CMOs and their teams are uniquely well positioned to take a lead role in companies’ efforts to attract and retain both customers and top talent.

Dipanjan Chatterjee, Melissa Bongarzone, and Alex Schanne

Reading Time: 6 min 

Brands are now knee-deep in social and political issues that, until recently, they wouldn’t have touched with a barge pole. Conventional wisdom has it that the increasing number of consumers motivated by social values is goading brands to support the greater social good. While there is some merit to that claim, there is arguably another equally powerful vector of change: the employee. For instance, after much waffling, Disney’s position against the state of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law was spurred on by pressure from its employees.

Employees are not only empowered and agitated; they are restless. More than a third of all employees (41%, according to Forrester’s 2021 Future of Work Survey) expect to look for other opportunities in the next 12 months. As companies face an employee exodus, talent acquisition and retention concerns have burst into the C-suite from the confines of human resources.

Building a brand that attracts and retains talent — employer branding — is at the top of the C-suite agenda and is the most critical priority among CMOs, according to a 2022 Forrester CMO Pulse Survey. “Now is the time,” the CMO at a $28 billion commercial real estate company told us, when “talent is the No. 1 priority among our leaders.”

Marketing’s Next Frontier

Given marketers’ inherent expertise in building brands, there is no group better suited to contribute significantly to employer branding efforts. The evolution from traditional customer-oriented branding to employer branding is a natural one, for three primary reasons.

The right mindset. A well-rounded marketer has an end-to-end life cycle mindset throughout which they engage with their audience: Entice and convert a prospect; grow the relationship over its life cycle; drive advocacy. The fundamentals are similar: Swap out “prospect” for “candidate” and “customer” for “employee,” and you’ve transformed a traditional brand strategy approach into an employer branding one.

The right skill set. The day-to-day activities of good employer branding map closely to what marketers do. Marketers zero in on a target audience, understand their motivations, find the right media channels and experiences to grab their attention, and then deliver a compelling message to reel them in. The talent acquisition process mirrors what marketers do every day, albeit to a different audience — prospective employees.