The difference between corporate brand and employer brand – and why it matters

Facebook conveys interesting messages on what it stands for. Global presence, technology leadership and connectedness – these are the key attributes that come through at the corporate level. As an employer, they focus on effectiveness, speed and a hacker culture.

This is the distinction between corporate and employer branding that Facebook and many other organizations make - and for good reason too. Understanding and making such a differentiation is essential on many levels.

Different messages for different audiences

The corporate brand is the public face of the organization - it talks to the customers and consumers who actually buy and use the organization’s products or services. It delivers a consumer experience for what the product looks and feels – how it can be seen, felt and experienced through interaction or digital means.

The employer brand however, addresses a different audience. It is all about employee experience — what it feels like to work in the organization, the benefits and perks they can enjoy, the culture they can experience, and career development opportunities they can leverage. It both summarizes and details employees’ interactions with the company and can be communicated through multiple spokespersons (recruiters, hiring managers, employees) and channels (print, website, digital and social). 

Messaging for differentiated engagement 

Since the corporate brand has a broader scope of promotion (vision, size, locations, products and services, and more), it is as imperative as it is challenging to have a clear, consistent message – in content, design and delivery. It should serve a strong transactional purpose as deftly as it reiterates the organization’s vision and mission. It needs to be easily identified in all media and channels that the consumers (including prospective ones) interact with the brand. Apple, Unilever and Wal-Mart are great examples of such consistency.

The employer brand needs to be distinct, yet an integrated element of the overarching corporate brand. The employer brand engagement is a long term one that continues through the employee life-cycle and should ensure intimate employee engagement at all times.

Branding for competition

The corporate brand is designed to address competition that is limited to similar products and services. Such competition may be easier to identify but needs specific and stronger points of differentiation to attract potential customers and retain existing ones.

Employer branding, on the other hand, needs to have a sharper and broader radar to stave off competition that attempts to poach diverse talent from the organization pool. It needs to truly understand the different dimensions of changing jobs in almost the entire market spectrum and anticipate and communicate – proactively, reactively and in real-time. It needs to integrate employee experience for the existing workforce, arouse interest in prospective candidates, and manage emotions of former employees. 

A symbiotic working of both brands 

Remember, it is never a question of corporate versus employer branding. A non-negotiable requirement is that the corporate and employer brands cannot work in isolated vacuums. They would then run the risk of conveying contrasting messages that serve to engage neither the external nor internal stakeholders. When executed correctly, both brands can immensely benefit and be magnified by the other. 

Employer branding needs to pick out the compelling experiential aspects of the corporate brand to attract top talent and evoke pride in existing employees. HR leaders must work closely with their marketing function to analyze the elements of their corporate brand that can lead the direction for the employer brand. This involves all three aspects - design, content and context.  While the employer brand strategy should not radically differ in form and feel from that of the corporate brand, the messaging, will need to be different to cover the context. The organization’s values, culture and vision will be the unifying and underpinning elements of the brand pitches to the different audiences.

While the corporate and employer brands are different, it should not be seen or treated as a divisive difference. They both need to be strongly intertwined in purpose and meaning to emotionally and authentically connect with their critical stakeholders and capture their attention with conviction. When this happens, the stage is set for co-creation of great promises and sustained realization. 
 
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