What makes your campaigns instantly recognizable as belonging to your brand? When your employees talk about your brand online (and they do), do you know how and where? Your answers to these questions paint a picture of your brand consistency, a crucial element of a unified employer brand.
These are also the questions Kirsten Bethmann has been asking as Global Employer Reputation Lead for Mars, Incorporated. Mars has set an inspiring goal for itself: to become one of the most attractive employers in the world by 2025. Achieving this goal, Bethmann believes, requires a renewed focus on brand consistency.
The journey toward greater employer brand consistency supports greater brand awareness—often the biggest ongoing talent challenge organizations face. Unless you’re a beloved consumer brand with widespread name recognition, your employer brand team is likely all too familiar with this struggle.
Mars was no exception. Despite owning some of the most beloved and recognizable consumer brands in the world, many candidates are unaware of Mars’ presence in the pet care space, nutrition solutions, and foods beyond candy.
And as Bethmann reminds us, “You cannot just use your consumer brands to bring your employer brand to life. M&M’S are loved for the great M&M’S characters, but that doesn’t mean we work with M&M’S characters in the real world!” Mars needed a unified employer brand distinct from its big-name confectionery labels.
A clear employee value proposition is the cornerstone of a consistent employer brand. For Mars, that EVP is built on three pillars: people, purpose, and development. The employer brand team took this EVP development a step further by adapting the Mars statement of purpose (“The world we want tomorrow starts with how you do business today”) into a tagline: “Your tomorrow starts today,” which personalizes and transforms the Mars mission into a call to action for its employees.
Armed with this clear EVP, the employer brand team was better equipped to engage the Mars C-suite. Bethmann also relied on data to earn buy-in from her executive colleagues: “You need facts and figures to show how well your employer brand is established and the gaps you need to fill,” she says.
Confident in their shared vision for Mars and its employer brand, Bethmann and her team turned to activation.
Companies that operate in multiple markets must walk a fine line between enforcing brand guidelines and empowering markets to represent themselves authentically. Mars began this work by creating a central platform for its guidelines, a “one-stop-shop” for learning how to use color, messaging, and more.
For campaign imagery, the Mars employer brand team uses photos of real Mars associates. This emphasis on human faces and authentic relationships was essential for a workplace that feels “like working with friends,” according to Bethmann. Occasionally, the employer brand team will borrow imagery from its well-known consumer brands, but the emphasis generally remains on people, not products.
Knowing when to enforce rules (and when to welcome variation, as discussed below) has proven key to building brand consistency at Mars.
Within these brand guidelines, employer brand teams in each of Mars’ markets have the flexibility to make campaigns their own. Brand guidelines dictate certain standards for social media messaging, but Mars’ employer brand leaders recognize that messaging from sales employees may sound different from engineering’s messaging. Bethmann and her team welcome those differences.
In addition, markets are encouraged to use imagery of their own associates to bring their promotions to life. Or, if a particular consumer brand is especially popular in a particular market, Bethmann might collaborate with that brand’s marketing team on a campaign customized for that audience.
Personalization is also central to Mars’ most successful activation campaigns: Mars Insiders and Mars Journeys. Mars Insiders showcases the experiences of early-career talent at the company, sharing “Mars behind-the-scenes” stories from interns and recently graduated employees across social media. Mars Journeys highlights employees experiencing major life milestones. The campaign resonated so powerfully with employees that it’s been adopted by Mars teams around the globe.
Maintaining this delicate balance between unity and personalization has been critical to growing Mars’ reputation as an exceptional place to work. “Mars is a huge, global, international company that really takes good care of their people,” Bethmann says. In four years, she hopes, candidates all over the world will know that too.
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