Brand this.

I love it when recruitment people talk about wanting to build or develop “a brand” for their agency.

I don’t really love it. It drives me mad.

I don’t think recruiters (or worse, recruitment marketers) know what Brand means. I didn’t either, so I looked it up.

Here’s what Seth Godin thinks Brand means:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

To put that into recruitment parlance, agencies like Hays, Michael Page and Robert Half would get clients to work with them above all other agencies, and pay them more, simply because of their name and reputation.

As you can see, we’re in polishing a turd territory here.

So, if we’re comfortable with the notion that the big agencies don’t have more talented recruiters per capita than the boutique agencies – and that in all probability the opposite is true – then it’s probably safe to say that no agency has a brand. At least not by any modern definition of the word.

Many recruitment agency directors will tell you that job advertising is only a part of their overall marketing spend. The bulk of that spend is reserved for polishing the turd.

And just so we’re clear, what I mean by “polishing the turd” are those lines they all use like:

“..exceeding our clients’ expectations”

“..get to know your business and your culture”

“..world class recruitment service”

“..market leading”

“..award winning”

These are turds because every other agency says the same thing. They’re also turds because they’re mostly not true.

“World class recruitment service”? What world class service only delivers on 20-25% of all the projects it starts work on? And don’t get me started on the “award winning” nonsense.

The reality is that job advertising should be THE ONLY part of a recruitment agency’s marketing spend – until they get that part right.

Because if your marketing is telling people that you’re experts in talent acquisition (“world class”, “award winning”, etc..) and your job ads demonstrably aren’t acquiring very much talent, then you’re in a bit of trouble.

The only good news is that because everyone else is saying the same thing in the same way, you’re just blending into that homogenous blob popularly paraphrased by most other people as “recruitment agencies are all the same”. Nobody remembers you. And why would they?

Advertising, for most job disciplines, is the most cost-effective method of reaching large numbers of potential candidates quickly.

It’s also the place where the brand bullshit stops, and measurable marketing starts.

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