Embrace “waste” to boost your employer brand

By Gemma Goode

As recruitment marketeers we’re often tasked with running extremely tactical, very focused campaigns that reach specific individuals with specialist skillsets. The overall aim is to prove ROI, limit client costs and reduce time to hire. We’re conditioned to find and recommend channels that will reach a relevant, targeted audience as quickly as possible at the lowest cost. And over the last few years with advancements in digital media, social media and AI technology these mediums have been the go-to channels with more traditional, offline media often being overlooked.

A recent article intrigued me from The Drum, which argued that ‘marketeers who prioritise digital advertising have delusions of effectiveness’. The author referenced a study conducted by Ebiquity that evaluated the perception of online and offline media amongst marketeers against actual media performance. The results showed that,

“With the exception of TV, advertisers undervalue traditional media, especially radio and they overrate the value of online video and paid social. There is a clear disconnect between the scale of investment in online media and the value it delivers.”

The article explored Kevin Simler’s concept of cultural imprinting, which is where it got really interesting. We all know that the objective of advertising is to seed a positive idea or a memory that encourages an emotional response and consequently an action e.g a purchase, registration or apply. However, cultural imprinting explores the notion that rather than trying to change our minds individually, advertising and marketing is more effective when it taps into the power of peer pressure.

For cultural imprinting to be effective in advertising it is necessary to make advertising themes and messages ‘common knowledge’. This means using ‘broadcast media’ such as outdoor (billboards, transport etc), print, TV and radio to ensure the ad is seen publicly and not just by individuals. More tactical channels such as flyers, direct mail and even digital display are less likely to impact a cultural imprint as they’re too fragmented, too individualised. It is not enough for many people to have seen an ad individually – everyone must also know that everyone else has seen the ad to create buzz.

We all fell in love with hyper-targeted digital display campaigns because of the ability to limit wastage and focus marketing efforts on only the most relevant audience. Simler’s theory that “waste is not bad” but actually plays a pivotal role in ensuring overall campaign success by supporting cultural imprinting is therefore unusual and quite refreshing.

The concept of cultural imprinting for product advertising is easy to believe but what about in a recruitment context? Does the theory still apply? If we consider that 78% of people will look into a company’s reputation as an employer before applying to a role and 69% of candidates will not take a job with a business that has a bad reputation (even if they’re unemployed), it’s fair to suggest that it is still valid.

“What employees feel about their organization and what talent in the job market perceive about it matters a lot. What employees are telling their families, friends, acquaintances and strangers about working there, the benefits they receive and the level of contentment they experience can make or break a company’s reputation.”

Establishing an employer brand and communicating brand, culture and company values is integral to attracting the right and best talent to any business. We all want to work for an organisation that we’re proud of, one that says something about who we are as an individual and that will encourage a positive reaction from others.

Whilst recruitment marketing will always involve searching for, and marketing to, individuals through tactical, individualised campaigns, perhaps it’s also time for a different, parallel approach. By adopting the cultural imprinting philosophy, worrying less about wastage, and communicating employer brand messages through traditional mass media, we could build positive brand associations, encourage direct traffic, build engagement and create preference along the way to develop talent pipelines.