goods and services to travel back and forth – create jobs, blah, blah, blah.

The commercial is against this bridge – it’s evil, it’s all about this evil republican governor building a monument to himself, oh and by the way we have bad roads and we should be fixing roads, not building bridges.  They say a lot in a 60 second commercial!   Here’s the funny part – the commercial is paid for by the private owners of the other bridge!   Also, the state government isn’t paying a dime for this bridge – it has nothing to do with the governor, and has nothing to do with taking money away from fixing our bad roads!   But someone said on a commercial over and over – so now my Grandma believes it – in her mind this is as true and anything can be!  She even called the governor’s office and told him to forget about the bridge and fix our roads!  Just like the commercial told her to do…

What does this have to do with Branding?  Everything!

You don’t have to be good – to say you are good.  Read that again.  How many companies do you know that say – “Hey! Come work for us! We are Average!”  No one! Everyone is great, everyone feels there employees are their most “important asset”!  The fact is 99% of companies are average to work for – they are scrambling everyday to keep up, to make their leaders better, to cut cost and increase profits.  But we all go out and build our employment brand that we are great.

I’m not telling you to go out and say “Come work for us, we’re slightly better than most!”  The majority of Americans hate political ads for one simple reason – they know most of what is being said is a bending of the truth – there is absolutely no transparency.  The key to great employment brand is to try and get some reality mixed in with your bullshit.  That’s tough, real tough!  But if you really want a culture that reflects your brand it’s key to get it right.  Anyone can lie and tell you how great they are to work for – that’s easy – but a great company will tell you what’s its really like to work for them. Why? Because they want “True Believers”, they want employees who are in it for the long term and want to be part of the change.

As for my Grandma – she just wants better roads and a grandson who will bring her KFC!

3 thoughts on “The Power of Branding in HR

  1. My father once commented that real power belongs to those with the power to define. “Reality” is often just the generally accepted (though not necessarily accurate) definition. That’s what branding really is: determining how you want others to define you and then taking the actions to support people’s perception of that definition. The brand only lasts as long as it’s believable and it’s only believable as long as our actions reinforce that belief. Intentionally or not, we all have a brand – a belief or definition that people have about us. Slogans don’t last, actions do.

  2. Cool, and agree totally. Been on about this for years in my company, esp as regards HR. “Stop lying and tell people it’s 24/7 and hard. If you don’t want that, don’t work here…” Think we’re starting to see that change, and we’re getting people in the function who “get it” and don’t quit after 3-4 years.

    Amazing, the benefits of pitching things as they are, instead of what some other, fictional company is.

    Good stuff, Tim!

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