Employer Branding

4 Marketing Strategies Recruiters Can Learn From the Luxury Auto Industry

Recruitment Marketing is the hot term in Talent Acquisition (TA) today, but in truth, the challenges we have in TA are significantly harder than what most marketing groups face. Selling a $10 product online to a million people isn’t exactly the same thing as finding, interviewing and hiring one Director of IT at a Fortune 100 company, is it?

But still, there are lessons to be learned from our marketing brethren, and a more apples-to-apples comparison actually exists with the luxury automobile industry. Let’s examine that.

1. Embrace the decision factor

There are largely three major life decisions that people choose to make – buying a house, buying a car and changing jobs. Buying a car is a decision that is not taken lightly and could have financial and life-changing impacts (do I want that minivan or two-door coupe?). Changing jobs is no different, and in fact, is the most life-altering in that it affects your every-day happiness (the people you work with, your boss, work responsibilities, location change, salary, etc.).

  • How do luxury automakers attack this? In general, luxury automakers understand that buying a new car is a big decision, and they embrace that. They set out with intention to build a defined buyer journey that incorporates the elements listed below at different stages along that buying process. In an oversimplified explanation, it looks something like this: The initial pitch is to lead with their brand; a softer, less-in-your-face approach that begins to build awareness and desire. Their mid-stage approach leverages buyer attraction methods through a combination of paid advertising, strong social media content and dealer relationships. And, when the buyer is ready, the last stage typically includes a more aggressive sales approach with financial incentives and discounts.
  • What can TA learn from this? Understand how job seekers could mirror the buying cycle outlined above. Lean heavily upfront on brand positioning (see below) while you build a relationship with those passive candidates. Then, when the right opportunity opens up, you should be able to know which levers to pull to play matchmaker. Automakers also use a host of financial incentives in their approach. Could you do the same (like a sign-on bonus or offering to cover relocation costs)? Perhaps, but since you’ve built that relationship all along, you’ll also know what else that candidate values. Understanding that not everyone is ready to “buy now” (i.e., change jobs) will help you down the line when both parties are eventually ready.

2. Prioritize the brand

Marketers in this industry understand the value of branding, so they leverage their brands early on to build followership and evangelists. The cars (and jobs) we offer can be very similar to our competitors’, so what differentiates them? Usually, it’s an emotional appeal. The feeling the individual gets while driving and living the brand.

  • How do luxury automakers attack this? They place a heavier focus in ads on their branding and the emotional attachment to the car and company. How do you feel when you drive our car? What status does it give you (i.e., what will people think about you)? Does it give you peace of mind and trust in our safety record?

Mercedes Benz and Tesla have done good work in this area.


Watch it again, and LISTEN to what they emphasize and pay attention to the feel of the commercial. Feel the speed? Feel the intensity? They even say “it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the feeling, the emotion.”

  • What can TA learn from this? A lot. In many instances, our recruiters focus on the detailed job responsibilities instead of the emotional attachments of work and/or the company. So, first, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and understand what her motivations are (see below) and what kinds of things might be playing out in his mind. Why should he really work there (and don’t lead with money). Second, as organizations, we need to do a better job of telling emotional stories as part of our Employer Brand. What’s your mission? WHY do people work there? What will people feel when they say “I work for that company.” Pride? Or embarrassment? Like the automakers, TA leaders should be sharing those emotionally appealing stories more frequently.

3. Understand the audience

You will never be any good at selling anything – a car or a job – if you do not understand your audience. Luxury automakers spend a great deal of time and money on this one important aspect alone.

  • How do luxury automakers attack this? They build deep buyer personas and segment their audience. For example, one segment could be based on age and economic buying power (i.e. money) but these brands still target that segment. Mercedes-Benz, Lexus & BMW all offer “entry” models that appeal to that younger subset and once these buyers are part of the “family,” the automaker changes the message over time to encourage them to upgrade within the brand they know (and hopefully love). This group can also become a baseline for the user-generated content outlined in # 4 below.
  • What can TA learn from this? Not all job seekers are the same, and not all of your open reqs are the same either. Build your candidate personas yes, but also examine how your communications to those groups should be different. Map it out and make sure you clearly understand the different motivations each group has. And please, don’t forget your current employee base as a segment (hello, career growth?).

4. Leverage influencer marketing & the court of public opinion

What do you think of when you hear a car salesman yelling into a commercial really fast “we’ve got GREAT cars! Come down to our lot TODAY and BUY BUY BUY!” It’s a used car salesman’s pitch, right? Now contrast that with the luxury brands and think of the different ways they encourage you to consider their car.

  • How do luxury automakers attack this? They realize that THEM telling you about their fantastic car isn’t going to convince you; but your FRIEND’S recommendation might. The auto guys have done a fantastic job of using content marketing, and in particular user-generated content, in their efforts to lure you towards becoming a brand enthusiast. They rely much more heavily on social media and YouTube than TV, and enlist plenty of influencer marketing in their efforts. They lead with strong brand content and widely distribute through paid (and organic) social. See examples from Jaguar, Audi and BMW (check the fan engagement and comments on these pages).

Tesla also started strong in this realm, and has almost created a cult following in the process. They’ve made user forums and their driver community a key part of their brand experience. Tesla marketing highlights the unique Tesla buying and ownership experience and encourages owners to interact with the company, and each other, in public. This provides a rich base of content — and owner passion — on view for prospective buyers.

  • What can TA learn from this? Opinions matter, and people talk. What would your own employees say about your company? Just look at Glassdoor for a better idea. If it’s positive, leverage that within your Employer Branding, Recruitment Marketing efforts and employee referral campaigns. And if it’s negative? Well, now you know what to fix.

By it’s very nature, luxury automotive marketing has its sights set on the longer sell, which more resembles how Talent Acquisition should appeal to its job seekers. Through strong branding, a deep understanding of its audience, user-generated content and a strong social media strategy, many of these brands have found marketing success.

There could be much to emulate here for those of us in Talent Acquisition and Recruitment Marketing.

By Adam Glassman

With a depth of experience in Recruitment Marketing, Employer Branding, Social and Digital Recruitment Strategies, Adam Glassman is on a mission to transform Talent Acquisition. Connect with him on LinkedIn and join the battle.