How to use humor in employer branding—and attract top talent

Being ‘funny’ in your external messaging is like walking a tightrope, but the payoff for success goes beyond recruitment: It can bolster your public-facing brand image and raise staffers’ pride.

3 examples of corporate humor

Everyone has that one friend who can make you laugh until you collapse in a crying heap.

It’s the kind of friend you can’t wait to wheel out—the comedic genius with a knack for irony and a talent for a well-timed quip. If funny people abound in real life, why, then, do employer branding specialists find it so challenging to make us laugh?

Part of it’s a fear of polarizing the audience and delivering the killer punchline, only to see them react as though you’ve just read out the most rudimentary dad joke.

The other element is a misgiving over what the brand stands for. If you’re at a large company with a corporate dress code and a marble-clad lobby, does a pun-tastic subject line or witty meme align with your overarching proposition and values?

We get why brand managers feel funny about being funny. We also know that those who take a risk with their communications can win big, particularly in the world of employer branding. What could be more appealing than an organization with a great collective sense of humor demonstrating that it’s all about being human rather than stiffly corporate?

To show you the way, here are three companies that are nailing a humorous approach to employer branding:

1. Kantega: The mysterious life of software developers

Norwegian software company Kantega was looking to attract software developer talent, but its executives knew that competition was fierce and it would have to sell itself to see results. It set out to produce a video that would position the brand as the place to work. It came up with this brilliant video:

It delivers on three crucial objectives: to increase the number of job applicants, to raise awareness of Kantega as a potential workplace for software developers, and to increase awareness of the Kantega brand overall.

Results-wise, it’s a standout case study: The video has been viewed over 23 million times across a range of sites, including the hugely popular UNILAD, and has generated 180,000 shares and 60,000 comments.

From a recruitment perspective, it led to a 3,571 percent increase in traffic to the Careers part of the Kantega website. Beyond that, the video’s overwhelming success also led to soaring staff motivation—an increase of 20 percent, according to a recent employee survey.

Why did it work so well? First, there’s sharp comedic observation. Mockumentaries are nothing new, but this one works because of the clear understanding of the video’s subjects (three “breeds” of software developer, captured in their “natural” office habitat).

Second, the video stays true to spoofing the documentary style. (We challenge you to find a better David Attenborough impersonator than Guy Harris.) Gold stars all round.

2. Dropbox: An array of very funny Muppets

The objective around employer branding is twofold: First, what job opportunities are you offering? Second, what’s your culture like—that is, why should I want to work for you?

This Dropbox example is an oldie but a goodie. Not only does it give an insight into the breadth of what Dropbox does, but it also shows you what it’s like as an organization: fun, laid-back, brimming with personality. Plus, the video features the voices of real Dropbox employees, so viewers feel they’re hearing from real people (in the guise of Muppets).

3. Intel: Making rock stars out of every employee

Self-deprecating humor is a winner. Take James Acaster, for example, or the brilliant Sara Pascoe. There’s something disarmingly likable about people who can laugh at themselves, and Intel does it brilliantly with this video.

The premise here is that Intel employees—people super-passionate about technology and its impact on the wider world—are bona fide rock stars at Intel. This is about reframing what it means to be cool and letting software developers and techies get excited about what they do.

Intel’s take on its likable employees expresses its culture of nonconformity; it’s also challenging the status quo in the most fun and unapologetic way possible. The message conveys that Intel knows its employees are integral to its success.

You want to be a part of this community of groupies, whether you’re sold on Intel’s products or not. That’s smart employer branding.

A version of this post first appeared on the Southerly blog.

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