The employer brand: Bringing the best of brand management to people at work
Simon Barrow and Richard Mosley John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, UK; 2005; 214pp; £29.95; hardback; ISBN 0470012730
Journal of Brand Management (2007) 15, 150–151. doi:10.1057/palgrave.bm.2550125; published online 2 October 2007
The interface between brand management and human resource management is brilliantlyexplored here by consultants Simon Barrow and Richard Mosley. They structure their book into two main parts: Part 1 presents the rationale for the introduction of the employer brand concept and outlines the key challenges that emerged during this early phase, while Part 2 is titled the ‘How To’ guide, comprising seven chapters detailing practical steps in such issues as positioning andcommunicating the employer brand. Author Simon Barrow and Tim Ambler of the London Business School deﬁne the employer brand as ‘the package of functional, economic and psychological beneﬁts provided by employment and identiﬁed with the employing company…the main role of the employer brand is to provide a coherent framework for management to simplify and focus priorities, increase productivity and improverecruitment, retention and commitment’. Barrow goes on to describe the initial resistance that the employer brand concept encountered from many HR professionals, who perceived marketing to be an artiﬁcial and manipulative practice. While this is clearly a widely shared view of marketing and branding, it would have been equally valid for the authors to acknowledge that the HRM discipline is hardlyimmune to manipulative practice. A vivid example of the need for nurturing an effective employer brand is given in the opening chapter, where
Sainsbury’s is held up as a case study in how to do things wrong. The reference is to Sainsbury’s television advertising in the late 1990s featuring John Cleese in hectoring Basil Fawlty-mode, haranguing a store employee. The authors’ view of this isthat ‘the helpful and well meaning member of staff involved appeared to be totally belittled by Cleese’s lecture on Sainsbury’s pricing, and whatever the customer outtake, it caused uproar among Sainsbury’s 140,000 people’. From this unfortunate episode, the authors pose a number of questions: did the Sainsbury’s marketing people show the original treatment to anyone in HR or store management? Didsenior management even consider the potential effect on employees? And, during production did they test or show the ﬁnal ﬁlm to any members of staff ? Perhaps because of the internal controversy generated by the Cleese ad, Sainsbury’s went on to become one of the ﬁrst companies to appoint an Employer Brand Manager. Having justiﬁed the rationale behind the employer brand concept, the majority of thebook then focuses on the concrete steps that companies can take in order to adopt an enlightened approach to managing the marketing/HR interface. Part II, the ‘How To’ guide, is written by Richard Mosley, who kicks off his section of the book with a look at brand fundamentals. He notes wryly that branding has become the snake oil of modern
© 2007 PALGRAVE MACMILLAN LTD 1350-23IX $30.00 BRANDMANAGEMENT VOL. 15, NO. 2, 150–151 NOVEMBER 2007
management and that ‘if you believe the brand pundits, branding will cure all ills: it will secure customer loyalty, drive growth, increase proﬁts, induce undying employee commitment to the company’s cause, ward off the evil eye of critical investment analysts, reverse national decline, win electionsand ﬁll an otherwise drab, mundane and irreligious world with new hope and meaning’. It’s good to read a book on branding where the delusions surrounding the power of branding are so eloquently acknowledged. But having effectively made his point that we should be suitably sceptical of exaggerated claims regarding the impact of branding, Mosley goes on to assert that if you strip away the gloss...