marketing and human resources

In many organizations, it might seem counterintuitive to build a brand strategy that involves a partnership between marketing and human resources. Often these functions are quite removed from each other. But if you subscribe to the idea that a brand is nothing more than someone’s gut feeling about a product, service or company, then the link between marketing and HR becomes far more obvious and intuitive.

Our gut feelings are at the very core of what makes us human. Our ability to love and connect to something or someone is very personal and emotional. Our experiences with brands, whether positive or negative, are so closely tied to the way we connect to the people who deliver them. In the moment with a customer, an employee literally becomes the brand and wields tremendous power to solidify or jeopardize that emotional connection.

HR Provides the Bridge Between Employees and the Brand Promise

As the “people” function in an organization, HR can provide the bridge between employees and the brand promise. In partnership with marketing, HR can build culture that aligns the organization behind delivery of the brand promise while making those brand messages meaningful and relevant to employees on a daily basis. Marketing can provide their expertise to interpret the desired brand messages in a way that resonates with and engages employees.

A successful marketing and HR partnership requires leaders of both functions to come to the table with a unified commitment to delivering the promise and a willingness to collaborate for the good of the organization. It’s often the case that turf wars and individual agendas can make this partnership a bit rocky, especially at the outset. But with guidance from the executive team, the case can be made for the many ways that the brand should play a strong role in the employee experience, which makes the partnership commonsense and practical.

Interject the Brand into the Employee Experience

Here are a few of the most obvious places that brand can be interjected into the employee experience through a partnership between marketing and HR:

Recruiting and employment brand. Starting before an employee is hired, a strong employment brand and recruiting process offers an accurate impression of culture within the organization and attracts people who are a natural fit.

Hiring. A brand-aligned hiring process evaluates for competencies and experience while also defining characteristics of candidates who would be ideal brand ambassadors and a strong fit for the company’s culture. Simple tools can help managers understand what to listen for during interviews and make smart evaluations during the selection process. This is especially useful when an organization hires many employees and the selection process is handled by managers who may be fairly new to the organization or are inexperienced in hiring.

Onboarding. The onboarding experience is a huge opportunity to use brand messages as the context for training and immersion into the organization’s culture. Many companies overlook the tremendous potential of onboarding and treat it only as an orientation. They may feel like they’ve done enough if they’ve spent a little time discussing mission, vision and values, but the potential for a true immersion into culture is enormous. Many smart companies also build escape hatches into onboarding so that employees who are not the right fit can make an easy exit when they’re still early in the process.

Ongoing development and training. Throughout the employee experience, there will be numerous instances to continue reinforcing brand messages – whether it’s training over a new process or professional development opportunities. Familiar language that reflects the brand promise can provide context for any learning or development experience. It’s common for organizations to neglect the continuous reinforcement of brand messages internally, but this effort is always a wise investment in the ongoing strength of brands.

Performance Management. Elements of the brand can be woven into the performance management system so that employees can be evaluated against their understanding and fulfillment of the brand promise, even if their position plays an indirect role in its delivery. This can measure the individual employee’s understanding of the brand along with the manager’s ability to effectively lead teams in a way that supports delivery of the promise.

If you can envision the benefits of a partnership between marketing and HR in your organization but are unsure where to begin, please reach out to my team. We’ve helped many leading brands in a range of industries develop strategies that bring together marketing and HR in an aligned effort to ignite the brand promise.


About Alice Wright

As Director of Content Strategy, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.