At the end of the day going forward, I'm watching for these three things in 2017

At its core, brand is tribal. It’s about defining, inspiring, and nurturing a community of like-minded people who share values and an emotional connection to what a brand represents. Done well, the emotional attachment to a desired perception (or affiliation) can have even greater drawing power than a product or organization itself. Companies would do well to remember this when building and maintaining their employer brands.

In the consumer world, tribal affiliation is often vicarious. For example, being a Coke drinker or an Apple user doesn’t physically place you among like-minded people, though you do connect with them, albeit at a distance, on a values level. In the employment space, however, tribal affiliation is experiential, immersive, and relational. You are literally among other members of your tribe who—despite different life experiences, ethnicities, worldviews, etc.—share a common connection to what your brand represents. In this way, the emotional connection between an organization and best-fit talent can be more dynamic than that of a consumer with a given product. For this reason, it becomes vitally important to articulate what your organization represents in a distinctively branded manner—clearly, concisely, deliberately.

“Heart Alignment” is at the Core of Every Brand

Let’s turn for a moment to an example from the consumer world to illustrate the strength of heart alignment, or emotional connection, to a given brand.

Harley-Davidson provides one of the clearest expressions of the principle of “psychic reward” (or emotional payoff, which is separate from the product itself and the “reward” it provides). While Harley manufactures beautiful, high-end motorcycles, we might ask: Is the greater motivator for a purchaser ultimately (a) the product itself or (b) all that the Harley brand stands for and the buyer’s desire for inclusion into the Harley community. People are different, of course, so at the very least there are certainly elements of both. But we would argue that what is more elemental—what will embed and nurture brand loyalty and equity—is that emotional pull, regardless of how the motorcycles themselves may evolve over time (design, horsepower, etc.), so long as the brand remains true to itself.

Ultimately, the purchase is the admission fee into the sizable tribe of “Harley Rider,” with all that represents. And in this particular instance, unlike many brands, there areactual, local tribal affiliations among Harley owners where community transpires.


How do Psychic-Reward Principles Apply to Recruitment and Employment?

Across industries and company sizes, organizations are telling increasingly meaningful stories, many through their associates, to convey the value they add as an employer. For example, they portray their cultures, the work they do, the career value they offer, their community presence, their industry reputation, and the difference (big or small) that candidates can make through their contributions.

In telling their stories, however, what companies often fail to do is articulate their “Big Idea”: what they are fundamentally about as an organization, what they stand for and rally around as a team—the primary association that inspires employees and compels prospective candidates.

The Emotional Connection Based on Shared Values: This is the Big Idea

An employer must understand the place it seeks to own in the hearts and minds of candidates. This single, cogent expression of an organization’s tribal colors creates emotional resonance.

What is your organization’s Big Idea? Is it …









These are sample tribal determiners. Defining yours is critical, especially for non-consumer/B2B brands with low name recognition. Once the Big Idea has been made clear, steps can be taken to articulate and promote how the essence of the organization and the value it delivers differs from competitors that may claim similar attributes.

From Big Idea to EVP Pillars to Reasons to Believe

Ultimately, organizations must focus first on the essence of their brand and then the employer value proposition (EVP). From there, a purpose statement with supporting messages and positions, and the reasons to believe that delineate the unique offerings of the company as an employer. At the most rudimentary level, companies should be able to answer for this:

We are people who value and represent X. All we do is steered by this. X is what it means to work for us. X is what it means to be part of our tribe.

And candidates and employees should know it. If this is correctly (and truthfully) defined, there’s now opportunity to communicate in ways that will reverberate through your company internally and outward to prospective talent pools, contributing to a well-recognized EVP. If the process is appropriately nurtured by HR and TA, the acceptance and appreciation of the EVP will proceed in a organic and intuitive manner. That is, the value the organization drives should emerge naturally from the innate unifier of all a company represents.

(This of course assumes that an organization is properly aligned around its Big Idea, from business to marketing to employer brand strategies.)

So let’s revisit an earlier question, this time from a recruiting perspective:

“Is the greater motivator for the candidate (a) the various value drivers or (b) all the company represents, including the value it drives as an employer.”

We believe the best answer is (b). The deepest loyalty and equity are found in that which wins the heart. In the recruiting space, “loyalty” and “equity” would translate as adoption of the employer brand and advocacy (ambassadorship), respectively. Brand gains intensity through focus. And today more than ever, simplicity and clarity of expression are essential to rise above and emerge from the growing clutter of competitive messaging.

There’s a very real sense in which getting to this place will drive considerable competitive advantage. People will know—clearly—where they want to belong. Whether they’re qualified is a different discussion. But the starting point will be right. Overall, the brand initiative can create and maintain a distinct competitive difference. A difference that can become a highly-valuable, and difficult-to-replicate competitive advantage.

If prospective candidates want the opportunity to join an employer (tribe, team, community) because they resonate with the company’s Big Idea and aspire to be an integral part of the group at their deepest levels of self-perception and esteem, advocacy is not just desirable, but likely.