Awareness, engagement, pride: How Heineken is ‘rejuvenating’ its employer branding strategy

Heineken is evolving its employer marketing to focus on employee stories to create a sense of pride internally in working for the company, raise awareness and engagement among prospective hires and improve the quality of new talent.

Heineken Go Places 2.0

Heineken is “rejuvenating” its employer branding campaign ‘Go Places’ with a new focus on showcasing employee stories and driving awareness and engagement.

The campaign, which launches this week, features the stories of 33 Heineken employees, from Carlos who heads up Heineken’s ecommerce business The Sub to Marcel trying to sell cider into the competitive South African market. The 45-second hero films show staff from all roles, levels and departments – including marketing, sales, finance, supply chain and HR – faced with a challenge they need to turn into an opportunity.

All the videos end with a question ‘Ready to…’, for example ‘Ready to turn a no into a yes?’ or ‘Ready to work some miracles?’.

“Go Places 1.0, as we now call it, started back in 2016; two years later it felt like a good time to rejuvenate the brand, evolve it in a slightly different direction and make some changes in the approach,” says Heineken’s head of global talent acquisition, Benjamin Clark, speaking exclusively to Marketing Week.

To do that, Heineken conducted research in 15 of its markets around the world to understand what the brand and a new campaign should focus on. From that research it found three core pillars.

The key for us and the challenge is to make sure we choose the right [platforms] for the right reasons. This is not just spam, we aren’t going to go onto every platform and start firing messages at whoever will listen.

Benjamin Clark, Heineken

The first pillar is authenticity, with Heineken feeling it needed to evolve the brand to focus on real stories. The second is transcendency, which looks to ensure the brand means something to more people. And third is longer-term management of the brand so it sees a consistent increase in the quality and quantity of job applicants, rather than just an “inspirational spike” when the campaign is live.

“We’re a very marketing-driven company, being Heineken, and [the employer brand] is a bit like the Heineken beer brand – as long as we keep selling that to consumers we need a brand that manages that as well. That’s the mindset that keeps us always active with the Go Places brand.”

READ MORE: Heineken on why now is the right time to tell the world it ‘is more than just one brand’

The move to evolve the brand and campaign came from HR in a bid to keep it “fresh and relevant”. Clark is relatively new to Heineken, having joined a year ago, and says he saw a great opportunity to keep the ideas of Go Places 1.0 but build it out.

That has involved a close collaboration between the marketing team and HR, as well as agency CloudFactory. HR in particular worked with the Heineken beer brand’s global team on the campaign.

“Good employer branding is about good collaboration with other functions, the marketing function in particular,” he explains. “We can learn a lot from each other: us on the mechanics and concept-build, and our marketing colleagues about the challenges of hiring and managing talent.”

That has included both the creative and where the campaign should run. LinkedIn is a “given”, while Heineken is also exploring using Facebook, Instagram and Glassdoor. To help, the HR team has hired a global HR social media manager to ensure the employer brand is properly managed.

“The key for us and the challenge is to make sure we choose the right [platforms] for the right reasons. This is not just spam, we aren’t going to go onto every platform and start firing messages at whoever will listen. We need to understand the best platforms to reach the best audience and manage that properly,” he adds.

Measuring employer branding effectiveness

Not only is Heineken evolving the brand but also how it measures its effectiveness. For the first campaign, Heineken looked at both qualitative results, such as the impact it had on the industry, and quantitative measures, which included a 56% increase in applications during the campaign period.

“You can really see it drove a lot of traffic, a lot of interest. Particularly, and this is important for recruiting and talent acquisition, it wasn’t just about awareness it was about converting awareness into applications,” he says.

However, Clark says increasing awareness and applications is “just the beginning”, with Heineken also looking at how it can improve the interview process, the hiring process, managing performance and setting up new employees for success. To do that, it has had to go beyond the campaign, launching a new interactive website and is currently in the process of bringing its global and local careers websites onto the same platform.

“It’s actually quite difficult to judge the impact – ultimately it is about getting better applications and then better hires that go on to perform highly and ideally be retained by the business. That’s the sort of metrics we are putting in place for Go Places 2.0,” he says.

“If I was speaking to the CEO about this, I wouldn’t talk about application increases I would want to talk to him about a year after launch and tell him we’re hiring even better people and they’re going on to perform even better in the business. That’s the ultimate measure.”

Creating employee advocacy

Creating advocacy within the organisation is also important. There is an internal campaign going live on its internal collaboration tool Workplace by Facebook to drive awareness of Go Places 2.0 and engender pride. That will include posting eight hero films and encouraging employees to post their own stories, which Clark hopes will “empower individuals”.

“We want to create some advocacy within the organisation, we talked about pride and our employees are our biggest advocates.” One employee’s story, which was shared on LinkedIn has generated a number of likes, shares and comments, “that’s a very powerful message”, he adds.

“It’s all about awareness, engagement and pride, those are the three key pillars to our communication strategy both internally and externally.”

If I was speaking to the CEO about this, I wouldn’t talk about application increases I would want to tell him we’re hiring even better people and they’re going on to perform even better in the business. That’s the ultimate measure.

Benjamin Clark, Heineken

The launch comes amid growing competition for talent as major companies such as Heineken find themselves in competition not just with other consumer goods firms but also startups and deep-pocketed tech companies. Does Clark still feel companies such as Heineken can offer people the careers they are looking for?

“Without a doubt I see and feel that every day. Why? It’s the breadth of opportunity we can offer. Startups are a whole different ballgame but we have some startups in Heineken – The Sub I would argue is a type of startup and we do have that type of evolution to what work means.

“More broadly that depth and breadth of opportunity is still very relevant and speaks to talent. Of course there are lots of benefits of going to a startup, it depends on the individual and what they’re looking for. But at Heineken you can build a career, experience a breadth and depth of opportunity, learn and be challenged, and be enabled to make the most of the opportunity,” he concludes.

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