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Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy's Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand

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Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy's Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand

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Originally published in 1963, David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man is required reading for anyone in the advertising business. Ogilvy takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey sharing his experiences in creating some of the world’s most iconic brands.

This essay focuses on David Ogilvy’s recipe for creating great advertising campaigns, interpreted here to help you improve your employer brand. For brevity, we picked the principles that we think apply best to employer brand campaigns.

Cue A Beautiful Mine, the Mad Men theme song, and let’s get started.

Originally published in 1963, David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man is required reading for anyone in the advertising business. Ogilvy takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey sharing his experiences in creating some of the world’s most iconic brands.

This essay focuses on David Ogilvy’s recipe for creating great advertising campaigns, interpreted here to help you improve your employer brand. For brevity, we picked the principles that we think apply best to employer brand campaigns.

Cue A Beautiful Mine, the Mad Men theme song, and let’s get started.

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Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy's Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand

  1. 1. n. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. Going Retro Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand ESSAY: TALENT ADVERTISING
  2. 2. n. You have to decide what image you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place. —David Ogilvy
  3. 3. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. n. Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand We have several pillars in our consulting practice. Perhaps the most important is our belief that HR must apply advertising principles and practices to all areas of talent communications to effectively compete for talent. A second, but interconnected, pillar belief is that we now live in what we call a consumer-driven communications world. This phrase encapsulates the reality that in today’s digital age every idea, notion, and thought is instantly Googled, searched, and otherwise digitally validated. Understanding how consumers – in our case consumers meaning employees and future employees – experience and react to branding and selling information is critical to gaining a true competitive advantage. Originally published in 1963, David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man is required reading for anyone in the advertising business. Ogilvy takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey sharing his experiences in creating some of the world’s most iconic brands. This essay focuses on David Ogilvy’s recipe for creating great advertising campaigns, interpreted here to help you improve your employer brand. For brevity, we picked the principles that we think apply best to employer brand campaigns. Cue A Beautiful Mine, the Mad Men theme song, and let’s get started. Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand, N Robert Johnson LLC, All Rights Reserved, 2020
  4. 4. n. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. [1] What You Say is More Important than How You Say It Ogilvy learned that it is the content of your advertising, not the advertising’s form, that helps people to decide whether to buy your product. At the heart of this learning is the need to define the advertisement’s promise. Since products – in our case products meaning employment experiences – contain many promises, the selection of the right promise is vitally important when crafting your campaign. Just as consumer marketers would list and test various product promises, we must do the same with employment promises that your organization makes. The goal here is to find the one promise that will take the lead when presenting your employer brand. How can we do this? Go to the source: your employees. From focus groups to preference ranking and testing techniques, ask your employees what employment promises brought them to your organization and what employment experiences keeps them with you. [2] Build Your Campaign Around a Great Idea It’s not enough to simply state your employment promise. Context is needed. Context is the great idea that expresses your employment promise in a way that grabs attention. It’s the great idea that fuels the imaginations of candidates and employees alike. It’s the great idea that connects people on an emotional level. It’s the great idea that will get candidates to apply and employees to stay. How do find your employer brand’s great idea? Get help. Whether you lean on the branding and communications expertise found in your organization’s marketing team or tap into a third-party creative agency, it’s good to collaborate with experienced storytellers as good storytellers know how to storyboard and execute a great employer branding idea. How to Build Great [employer brand] Campaigns Big ideas are usually simple ideas. —David Ogilvy Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand, N Robert Johnson LLC, All Rights Reserved, 2020
  5. 5. n. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. [3] Give the Facts Ogilvy noted that advertisers are mistaken if they believe that consumers aren’t interested in or swayed by facts. He asserts that promoting slogans and “a few vapid adjectives” risk insulting the intelligence of the consumers of which they hope to influence. There is ample research to show that candidates and employees seek out employment information. Interestingly, that information isn’t always provided by employers. The key is to provide the facts in a way that is organized, succinct, and mapped to the digital behavior of the consumer of the employment information. If presented correctly, facts can move people from interest to commitment. [4] You Cannot Bore People into Buying Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. When Confessions of an Advertising Man was first published in 1963, Ogilvy observed that consumers have acquired a talent for skipping advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Imagine how skilled consumers are today. The competition for attention is fierce. We, as consumers of information, are skilled at blocking out hundreds of images and messages we get every day. The bottom line is that if you want to be seen and heard, your campaign needs to stand above. How do you know if your employer brand is boring? First, take a fresh and honest look at your employer brand. Does it still excite you? Can you envision your employer brand exciting others? A second way to determine if your employer brand is boring is to seek other opinions. If you can, find people who don’t know much about your organization and get their impressions as they first encounter your employer brand messages and experiences. Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. —David Ogilvy Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand, N Robert Johnson LLC, All Rights Reserved, 2020
  6. 6. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. n. [5] Be Well-Mannered, but Don’t Clown In thinking about how people buy, Ogilvy noted that it’s easier to sell people with a friendly handshake than by hitting them over the head with a hammer. He famously stated that people don’t buy from bad-mannered salespeople or bad-mannered advertising campaigns. How do we interpret this point for our employer brand creative and campaigns? We need to present the employer brand in a way that entices and charms people rather than overselling them. We express the employment promise, facts and the big idea in a way that doesn’t overwhelm. And, while it’s important to ‘humanize’ employment messages and to show the fun side of our employment opportunities, we should always remember that at the core of our mission are the careers and lives of our co-workers, colleagues, and friends. [6] Committees Can Create Advertisements, but They Cannot Write Them Having worked on many employer brand, employee, and corporate communications programs for a wide variety of organizations, this Ogilvy observation rings true to our experience. What this means is that committees are great to scope, support, review, and validate employer branding campaigns, but the creation of the campaign is better done by a single source. A single source for the creation of the writing, creative expression, and execution of the employer brand will have the benefit of intensely studying all aspects of the employer brand including such items as the brand promise, employment attributes, and employee value proposition as well as the research, precedents, and protocols of the organization. It’s the job of this single source to come up with a unifying and consistent voice. Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand, N Robert Johnson LLC, All Rights Reserved, 2020
  7. 7. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. n. [7] The Image and the Brand In Confessions of an Advertising Man, Ogilvy makes the point that an individual advertisement should be evaluated for its contribution to the overall brand image of the company. Does the messaging and form of the advertisement help or hurt the overall brand image of the company? We rethink this point to make the case that every aspect of your employer brand’s expression and campaign needs to contribute to the wellbeing of your employer brand as a whole. What’s the impact on your employer brand when an outpost office or facility within your organization “goes rogue” and creates its own materials, like a localized recruitment ad? How does that affect the wellbeing of your employer brand? How do you protect the integrity of your employer brand? The answer is two-fold. First, have a well-defined employer brand strategy in place. The strategy needs to encompass everything from employer brand architecture and positioning to detailed brand activation plans, budgets, and ROI and branding impact measurement. Second, let your employer brand “live” through promotion, education, and training so that everyone acts to support and reinforce the brand. Some organizations go as far as creating an internal employer branding certification which is helpful when mobilizing employer brand ambassadors across the organization. In Summary Perhaps the greatest challenge we face today as talent communicators is the digital transformation that is profoundly impacting employer, employee, and candidate relationships. There is a blurring of the lines between traditional communication practices and contemporary human-capital technology. In the midst of this radical transformation, it’s refreshing that advertising principles from the past can still provide insight to attracting, engaging, and retaining talent. Going Retro: Applying Ogilvy’s Classic Advertising Principles to Your Employer Brand, N Robert Johnson LLC, All Rights Reserved, 2020
  8. 8. n. n.robertjohnsonUnitingpeoplethroughpurpose. Does your purpose unite? N. Robert Johnson LLC is a specialized communications consulting practice focused on enabling organizations to better compete for talent in today’s consumer-driven communications world. Contact N. Robert Johnson, APR Managing Principal 216.410.5258 nrjohnson@nrobertjohnsonllc.com

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