Failure to Brand Successfully: unexpected consequence

9 11 2011

Reading an academic article this morning on what, in non-academic literature, would be called employer branding  (Slaughter, J. E., & Greguras, G. J. (2009). Initial attraction to organizations: The influence of trait inferences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment,17, 1-18). The article highlighted something which amounts in practice to a double penalty for failure to brand the organization appropriately or successfully.

Using the Five Factor Model (“The Big Five” – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism), the authors hypothesised that each of these factors would correlate positively or negatively to willingness to accept a job at companies representing certain brand characteristics (e.g. Dominance [in their market], Boy Scout [honesty and doing good] etc).

Here is the interesting bit: companies which had negative ratings on the brand characteristics (e.g. exemplified a lack of “Boy Scout”) saw a bigger effect than those who exemplified the characteristic. In other words, if you had the positive branding, you would attract roughly the same percentage of people who had the character trait (hypothesised to relate to the brand characteristic) as those who didn’t. But if you had the negative branding, you would attract far more of those who didn’t have the character trait than those who did.

There may be other ways to read this, but in simplest terms  (and doubtless at the risk of massive oversimplication), the implication could be this: successful branding gets you to the ballpark, but you then still need to identify the people who fit your branding from within your pool of applicants; failure to brand on the other hand could mean that your pool of applicants may not include “the right people” at all.





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