The most important lesson in advertising is boring. 

As Martin Lindstrom said, ‘Sex doesn't sell anything other than itself.’ It might work once or twice. It might bring a few punters in on a rainy afternoon. But it isn’t the big idea. Sexy adverts are almost always useless. Ask someone about an advert they loved recently and they frequently tell you about something exciting, something with a wow factor. They just can’t remember the product or the brand name.

This Maxwell House advert was one of David Ogilvy’s favourites. It’s a little dull by modern standards. But it worked. It picks a selling point and goes the whole hog in selling it. ‘Maxwell House tastes as good as it smells’, isn’t a line that sets the world on fire. That was the point. As Ogilvy said, ‘Successful advertising sells the product without drawing attention to itself. It rivets the consumer’s attention on the product.’

There’s more to a successful brand than this. But that’s the foundation. In Employer Brand terms, that means riveting the candidate’s attention on the jobs. This is frequently the most overlooked aspect of recruitment marketing. Companies go heavy on the sexy stuff: the culture, the values, the exciting offices, the fun Fridays – and they don’t talk enough about the job you will do. This all matters: your employer brand is crucial to getting the right talent.

But jobs come first. Life is more about rainy Mondays and the weekly grind than inspiring talk from the CEO and the fulfilment of being a finance admin assistant in a company with a compelling vision statement.

For a lot of employer brands, the key issue is to stand out, to be distinctive. To do this they profile energised people; they portray a culture of excellence, ambition, collaboration. By doing that they frequently blur the line between the job and the person. This is a mistake. Your identity is about more than the job you do. As Toni Morrison said, ‘You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.’

For most of us, whatever our salary, whatever our role, work is not our passion or our identity. The company’s higher purpose is not ours. We want a job. Ideally, we want a job we can become passionate about and motivated by. We want interesting work that is engaging to perform. Only then do we want to know about the values, the culture and the purpose. A company’s moral position matters hugely – it’s just not a replacement for advertising your jobs as jobs. Information about jobs is prior to aspirational statements about values.

There are all sorts of companies with exciting mission statements. But Apple and Google aren’t bringing people in for the mission statement, even though their jobs are boring. The mission statement reflects the exciting, ambitious nature of the jobs.

We see this in the data from our proprietary careers site software TalentBrew. TalentBrew provides a fully branded, search engine optimised, user experience and mobile optimised website. TalentBrew sites operate for a series of major clients globally. They collectively had 282m unique users who made 90.5 million apply clicks last year. What we learnt from their behavior was very simple. Candidates look at jobs, not business descriptions. Two statistics in particular stand out.

·      80% – 90% of visitors to a careers site start with a job search

·      44% only look at a job description before they apply

All employer brands are built out of three mutually compatible things: the nature of the brand, the interests of the audience, the facts of the job. Blurring the line between the job and the brand might sound sexy, but it won’t hire the right people. And it won’t give people the information they want. The data shows us we need to make sure we are selling the job. Selling the dream matters. Just not before we show people we have the sort of jobs they are interested in.

That’s why we developed advanced job descriptions on TalentBrew. This responds to the candidate’s job search with relevant job information as well as tailored content about the culture, talent profile, mission, vision and values and other material. That means we can present employer brands in a context that’s relevant to the candidate, balancing the nature of the brand, the interests of the audience, the facts of the job.

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Photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash