What is your biggest brand management challenge?
Joost Schriever: Let me first talk about the bigger picture. In a 24/7 economy people and organisations have different needs. The way we live, work and relate to each other is transforming rapidly. This is also influencing the HR industry. New digital HR solutions and tools are drastically changing the way people connect to jobs and the role Randstad plays in this space. That is why Randstad’s ‘Tech & Touch’ strategy is a very important pillar of its overall strategy going forward. It concerns the digital transformation at the heart of existing business models. The digital transformation improves the way we connect clients with candidates and puts humans first. By maximising technological capabilities, Randstad enables its consultants to focus on what matters most: giving a human touch.
Regarding brand: Randstad started primarily with temporary staffing, but through acquisitions we now offer a wide range of HR services. Our other services are more exciting and have the potential of higher margins compared to the traditional staffing, so the challenge is finding a way of getting as much as we can out of these services and enriching the Randstad brand with them.
We want to be the first ones in our sector to get on Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands list. So, enriching and aligning the Randstad master brand is the overall challenge we face for the coming years.
Holly Wilson: Do you see technology creating further challenges for the Randstad brand in the future?
JS: The visibility of our brand is a major challenge: ‘they need to know you before they call you’. It’s simple but it really is true. Marketing spend is now all going into digital, which means you can reach specific target groups better but can lose visibility with your potential overall audience. In the past we had much more retail space, with over 20 offices in Amsterdam alone, and that made us highly visible. Nowadays, most of our customers are online and we have lost our visibility on the street and to a general audience. With all the advantages that digital marketing has, we need to find a way to compensate for this loss of visibility.
HW: Do you have any plans on how to make Randstad more visible?
JS: We are going back to radio and TV with the aim of reaching out to a general audience, and this will be supported by digital channels. It would be nice if we could have the best of both worlds so that we are still visible to a general audience and can target specific audiences online.
Is brand more important now than ever?
JS: Yes, because you have to find a way to stand out from the noise of the digital age. I think the best way to do this is if your brand is perceived as having its own identity and really stands for something. This is very important for a new generation who want to better understand a company and see what value it brings to the world. What is your purpose.
We know that technology can support us all in our daily lives and we are already working hard to make technology work for us. But from our long history we know above all that the human connection is the most important part of our business. With our in-depth understanding of the world of work and our passion for people we help people and businesses to move forward. It is our personal approach, supported by state-of-the-art technology, that truly sets us apart in the global world of work. We express that with a new brand promise: Human Forward. It’s our promise to the world that we will always put humans first.
HW: You mentioned that a brand needs to find a way to stand out. What is Randstad doing to make sure it stands out as a brand?
JS: We are trying to do this with the international message of Human Forward, we want to be known as the ‘human company’. Our technologies help connect people to jobs, but this will only be helpful if we have a human mind. We call it ‘tech and touch’. If we believe in our strategy, we will have more time for quality contact with our customers.
We are also investing in making sure that our message complements our digital visual identity. For example, we have introduced a brand new in-house style which works well on smaller devices.
Which trends are likely to have the largest impact on your brand?
JS: Digital will have a fundamental effect on our company processes. Our vision and solution is that digital automation will allow for more contact time with customers.
Another interesting trend is the scarcity of qualified people for jobs. It’s very hard to find people to work in certain jobs, for example engineering or IT. We want to find a way of tapping into talent from other countries as well as the refugee population and see how we can help them to be integrated into the country. Research by the University of Amsterdam has shown that by 2050 in Western Europe there will be a considerable shortage in the labour market. This means we will have an enormous challenge in keeping the labour market supplied.
What tools/technology do you use to manage your brand?
JS: For the past three years we have been working with Bynder, which is a digital asset bank. It allows us to distribute our brand assets, from illustrations, to photography and manuals.
However, we need to create our own templates as this will help solve 80-85% of our local marketing needs. These templates will always be on-brand because all the options our employees will have to choose from will be correctly branded. We started working with a company called BlueSpot, who are creating our own template creation system for us. This system will be connected to Bynder so that all our employees worldwide can access them. We managed to build this system in just 15 weeks and now 2,500 employees in the Netherlands can create their own branded messages. We are going to introduce this, and our new brand governance model (with VIM Group’s help), worldwide in the coming year.
Which brands do you admire or use as inspiration?
JS: We often look at Accenture as a great example of a strong brand. It’s a relatively young brand which came from the ashes of companies which went broke. They have been really consistent in building their brand image and they are very visible with wonderful messaging. They are now halfway up Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands List, so in a short time frame they have really built on this new name of Accenture.
Through consistency in messaging and their use of media, they have become capable of building a brand which is of enormous value. I’m a marketer who really believes that this is a makeable world – if you are consistent you can be anyone you want in the minds of people as long as it’s a real story.
HW: And are there any brands that you admire on a personal level?
JS: There is enormous quality and consistency in BMW’s messaging and the way they talk. It’s a strong brand and you can recognise that they understand the importance of visual identity and messaging, this really reflects who they are. It fits. And it always works if it fits. If it’s true, if it’s real, if they do it in the right way and consistently, then that’s how you make your brand work, I think.
HW: Would you say BMW is a very customer centric brand?
JS: Yes, they are and it’s more than just in the messaging, I have the feeling that they are capable of also bringing this behaviour alive in the behaviour of the individual employees.
We hope to achieve this with Human Forward, which is capable of making that experience. I don’t think we’re there yet – this is the beginning of a journey – but I think we have the people, messaging and DNA to achieve this goal.
How has your brand department changed over the past five years?
JS: This is very interesting because the brand department is only a handful of people. We don’t need a big department to keep the whole concept development and the development of the house style alive. Four years ago, we had only one or two people who understood SEO and SEA, but now we have a department of 20 people all specialising in conversion and testing.
So, the biggest change that we have seen in the marketing and communications department, and that includes our brand, is this enormous influx of knowledge and insights in digital. Because our business is really local, each market has its own marketing and digital departments and we support them in the best way we can. We make sure that we can share our knowledge throughout the world, although this is becoming increasingly complex due to the growing number of digital specialists we have.
Joost Schriever is the Global Director of Marketing at Randstad.
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