History of Employer Brand


Any concept can be a “brand”. For instance; products, services, political movements, TV series, music, holiday destinations, volunteering movements… And of course the feeling of being employed, with other infinite possibilities. When you communicate a concept regularly and consistently, it creates a perception of attractiveness in a person’s mind. This is regarded as one of the popular definitions of what a brand is. The definition is particularly relevant to us because a solid grasp of brand management is essential to creating a strong employer brand.


Branding is the process of creating and promoting a unique identity for a product, service, or organization. It involves developing a set of values, personality traits, and visual elements that differentiate the brand from its competitors and create a positive impression in the minds of consumers. Organizations need strong branding for several reasons.

1A- Differentiation

A strong brand can communicate the organization’s unique value proposition and create a sense of loyalty and trust among customers. As a result, companies differentiate themselves from competitors and stand out in a crowded marketplace

1B- Reputation

It can increase the perceived quality of the organization’s products or services, and create a positive image in the minds of consumers. In other words, it helps build their reputation and enhance their perceived value.

1C- The basis for strategy

Companies benefit from well-crafted brands as tools for strategic communication. To be specific; it can help organizations communicate their mission, values, and personality to their target audience, and create a consistent message across all marketing channels.


Understanding branding principles can help organizations develop a consistent and coherent employer brand that aligns with their overall brand identity and resonates with their target audience. Employer branding is closely related to branding because it is an extension of the overall brand identity of the organization. Specifically; it is the application of branding in the area of human resources. It involves developing and promoting a unique set of offerings, rewards, and values that an organization provides to its employees in exchange for their skills and contributions. By applying branding principles to human resources, organizations can create a unique and compelling employer brand that enhances their reputation as an employer of choice.


Branding is a concept that has been around for thousands of years. The word “brand” originated from the Old Norse word “brandr,” which means “to burn.” People used it to describe the practice of branding livestock with a mark to indicate ownership. Ancient Egyptians used symbols to identify property ownership. Additionally, Greek and Roman merchants also used symbols to differentiate their products.

With the advent of mass production and industrialism, branding became a way of ensuring quality and trust in the product. The rise of mass media in the 20th century gave brands new channels to communicate their message and reach a wider audience. Terms such as “brand personality” and “brand manager” emerged in the 1920s. Moreover, companies were also marketing the emotional benefits.

Today, branding has evolved into a critical aspect of marketing and business strategy. A strong brand can help companies differentiate themselves from their competitors, build customer loyalty, and enhance their reputation.


Employer branding has a more recent history, with roots dating back to the early 1900s. In this era, companies began to develop employer brands that positioned them as desirable places to work to attract and retain employees. One of the first companies to do this was General Electric, which used the slogan “We bring good things to life” in its recruitment campaigns.

However, recruitment marketing and employer branding are often confused with each other. The reason for this confusion is that they both involve communicating the organization’s values and culture to potential candidates. In many cases, people see recruitment marketing as a subset of employer branding, because it focuses on creating targeted campaigns that align with the organization’s overall brand identity.

The confusion between recruitment marketing and employer branding can also be attributed to the fact that they both rely on similar techniques and channels, such as social media, email marketing, and content marketing. Both recruitment marketing and employer branding require a deep understanding of the target audience and the organization’s values and culture, and both rely on creative and compelling messaging to attract and engage potential candidates. Historically, recruitment marketing and/or advertising is an ancestor to the concepts within employer brand management.

5- PHASE 1

In the pre-industrial era, recruitment and branding were often localized and informal, with little standardization or regulation. Employers used various methods to attract and retain workers, such as offering better wages, benefits, and working conditions, and relying on word of mouth and personal connections. Branding was used primarily to differentiate products and services and build a reputation for quality and reliability.

During the industrial revolution, recruitment advertising emerged as a more formal and centralized approach to recruitment. Employers placed job ads in newspapers and other print media to reach a wider audience and attract a larger pool of candidates. Branding also became more important during this era, with the rise of the modern corporation and standardized hiring practices. Companies began to develop brand identities that reflected their mission, values, and culture and used branding to differentiate themselves from their competitors and build customer loyalty.

6- PHASE 2

In the post-industrial era, recruitment marketing began to shift towards a more targeted and strategic approach. Employers started to use branding and marketing techniques to attract and retain top talent, with a focus on creating an appealing employer brand and improving the candidate experience. The emergence of the internet and online job boards made it easier for employers to reach potential candidates and build brand awareness.

7- PHASE 3

The modern era of employer branding began with the rise of the internet and the increasing importance of talent acquisition and retention. In 1990, Simon Barrow & Tim Ambler first mentioned the concept, and it was in the context of recruitment advertising. However, in 1996, the concept of the “Employer Brand” was first officially defined in the same duo’s academic paper. It was defined as “the package of functional, economic, and psychological benefits provided by employment, and identified with the employing company.” This definition highlighted the importance of the employer brand in attracting and retaining top talent. Afterwards, a McKinsey & Company report in 1997 titled “The War for Talent,” highlighted the growing competition among companies for top talent. This report brought attention to the importance of employer branding in attracting and retaining talent.

In 2001, Simon Barrow and Richard Mosley published the book “The Employer Brand: Bringing the Best of Brand Management to People at Work”. This book introduced the concept of the Employer Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP is a unique set of offerings, rewards, and values that an organization provides to its employees in exchange for their skills and contributions.

8- PHASE 4

The rise of social media in the mid-2000s gave employers new channels to communicate their employer brand and engage with potential candidates. Social media also gave candidates a platform to share their experiences with potential employers. Consequently, this attention increased the importance of employer brand management.

The launch of Glassdoor in 2008 gave candidates an unprecedented level of insight into the employee experience at different companies. Glassdoor reviews and ratings became an essential component of employer brand management.

9- PHASE 5

Employer branding has become a critical aspect of talent acquisition and retention for organizations. A strong employer brand can help organizations attract top talent, improve employee engagement and retention, and enhance their reputation as an employer of choice. Employer branding has become a vital part of corporate strategies via job sites, social media, and other user-generated content platforms. The application of brand management in the area of human resources has shifted the paradigm, treating candidates as “consumers.” Therefore, a solid grasp of brand management is essential to creating a strong employer brand.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on employer branding and recruitment marketing. As a result, this lead to a new era in the history of these concepts.

10A- Remote work

The pandemic has forced many organizations to shift their operations to remote work. As a result, this has changed the way they attract and retain talent. With remote work becoming more prevalent, organizations had to reflect this new reality. This is why they adapted their employer branding and recruitment marketing strategies. In detail, we saw a rise in promoting flexible work arrangements. These emphasized the use of technology, and focused on the employee experience.

10B- Employee wellbeing

Moreover, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of employee health and wellbeing. Later, this lead to a new focus on employer branding and recruitment marketing that prioritizes these factors. Organizations have had to develop and promote new health and safety protocols and provide additional support for employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

10C- Platform changes

The pandemic has also accelerated the use of technology in recruitment marketing and employer branding. With in-person events and job fairs no longer viable, organizations have had to rely more heavily on digital channels to attract and engage potential candidates. This has led to a greater emphasis on social media, email marketing, and other digital channels. Additionally, the use of video and other interactive content increased to create a more immersive and engaging candidate experience.

10D- DEI

In addition, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in employer branding and recruitment marketing. Many organizations have been focused on promoting their commitment to DEI. Thus, they have been using their employer brand to attract a more diverse pool of candidates.


What will you do to change the course of employer brand management?

Don’t miss out on the latest employer branding trends for 2023! Click here to discover how you can build a stronger employer brand and stand out in the talent market.

To learn more, you can join a free week session of Employer Brand Academy certificate courses here or you can download our free ebook creating an authentic employer brand here.

Author: Ali Ayaz
Ali Ayaz is an Employer Brand and HR Consultant with Modern Management Consulting who is well-versed in Employer Brand Development, Candidate and Employee Surveys, Recruitment and Employee Engagement. Having successfully completed Employer Brand projects with multinational blue-chip companies in Automotive, Banking, FMCG, IT, Telecom and Retail industries, he teaches employer brand management, human resources and fundamentals of management at Employer Brand Academy (online) and European School of Economics (London). He is the author of the e-book “How to Build a Robust Employer Brand Strategy” and founder of the Employer Brand Academy. He is a chartered member of CIPD - the professional body for HR and people development.

Leave a Reply