March 6, 2017 Blog Keine Kommentare

Employer BrandingOff to New Shores

Lull in Sight? The emotional relationship between people and brands

Imagine you are the captain of a large sailboat and are sailing the high seas together with your 8-man crew.  You have the goal to discover new lands and escape the hungry sharks. Over there, are two of your team members, setting the sails in the right direction, while six members of the crew are staring out to the water without any orientation.  The two steering the sails are overly stressed because the others are just sitting there, and the other two are doing everything within their power to make the boat capsize.

The internationally recognized Gallup study “Engagement Index” reflects upon this situation amid companies in more detail.  In Germany, only 16% of employees are passionate about their work, 68% feel themselves being less connected to their organization and another 16% have, in their mind, already given up.

Below, we try to deal with questions that every „captain“ is asking themselves at some point: How do you keep the crew sailing forward? How do you keep them from capsizing the boat or jumping overboard?

It’s worth taking a look at Brand Engagement

First, we’re going to examine the Brand phenomenon, which is most often viewed in relation to customers:

Brands like Dr. Oetker, Nivea or Apple are easily recognized and give off a sense of familiarity for most people.  We’ve come to trust and connect with their values.  Additionally, we also have emotional ties through our individual experiences.

Digital marketing focuses on this effect and expands upon it.  By engaging customers through processes, such as, product reviews via social media or the involvement of the customer into the value-added process, e.g. through customer focus groups, dynamic interactions between the customer and brand is what is called Brand Engagement.


Here is a study by Esch. The Brand Consultants, which sees three essential levels for brand engagement: the information, emotion and action level. The deeper the emotional level is addressed, the more likely a person will choose or be loyal to a certain product or service.

Engagement in Organizations – The Wind for the Sails

This same customer principle also applies at the employee level within an organization. The creation of a tangible identity within a company and the active connection their employees have to it, can be regarded as crucial to its current and future success factors. Reinforcing this identity is possible at all levels of the HR cycle: from recruiting and onboarding to retention.

We’re talking about employer branding.

Let’s take a look how Zappos, a successful American online retailer for clothing and shoes, does it.

Tony Hsieh, who founded Zappos at the age of 27, strongly believes that business performance and strong customer loyalty begins with each employee. And that’s what Zappos is all about, the employees’ identification with the brand.

It starts with recruiting and onboarding: Where Tony Hsieh, the “captain” of the exploration, wouldn’t think to take a trip with those who don’t want to steer the boat with him, but rather just let it sink.

After a four-week introductory training, Hsieh offers his new employees their monthly salary plus an additional 2,000 US dollars if they choose to leave the company after the training. Although this may appear to HR Managers as a seemingly counter intuitive decision, this is the foundation of one of the most important pillars of Zappos’ success: the motivation of their employees. Ultimately, in Hsieh’s opinion, money doesn’t decide the corporate culture.

His retention strategy is based upon a strong and continuous learning culture.  Already, in the first few months, new employees have the possibility to access 30 different courses developed by Zappos’ in-house training team.  The courses encourage employees to develop certain skills that are sought after in their organization.  In addition, each week employees are encouraged to provide suggestions and ideas to strengthen Zappos’ brand identity within the daily work routine.

Each year, employees share their vision and personal stories that they’ve experienced with regards to Zappos’ culture to be published in a Culture Book. “Captain Hsieh” uses the emotions within his company as the wind for his “Company Sailboat.”

In addition, Hsieh provides each of his crew members “rescue vests” in forms of on-site coaches to align individual goals and personal passions with the values and activities at Zappos.

The marketing of their corporate identity, i.e. its principle of employer branding, attracts young talent almost magically.  The company hires just 300 new employees each year from the 30,000 applications they receive.  Fortune 500 ranked Zappos as one of the top 100 employers in 2015.

From the beginning, Zappos’ employer branding creates a connection between the employee and engagement. As a result, Zappos’ employees are also becoming “brand owners”, who in turn, are helping to create brand experiences with customers.

Take Away or Sail Away

When we now ask ourselves again the question: what we would recommend to our captain, to ensure that everyone takes a hand to the helm, it would be well advised to emphasize the importance of employer branding.

The appreciation that employees have for the company, its values and their identification with the brand, not only creates a high level of motivation, but, also, makes a fundamental contribution to the bond between employee and employer.  When employees feel connected, they are more likely to focus their thinking and actions on the company, unlike those of whom Tony Hsieh paid the 2,000 USD to for leaving after the training period.

The example of Zappos shows innovative ways to keep employees engaged but it is ultimately up to each organization to integrate their own set of values and culture into the workplace.



Esch. The Brand Consultant. – Brand Engagement

Gallup – Engagement Index

Forbes – Customer Engagement Report


Company Examples:

Zippos – The Happiness culture – Zappos isn’t a company – it’s a mission


Brand Engagement Visual Explanations:

Employee Engagement – Why Is Your Boat Still Sinking?

3 ways to usefully lose control of your reputation

Written by Andreas Grotekemper