How a Corporate Rebrand Affects Your Employment Brand

For your employment brand to be effective, it needs to play well with your company’s consumer brand. Even when the two are quite different, they should always complement one another. As your consumer brand evolves, sometimes your employment brand has to change with it. So what happens when your consumer brand changes dramatically, all at once—like, for instance, during a rebrand?

Rebranding is disruptive by design. If it isn’t, what’s the point? Rebranding takes existing perceptions about your company and expands, redirects or even completely overturns them. It forces a new way of thinking on everyone—customers, competitors, and a variety of external and internal stakeholders. As the steward of your employment brand, you are high on the list of those stakeholders.

This is yet another reason why I always recommend working closely with your marketing department when uncovering and developing your employment brand. If you have a good, collaborative relationship, your friends in marketing have probably already shared their rebranding plans with you. If not, you’ll have to work harder to become involved, but now is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Find out what is driving the rebrand. Most often, companies rebrand themselves because the existing brand position has stopped working or because some change in the business has made it irrelevant. For example:

  • Your business model or product/service offerings are changing.
  • Your customer profile has changed.
  • Your competition has changed.
  • Your sales are in a long-term decline.
  • You have discovered something new, like a niche, product category, or market territory.
  • You have been acquired or are merging with another organization.

Once you know the circumstances that led to the rebrand, ask yourself: How do these same factors impact your employment branding audience—current and prospective employees? Will you need to look for different types of people? Will you find them in different places? Are you going up against new competitors or even competing in a new sector?

This will determine the scope of what you need to do. Of course, every situation will be unique, but here are some rules of thumb to help determine whether the task in front of you is small, medium or large.

Small

Sometimes a complete rebrand isn’t needed. Brand strategist Mark Di Somma uses the term Brand Refresh. His advice is to “refresh a brand that is fundamentally robust and that has strong engagement and loyalty with customers. The brand’s DNA remains intact. The brand retains its core market position and values, but opens the door to change other aspects.

Even with a refresh, you may find yourself making some changes to nearly everything, but the changes will generally be more tactical and cosmetic—graphical standards, specific imagery and maybe even some noticeable changes to messaging. This can be a good excuse to update anything that needs it, but you probably won’t have to rethink the underlying strategy.

Medium

A full-fledged rebrand is what we usually think of when talking about “rebranding.” It cuts deeper—down to the marketing strategy that lies beneath your message. You are probably still in the same business, and probably still chasing most of the same consumers, but perhaps going about it in a different way. Here’s an example:

For decades, Mercedes Benz built its brand on engineering. Now it’s all about performance. The company is still selling cars, and to a great extent, is selling them to the same types of people—namely, those who can afford to drive a Mercedes. But now, the whole image of the brand is about making mature consumers feel younger. While this may not change the job roles the company needs to fill, it can change the feel of the entire culture. In this case, you would need to thoroughly understand the marketing team’s objectives so that you’re in step with them from the ground up. This likely means you would rework most or all of your existing employment branding assets.

Large

Then there are those instances where the business itself is fundamentally changing. Sometimes the shift takes years, as in the case of major oil companies who are now repositioning themselves as energy companies. If, for example, the company is now getting into renewable energy as well as petroleum, you will be hiring entirely new positions in different industries and career paths. Now you are leveraging the existing brand awareness and reputation, but rebuilding everything else. This is a large undertaking for the creators of both brands—consumer and employment—and you should start by collaborating with marketing from the square one.

Another common reason for a complete rebrand is mergers and acquisitions. When this happens, it can feel like trying to ride a bicycle while you are still building it. You may find yourself in an entirely different line of work. You’re still asking the same question—who are your customers and potential customers, and are you reaching them effectively? But the answers are often completely different.

This is actually an amazing opportunity because you have genuine news to share. Better still, you can often start with a blank slate instead of trying to build on what has been done (sometimes inadequately) in the past. It’s a chance to create a consumer brand and employment brand together so that they are complementary right from the start.

Don’t forget to remember

Whatever situation you find yourself in, just take a deep breath and remember these three things:

  • Start working with marketing right now. It will pay off for everyone down the road.
  • Focus on your customers. Who are they? What do they want? Who are your competitors? Whether it’s your consumer or employment brand, your old industry or a new one, knowing the answers to these questions is always the best place to start.
  • Enjoy the ride. This stuff can be hard, but it’s also a lot of fun.