“Heineken’s employer, product and corporate brands are three sides of the same triangle,” says Ben Clark, Group Head of Talent Acquisition. “We want our employer brand to project the same wit, style and curiosity that runs through our product advertising and corporate communications.” How does Heineken bring this distinctive originality and flair to the way it projects its employer brand? How does Heineken balance creativity and authenticity to convey what it’s really like to work for the organization?

Heineken is a company with more than 250 brands and operations in over 70 countries. What is the common thread that runs through the organization and the people you want to attract?

Ben Clark: The common thread is a readiness to embrace new ideas, stretch yourself and strive to be great rather than just good.

We don’t want to stretch people unwillingly. Rather we want to attract and nurture people who want to go the extra distance. And we provide the scope for people to do this in areas ranging from the inventiveness of our marketing to the opportunity to develop great new beers or experience so many different cultures.

Why is your product, corporate and employer brand management so closely aligned?

Ben Clark: We believe that each of the brands reflects and reinforces each other. From a recruitment and employer branding perspective, potential recruits see in the media that we’re an expanding company with an ambitious corporate strategy, and they want to be part of that. Similarly, people see how we’re constantly looking to break new ground in our marketing campaigns and say to themselves “this is a company where I can do new and innovative things”.

We know that our product and corporate brands open doors for us as we look to acquire talent. This year we had around 30,000 applicants for 25 places on our International Graduate Program, for example, with our visible profile being a major contributor to that interest. Similarly, the feedback we get from headhunters when we’re recruiting for a senior post is that our distinctive identity and the interest this creates gets calls and emails answered.

How do you bring Heineken’s trademark originality to the way you project your employer brand?

Ben Clark: We want the projection of our employer brand to wow the world in the same way as our product advertising.

At the forefront of our brand marketing is our ‘Go Places’ interactive interview, which takes people on a journey of discovery about themselves as well as our company. There is an interviewer – the ‘curator of choices’ – but the direction of travel and the eventual profile are guided by answers to a series of quick fire questions. This enables the interviewee to play a full and very personal role in the experience. The aim is to drive applications by reflecting on what Heineken is about, how the interviewee can play a role within the company and help both them and us to judge whether they would fit in and enjoy the experience of working within the organization.

Go Places has made a massive impact. Building on that is where it gets really exciting. Go places is the destination; it is the outcome. The next wave of campaigning will be looking at how you get there – how we can give our employees even more of the space, the scope and the support to realize their potential to go places. That could be physically swapping roles or operating companies. Our message will show what they achieved and how they got there.

How do you marry creativity with a true reflection of working for Heineken?

Ben Clark: While creative, the way we project our employer brand is very much rooted in our DNA as a company by seeking to articulate our values and communicate our employee value proposition (EVP). And our EVP is in turn rooted in how our workforce sees Heineken and see themselves within it. When we were developing our EVP, we spoke to employees from across the organization about what they view as the defining features of the company. Three words emerged from these conversations – adventure, friends and fame.

Adventure – our people are curious, can work in many different countries and try new things. The whole concept of Go Places speaks to this taste for adventure.

Friends – we bring people together. This is a thread that runs through our Go Places campaign, which shows people working and having fun with colleagues.

Fame – we’re clearly a well-known company; people see our adverts and enjoy our products. But what we really mean by fame within our EVP and employer branding is the chance to do something remarkable. We have a saying in Heineken – ‘pioneers build legacies’.

The next phase of our employer brand campaigns will look at how to reinforce this authentic voice further by conveying revealing real-life employee stories. By unlocking the stories from within we deliver the ‘human proof’ of the employer brand, while still communicating this in a very Heineken way. The opening for this new campaign is coming up later in the year, so watch this space!

Knowledge base: what we can learn from Heineken

  • employer branding doesn’t have to be boring and bland – there is huge scope to wow people
  • communications can be creative without losing authenticity
  • employer, product and corporate brands can reflect and reinforce each other

Ben Clark

Group Head of Talent Acquisition, Heineken

Ben Clark joined Heineken as Head of Global Talent Acquisition in September 2017 based in Amsterdam. He is responsible for global employer branding and other global talent acquisition initiatives. Previously he spent six years at Nestlé, where he initially led the UK & Ireland Talent Acquisition team, before moving to the global headquarters in Switzerland to lead talent acquisition globally. Prior to this, Ben worked for Aviva, the insurance group and, before that, as an executive search consultant in the City of London.

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