Branding: 29.01.23


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Graduate recruitment campaigns: It’s all about positioning

At this time of year, as we face the winter cold, many of us are thinking about sunnier days. Graduate recruiters, however, will be thinking mainly about their plans for developing graduate recruitment campaigns. One key element at an early stage is the question of how to make a campaign work as hard as it can. Here, we address the power of positioning in the development of a distinctive graduate brand.

Why do people queue overnight to be among the first to own a new iPhone?

That’s the power of the Apple brand. Consumer brands may differ from legal brands, yet the essence of Apple’s success depends on one of the most powerful concepts in branding: positioning. Along with Disney, Nike and a few others, Apple has managed to position itself in our minds before we even buy an Apple product.

Know the power of positioning

Any graduate recruiter or marketeer needs to position their firm so distinctly in the minds of potential trainees that, when it’s time to make choices about where to apply, that firm is seen as the best solution in the market. Your firm needs to be on that mental shortlist of the best brands in the market.

This means defining your own image rather than allowing others to define it for you.

Of course, it’s never that straightforward. Some graduate recruiters are dealt an unfair hand. For a limited period, you may have licence to use your brand’s existing corporate positioning and associations. To help you on your way and keep you ‘on brand’, you may be given guidelines for identity and writing. You might even be handed the corporate brand’s recruitment proposition as an offshoot. That’s fine as long as the corporate brand is well positioned in the market. The problem is, most aren’t. There is a lot of sameness. Few firms (if any) are anything like Apple.

Open the toolbox

How to proceed? It’s time to put on your branding hat and think about how best to use the tools at your disposal. One of the most powerful is your ability to create a campaign theme. Think of this not just as a strapline or slogan, but as the red ribbon that ties together all the messages and ideas you want to place in the minds of potential recruits. In the brand narrative answering the question ‘Why us?’, the campaign theme represents – if you like – the tip of the iceberg. It’s the way in.

Most firms are looking to present a collection of me-too messages. For example: the firm has quality clients and work, and offers early responsibility, innovation, breadth of training, a friendly culture, internationalism. All valid attributes, but how will you stand out?

First, think about the graduates you want to attract. What most appeals to them? Then, rummage through your attributes and messages to see what resonates, identify how best you can deliver on their goals, ambitions and aspirations. This becomes the sweet spot to telling your story. From there, develop a theme to bring this to life. By creating a single clear path, you can cut through the noise to attract those target students.

How? At the most basic level, it’s about digging deep through insights and research to determine:

  • what your target graduates value most about developing their careers
  • what can you offer to help enable them to achieve this; and
  • what competitors will find it hard to match.

Bring your campaign to life

Some firms take the view that all they need to do is highlight a few big words on the website’s home page: job done. This is a sticking-plaster approach, and your campaign doesn’t (or shouldn’t) end there.

On a much more fundamental level, the challenge is to bring the ‘Why us?’ theme to life creatively. This is all about tactics and how you use creative copywriting and art direction to develop (across digital, social and print touchpoints) a big idea capable of expressing your brand essence in a coherent way. It’s also about packaging those touchpoints.

By interpreting existing guidelines and the firm’s visual assets and tone of voice in a creative way, you aim to develop a mood and feel that resonates among Gen Z graduates who seek a firm that’s dynamic, modern and exciting. Taking an editorial approach to content will help your campaign tease out what the theme and supporting messages mean to aspiring lawyers (as well as to existing trainees, associates and partners).

Repeating your theme often and regularly (across targeted digital and social channels, and through on-campus activities) will build saliency and enable it to stick.

Act differently

Think about taking a more holistic approach in developing your next campaign. Blending creative ideas, messages and content effectively will help you to develop in the minds of media savvy graduates an image and associations that enhance your reach.

It all starts from positioning. This will drive your theme and cascade through your content and applications.

Don’t start with the thought ‘We need a new website and SEO’ and work from there.

Instead, focus on brand and branding (more Mad Men than Maths Men). SEO and keywords drive analytics but positioning and creativity drive overall distinction. When you create an effective brand halo, success in numbers will follow. That’s also the point at which graduates will be beating a path to your exhibition stand and clamouring to join you.

The Apple Effect!

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