At a time when marketing is more deeply embedded with technology than ever, the human dimension can get neglected. But that’s a mistake because marketing risks falling down on the job against some of its most pressing challenges.
A DCMS report last year found that BAME representation in the creative industries has fallen by 18% at a time when brands routinely profess to value authenticity as an asset.
According to Helen Shaw (pictured below), principal consultant for Engine, marketing teams should be looking to their HR colleagues to help redress the balance. "Creativity is more important than ever and that’s not something that automation and technology can help with – it is a very human trait," she said. "It’s very difficult to produce creative ideas and innovation, with a homogenous group of people."
Part of a Big Questions Live event brought together by Campaign and People Management, in partnership with job site Indeed, Shaw was addressing the issue of what HR could teach marketing.
Brands are increasingly judged by what they do as much as by what they say, so it makes sense for brand strategies and vision statements to be created by combined marketing, HR and employee teams, said Shaw. With so much of brand experience delivered through an organisation’s employees, a shared approach is necessary.
"We have to make the employee experience align with the brand experience, creating a mindset within the organisation and influencing people’s hearts and minds," she added.
Danny Stacy, senior recruitment evangelist at Indeed, said this was leading to HR interfacing with marketing more meaningfully, to forge a standout employment brand.
"Gen Z and millennials don’t talk about job titles," he said. "People want to work with businesses that have a vision closely aligned to their own."
Matt Bushby, UK marketing director, Just Eat said that there are increasingly blurred lines between the consumer brand and the employer brand: "Younger consumers’ impression of us in the business is driven as much by our employer brand as it is by our by our consumer brands."
The company’s employees are also its customers, so there is a natural crossover between those two brands, he added. "Within Just Eat, the employer brand is owned by the people team. They’re the guys that best understand that audience."
According to Shaw, HR is changing from being about transactional elements of employment to looking at areas where brands increasingly want a foothold, such as culture, wellbeing and mental health. HR teams are also privy to a lot of data around employee experience that can be extremely useful to an organisation when examined alongside metrics such as marketing KPIs and performance data.
With many brands in pursuit of ‘authenticity’, a company’s own people are a great receptacle of stories that really bring a brand to life.
"Nothing is more authentic than the employees telling their own story," said Sharon Ellerker, regional head of HR at HP (below). "That’s what people want to hear. They don’t want to hear the gloss."
The tech giant is making a conscious effort to let employees tell their own stories as a demonstration of what HP is like as an employer and as an organisation.
It produced a powerful example of HR and marketing coming together for a piece of content called Dads and Daughters. Ostensibly promoting roles for women within HP, the film drives home an emotional message about the company’s own values in relation to inclusion.
In an environment as fast moving as marketing, HR has an important role to play in equipping employees with the skills they need for the future, said Gemma Greaves, CEO, The Marketing Society: "It’s very difficult to keep up with the next piece of technology or media, so you need to have people who have a curiosity and want to learn, and expose them to lots of external sources."
Ellerker agreed that keeping marketing teams fit for the future was an ongoing challenge, and one that couldn’t be left to chance. HP has introduced a curriculum to enable staff to learn to be more digitally enabled.
As HR and marketing become more closely aligned, it seems likely that they too will continue on a learning journey.
Why HR and marketing need each other
Host Gemma Charles, Deputy Editor, Campaign
David D’Souza, Membership Director, CIPD
Helen Shaw, Principal Consultant, ENGINE
Panel Jenny Roper (host), Editor, People Management
Matt Bushby, UK Marketing Director, Just Eat
Sharon Ellerker, VP and Regional Head of HR, HP
Gemma Greaves, CEO, The Marketing Society
Danny Stacy, Recruitment Evangelist, Indeed