How to Effectively Position a Parent Employer Brand and Sub-Brands

March 23, 2021 • 4 min read

How to Effectively Position a Parent Employer Brand and Sub-Brands

Dario Paolini

Dario Paolini

Multi-brand organisations are faced with a decision when it comes to employer branding: do they delineate each of their brands, or do they take a single, universal approach?

As the importance of employer branding continues to grow, this is a question that more and more conglomerates are beginning to face. So, what are the factors that should be considered when making the decision? And how do you ensure you make the right one?

To answer these questions, let’s take a closer look at the EB relationship between parent brands and sub-brands, and how to ensure your strategy is as effective as it can be across the board.

The difference between good and bad brand strategy

You can’t underestimate the power of research as the very first step in creating a brand strategy. This is so often what separates good from bad. You can spend all the money in the world on delivering the most incredible creative execution, but if that strategy has been built upon assumptions, it’s doomed to fail.

You can’t underestimate the power of research as the very first step in creating a brand strategy.

What do I mean by research? You need to take the time to define who your audience needs to be, and in the world of employer branding, that’ll inevitably be whoever your organisation needs in its workforce, both now and into the future. Once your audience has been identified, you then need to work to understand them, particularly with respect to how they currently perceive your brand. The results of this can be quite compelling, and can form the springboard that you need to dive into creating not just a good, but more likely a great, brand strategy.

Pretty straightforward, right? Well, not always.

The process is all the more complex when your employer branding efforts concern more than a single brand. Conglomerates and other large and multifaceted organisations may have multiple and entirely distinct brands beneath their corporate umbrella. So how do you manage all these parent brands and sub-brands effectively?

The challenges of managing sub-brands in EB

The biggest hurdle for most multi-brand EB teams is deciding whether to take a universal or bespoke approach to marketing their different brands and sub-brands. In the eyes of the audience, all of the brands beneath the umbrella carry a certain equity, and each of these sub-brands has its own identity and place in the market. It’s for this second reason that there’s real value in keeping sub-brands separate for general marketing activities. Does the same concept apply in employer branding? This question can be a little more difficult to answer.

The process is all the more complex when your employer branding efforts concern more than a single brand.

The first and most pressing consideration is that EB functions typically have fewer resources devoted to them than traditional marketing functions, making a master brand approach appealing for nothing more than its efficiency and economy. Whether this strategy is truly effective is another matter.

On top of treating each of your brands the same despite some of their important differences, a broad-brush strategy won’t often factor in the local needs, local culture and local nuances that make for truly effective EB. When your strategy isn’t relevant at a local level, you’ll find the local operations might ‘go rogue’, making any changes they deem necessary, or even creating their own tools and resources to match their local needs, as the ones developed by head office don’t work.

When deciding between single or multiple EB strategies, ask yourself:

● Are there any localisations needed to make the strategy work in the market where it will be applied?

● What are the respective awareness levels in the market for each sub-brand?

● How is each sub-brand currently perceived?

● What does the target market want from an employer in terms of company size and scale?

● Should localisation efforts be made within each EB strategy?

These are the sorts of questions that are answered by a thorough research program. And if the answers all point to treating each sub-brand as its own EB entity, this research can also help you make the case for access to greater resources.

Fitting sub-brands and localisation within your broader EB strategy

If you do choose to customise a variety of elements in your EB strategy – and if you are able to access the necessary resources – the question becomes one of ensuring this broad and multifaceted effort still retains a sense of cohesion.

Employer branding strategy is about understanding the needs of the talent, shaping what the business can offer to match those needs, and articulating that through content and strategy.

There are two main ways of ensuring that your sub-branding and localisation efforts fit within your broader strategy:

● Consistency: Even if you are trying to differentiate between sub-brands, the process for creating and activating different brands within the same organisation should be the same. Establish and work within a set of brand guidelines that set things like how your brand should look and sound. Share this document with anyone, internal or external, who is doing branding work.

● Education: I can’t stress this enough. Educate, educate, educate. Our role as EB leaders is to set the benchmark, to know what industry best practice is as it evolves, and to set clear examples of standards and processes. Share your EB knowledge with those in charge of your sub-brands, so that they can localise their message in a way that ensures consistency and effectiveness. You don’t need a cookie cutter approach, you instead need to give them the tools to make good decisions themselves.

At the end of the day, employer branding strategy is about understanding the needs of the talent, shaping what the business can offer to match those needs, and articulating that through content and strategy.

Whether you take a single and entirely uniform approach, develop a strategy for each sub-brand, or customise right down to the local level will depend on a number of factors: the size and shape of your organisation, your employer branding experience, the results of your market research and the resources you have available, to name a few.

The answer will no doubt always be different for each organisation – you simply need to do the groundwork to find the right one for you.

About the author:  Dario currently leads the employer brand marketing function in Australia for the Employment Services Group, APM.  In a career spanning over 15 years, Dario’s diverse experience in marketing includes both agency and client side at practical and strategic levels. A fantastic storyteller, Dario also has experience in managing teams across the globe including Australia, India, Southeast Asia, Middle East and Europe.