You all have the same opportunity to build successful agencies: access to candidates via Job boards, Linked In etc., you can all buy effective CRM systems, and you all have the same challenges and opportunities to attract new staff.
And yet, your (competing agencies) success will vary greatly over the coming years. A large part of that success will be down to the strength of your brand reputation.
Of course, today you all have a brand reputation: ranging between market-leader-admiration through to well, not so good.
You have a choice: do you manage your business in an ad-hoc, undisciplined way caring only about short term sales or as if your brand reputation matters over the long term.
Whichever group you sit in, this presentation is for you. To convince the former and inspire the latter.
I will be your brand coach and mentor today. And I’m happy to share my knowledge from 16 year’s of working in the recruitment sector – which includes over 14 years at SThree. At SThree I managed an internal ‘agency’ of 14 people developing brand identities, recruitment websites and internal / external marketing communications.
I’ve worked in the IT, HR, Marketing and CEO office functions of recruitment companies. And now work as a consultant.
This experience has given me an incredible breadth of knowledge about what it takes to make a recruitment brand.
I have both the scars and the trophies of trying to build a brand within a sales culture.
No matter where you are on the economic cycle you will be experiencing some of these challenges. From the threat of LinkedIn to the erosion of profit and coping with the explosion of technology including mobile.
And some of you will be experiencing the skills shortage. After years of under-investment, the war for talent is back with vengeance.
All of you have - and will - face the challenge of finding, hiring, retaining and developing new staff.
But the good news, at least for this brief moment, is the economy is looking healthy again for the first sustainable stretch in years.
Time for growth and optimism, and to invest in your brands. So that your brand can help lift you over all these challenges, and reap the rewards of the upturn.
From the sea of reports we receive about recruitment I’d like to draw on two, the first from Bullhorn and the second from Staffing Industry Analysts. These two reports, and the main findings, are the evidence for my message today. First, your brand is reputation is important, and secondly you build brands from the inside.
Bullhorn report this year: When asked: What is your greatest competitive advantage, the highest response by far was your brand, at 30%.
This year’s report from Staffing Industry analysts reports two findings of interest:
First the number route to choosing agency was word of mouth 74% followed by events shows
The number one choice criteria was the worker quality at the agency, followed by service quality.
Probably no big surprise, your reputation brings you the leads, which is based on the quality of service from your consultants.
Although you can’t directly see, hear or touch your brand reputation it could well be your greatest asset, recognised even by accountants.
Brand equity is increasingly listed on balance sheets as an intangible goodwill, even on B2B companies, because in an increasingly competitive world full of the same features and offers, your brand is the only asset you have which is unique.
What could it do for your business?
First and foremost the benefit of developing a strong brand is you are able to define and communicate who you are: What you Do and Don’t do Differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace Provide clarity in everything you say and do Relevance – you are able to express your value
If you are able to consistently express who you are through your communication and actions you will build trust and appeal across all your stakeholders. And who are your stakeholders and what do they want:
First, employees, current and future – unify them around your brand and build an employer brand. Have you checked out your Glassdoor reviews, they ain’t always pretty in recruitment. Your agency will always be checked out here before someone applies or accepts an offer. Candidates – give them a reason to be loyal to you, to commit to exclusivity. Clients – make it easy for them to choose you, to understand your value, and to trust you.
If you build a strong brand that resonates with clients, you can charge a premium for your service. You will be able to command higher price rather than demand it. A solid brand reputation will help your consultants become trusted advisors; the holy grail of all effective agencies.
If you build trust and excel in delivering your service then your clients become loyal, and remember they then tell their colleagues and acquaintances. If you achieve this, then the value of your business can increase by up to 20% through brand equity, according to a 16 year study by Harvard Business Review on B2B brands. Particularly relevant to those of you wishing to sell your business and retire in luxury, which I’m guessing is all of you.
The term and the whole industry is confusing, and for two important reasons:
First, the brand ‘rule book’ was written by Proctor and Gamble (P&G) for consumer product brands to sell washing powder etc. The need for logos, packaging and advertising were aimed at consumer goods. They made brands out of mass produced goods.This means a lot of the brand models and frameworks do not seem to apply to recruitment agencies. For example there are 5,000 books on branding listed on Amazon, and only two of them are on B2B brands (Kottler and Mckee). Secondly, a lot of what we are talking about is in the mind: CIM* definition: The set of physical attributes of a product or service, together with the beliefs and expectations surrounding it - a unique combination which the name or logo of the product or service should evoke in the mind of the audience. *Chartered Institute of Marketing
If we dissect the complex phrase we can break it down into two simple items and one difficult one:
1. The features of your service, nice and simple e.g. “we supply contractors within IT on a contingency basis, and we supply CVs of screened candidates within 4 days”
2. The brand is made of the name and logo, yep nice and easy. But they are mean to to convey beliefs and expectations in the mind of the audience.
3. Beliefs and expectations in the mind of the audience, bit trickier. What’s going on here. Let’s take a look inside the mind of a brand buyer.
The scientists in white coats have placed hundreds of consumers in FMRI brain scanning machines whilst they choose brands. The conclusion is, we all go through four stages:
We identify the need and then the choice of brands Then we predict which brand will be the most enjoyable We make the choice and experience the brand After we’ve experienced the brand, we then log a memory of the brand experience, and we include the emotional association e.g. “I used brand X expecting it to be wonderful, but it ended up failing, I didn’t enjoy the experience. I won’t be using them again”.
So the thing is, when you you start to unpack “the minds of audience” stakeholders you get get into the messy world of interpreting the brain processes. These are the parts of the brains involved with judging, choosing and experiencing the brand. Knowing the Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex predicts value, and that the Lateral Orbital Frontal Cortex experiences value isn’t much use.
But the brain’s process in choosing and becoming loyal to brands is so complex and opaque it has allowed a thousand theories to bloom.
As you can see, it’s all rather confusing and complicated and not that useful. Yes we need to know what process the brain makes when choosing but can we simplify it?
Well yes we can simplify it and make it relevant for recruitment. I’m pleased to say my 16 year quest to find a model we can use in recruitment is over. It’s called the Human Brand, and its model is based on the Relationship Renaissance - it has three great strengths:
It’s based on human relationships – rather then product; great for recruitment It’s based on scientific research and commercial use – credible and useful And finally it’s a bloody simple model – again great for recruitment
OK here it is: as humans we’ve evolved to make two very important judgements When meeting someone we first judge their intentions towards us, their warmth: friendly, kind sincere. Milliseconds later, we judge their competency are they strong, intelligent, reliable, determined – historically a chap would be judging a chap and saying to himself “does this person intend to attack me, and if so, will I get beaten!”
We use these judgments on all man-made items too, including brands, so for example when we use a website we think of the people who made the website. Are they competent – does the site work – are warm - is the site easy to use.
So how do these two judgements determine choice and behaviour:
Starting at the top where we all want to be:
1. Warm and competent, generating emotional response of admiration and pride, resulting in Attraction and loyalty, - and advocacy I would add.
Down to the bottom, Cold and Incompetent, you don’t want to be down here, generate contempt and disgust.
If you interested the book is’ The Human Brand’, their model is called the Relationship Renaissance. The Relationship Renaissance model is based on the fact human relationships are having more impact on companies as a result of the triple revolution: the internet (and broadband), social media and mobile technology.
This is driving the demise of one way communication from companies. They no longer hold the power of communication, a brand is now judged by what is available through social networks.
OK all very interesting and a little academic, what does this look like in a recruitment brand.
I decided to create a hypothetical brand, and website based on Warmth and competency – not perfect as I’ve condensed six months work into four hours.
My example is a fantasy recruitment agency supplying project mangers.
1.The language conveys warmth and interest in the sector, about building relationships e.g. life’s the greatest project, warm and inspiring – communal relationship not transaction based.
2. The route to the jobs is via the team Leader of practice not a job search.
3. Warmth is expressed through good deeds and community support with graduate mentoring and charity connections – doing good and using their skills
4. Competency – the number of projects they have supplied project managers for, plus their speaking at events and white-papers.
I hope people would think of this brand as warm and competent when visiting and using the site and company.
Part of the problem with the single word brand is it has to stretch to so many meanings, this simple list of more accurate terminology conveys more meaning.
With the Why and the What covered onto How - How do you create recruitment brand?
I will take us through the practical steps, by looking at a recent re-branding case study.
Oyster Partnership – MDs Jack and Dan had built a very good ‘lifestyle’ business, they had made it through the recession, they were seeing opportunity, and ambition had taken root.
They were going to expand – double headcount in two years. They got in help and wooed Russell Clements to be their Chairman. And in an early meeting strategizing about growth they agreed the website needing updating.
But Russell – CEO of a house of brands- had advised them that they needed to build brand rather than just apply some graphic design to a website.
And he knew just the man to help them.
With hands shook and agreements made, I started to develop their brand, and this is a summary of that project.
These are the steps we took which we’ll run through now.
Research the basis for the new brand, leading the brand strategy – brand strategy probably the most opaque term in business Onto design – logo, the creative platform and website design Build stuff, website etc. Launch Market and nurture
How we were structured as project team
That’s me in the centre orchestrating the moving parts.
I’m a little unusual in the fact I develop strategy, creative direction and project manage. This ensured someone has the vision and ability to apply the brand through every detail. Like a name through Blackpool rock, I make sure the brand runs throughout.
The crucial relationship was between myself and Jack as the client project manager. Fortunately this worked well, and we were able to deliver a bold and consistent brand.
The research phase consisted of interviews with clients, candidates and staff.
Clients were asked: What is important to you, how do you choose an agency, and how does Oyster fare on those dimensions?
I Conducted face-to-face and telephone interviews, gathering both quant and quall data. The quall data unearthed some gems we used to shape the brand strategy.
First establish what’s important to a clients, then measure your performance against the same criteria – do you score well where it counts?
Clients were given points to allocate to each feature.
As you can see Oyster fared well on all important dimensions.
With the research and brand workshops complete I wrote the brand strategy.
Your brand strategy has a healthy tension:
Between what your clients and candidates want and who you are
And between who you are and who you want to be
And it should be built around your business plan.
It states who you are, where you are going, how you are going to get there, what your promise is and to who.
One of the components that captures the brand strategy: the ‘brand culture model’.
Vision – what do you want your business to be, where are you leading the business, where are you leading your staff.
Mission – How are you going to achieve it
Single Organsing Thought – what idea are you going to be organised around
Values – how we behave.
Each layer informed by the layer above
Other layers: The Customer Value Proposition (CVP) the promise The behaviours The environment – offices, website
As service industries have developed, so has the new discipline of service design. I applied the same techniques used to design the service of ‘Virgin Atlantic Premium’ to recruitment.
We developed the service in line with the brand strategy, making the abstract brand real through the service everyday.
Each stage was mapped to define the experience and outcome for clients and candidates.
The process was not made too prescriptive to allow staff to interpret their actions and behaviours at each step.
The recruitment service was branded up as ‘The Oyster Difference’ and support material including web pages and videos were produced.
In parallel the creative brand identity work was carried out. A design agency won pitch to develop the brand.
The brand identity had a priority stakeholder group: the staff. This ensured the identity had an authentic appeal to its primary audience.
Too many recruitment agencies masquerade to look like their clients. The image of your website designed to look like a bank will be spoiled once the 22 year-old consultant with the over-gelled hair bowls up.
The brand ident was comprehensive enough for all comms scenarios, - the highest spec business cards won staff over.
The brand ident consisted of: Brand guidelines The logo and graphic devices, Website design, and all other launch items
All the aspects of brand captured in handbook, feeds into training and rec process.
Everything the staff need to know about selling the Oyster promise and delivering it, internally and externally.
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Oyster rida rec-live_share1
Nov 25th 2014
James Del-Gatto | Black Slate
YOUR BRAND COACH
• 16 years experience, brand management, marketing and
• Both sides of business, external and internal: IT, HR, Marketing
Some of the challenges we face, and the areas our brands should
Q: What is your greatest competitive advantage?
A: 30% My brand
CONTINGENCY BUYERS: 2014
Top route to agency:
Word of Mouth
Worker & service quality
WHY ARE BRANDS VALUABLE?
The benefit of managing your brand
• Clearly express who you are
• Laser beam focus will be easily understood by all stakeholders
• Drives loyalty and advocacy
• HBR review estimates B2B business with strong brand equity add
WHAT IS A BRAND?
• Why is this such an elusive term?
• New model for recruitment
CIM Definition: The set of physical attributes of a product or service, together with
the beliefs and expectations surrounding it - a unique combination which the name or
logo of the product or service should evoke in the mind of the audience.
The service features The name and logo
BRAND CHOICE IN THE BRAIN
• Representation and Choice
• Identification of choice set
• Saliency of brand
• Predicted Value
• Prediction by the consumer of how much they will enjoy the
• Experienced Value
• Enjoyment of the brand during its consumption
• Remembered Value
• Memory of brand liking: how liking of brand is encoded,
consolidated and retrieved
The Human Brand
The two most important dimensions we
have evolved to judge people,
and brands on.
The intention of the person
Terms: Friendly, kind,
The skills and competency
of the person
A BRAND MODEL FOR RECRUITMENT
1. Friend? 2. Handy?
What would a recruitment brand website look like based on warmth
BRAND TERMS RE-CAP
• Brand = Name of product or service
• Brand Reputation = perceptions and
believes held in the mind of stakeholders
– Warmth + Competency
• Branding / brand management = shaping of
• Brand Equity = the result and value of
successful branding and brand management
HOW TO BUILD A BRAND
A case study in building a recruitment brand
What Client’s value Oyster Score
Skills, educ. match
Helpful / friendly
Quality of advice
Fast and responsive
• To be the most trusted and
respected provider of staffing
across property sector
• To grow with integrity and
set the benchmark for
• The Values
Brand Culture Model:
• The Brand
• The service: Oyster Difference
• Selling the brand
• A brand is valuable, it creates: loyalty, a premium
price and advocacy
• A brand conveys two important dimensions: warmth
• You build a brand from the inside over time.
• And it pays to get expert help
• Would you like help developing your brand?
The client’s journey and outcomes
Rebranding in Recruitment
A Case Study
Jack Barton &
• Jack Barton
• SME Recruitment Owner since 1999
• First company RGB now part of Pertemps
• Co-owner of Ocean Partnership (2002)
• Co-owner of Oyster Partnership (2004)
• Successfully rebranded in November 2013
• Results widely lauded
• PM for Oyster for the 7 month project
• We are a privately owned SME in a period of
• I can give you facts not theories!
• Natural reticence from recruiters
• Does it make me any money?!
• Client perception
• Candidate attraction / engagement
• Employee attraction / engagement
• Single organised thought
• It’s inherently tribal
• Platform for delivering your message
• Client feedback
• Brand didn’t reflect consultants’ ability
• Brand didn’t support the consultants
• Brand wasn’t engaging
• Brand wasn’t in any way inspirational
• We had no discernable outward identity
• Nothing outwardly unique about us
• We had the money to do it!
Can of Worms
• We need a new website…..
• We need a new logo
• We need new colours
• We need new content
• We need a message
• We need a brand
• We need some help!
• How do you build a brand?
• Hiring in expertise
• Using a creative agency
• Process knowledge invaluable
• Project Management
• Debunk some myths
• Working with designers!
• Clear identity
• Clear message
• Clear values
• Instant respect
• Incoming business
• Employee, client and candidate engagement
• Sense of pride
• Headcount up 44%
• GP up 50% (October to October)
• Contract GP up by 43%
• Perm GP up by 66%
• Operating profit up by 125%
I was talking to Liz earlier today and I
commented on how much I liked your new
branding and website. It looks impressive
and without wishing to sound rude, it’s a big
European Resourcing Manager, DTZ.
What You Want to Hear!