The introduction of digital marketing has made the business environment more competitive for companies to promote their products and/or services. With more companies fighting over the attention of their target audience, the consumer is constantly bombarded by advertising. As a result, consumers have conditioned themselves to trust messages that come from real people versus corporate advertisements. In addition, social media has made it easier for people to assess a company’s brand for themselves. When consumers publish their experiences with a particular product or service, it either has a positive or negative influence on how a company’s brand is portrayed. However, companies that empower their employees to brand themselves can better influence their target audience by leveraging human resources to build, promote, and control the company’s brand.
While attending a conference at Harvard Business School, I got the opportunity to have lunch with the Vanessa De Luca, Editor in Chief of Essence magazine. I asked her how personal branding has made an impact on her company. She replied by telling me about a product that Essence Magazine recently launched called the Essence Beauty Box. Their marketing team was tasked with coming up with a branding strategy to differentiate their beauty box from the other ones on the market. The Essence Beauty Box delivers five samples or trial sizes of beauty products curated by Essence beauty editors. Each box is related to that particular editor's sense of beauty and style. By leveraging the personal brands of their employees, Essence was successful at humanizing and differentiating their product from their competitors.
Increasingly, companies like Coca Cola, Dell, Pizza Hut, State Farm, Fidelity Investments, and Cisco are using personal branding to empower employees to share marketing messages and increase their social engagement. With Apple on the rise, Microsoft Office made the smart move of using their employees to advertise Office 360. They show actual employees using the program in their own lives and cars and offices, offering a humanistic side to Microsoft Office, giving them an edge in personal appeal to competitors. Pizza Hut’s "Your favorites. Your pizza Hut" campaign give customers a more personal connection to the brand's product by displaying real employees at work. Buzzfeed has gone from something everyone scrolls over in their Facebook feed to one of the most watched and read social news companies. Why? Because they used their own employees for questionnaires, skits, advertisements, etc. Millennials especially default to Buzzfeed because they feel like they can relate to the individuals working for the company. By utilizing the unique brands of their employees, Buzzfeed has related to millions of Millennials. And yes, believe it or not Jake from State Farm is a real employee at State Farm.
Whether it’s intentional or not, the personal brand of employees reflect the values and mission of their employer. Progressive companies realize the benefits of social advocacy and are pursuing strategies to ensure that they can benefit from the personal brands of their employees. An employee’s personal brand can humanize a company’s products/services and make it relatable to other consumers. Many companies anticipate that this strategy will result in a more sales and attract talent.