How Coca-Cola Europe is managing its employer brand


The concept of employer brand emerged in the 1990’s as a way to help organisations drive greater commitment from its employees and get those that they were competing for in the human capital marketplace. Since then, the concept has become the holy grail of HR professionals, but does this still hold true in the current economic climate?

Not long ago, a job at the UK retailer Woolworths was viewed as safe employment with a reliable employer. A role at Lehman Brothers was an enviable job among graduates. But everything has been turned on its head. Organisations once viewed as bedrocks of the economy are disappearing at a blink of an eye.

So should companies be concerned about their employer brand or is it dead as a concept? That was the question asked by SAS Design at the end of May. The morning seminar that took place in London was a chance for HR and communication professionals to meet their peers and hear how one of the largest organisations in the world is tackling employer branding.

Coca-Cola Europe Group employs approximately 1,600 Company associates who work with European bottler employees numbering more than 60,000 employees. It recently embarked on an employer brand refresh supported by SAS. Led by Stephen Mulvenna, Talent Manager of Coca-Cola Europe, the business objectives of refreshing its employer brand was to recruit and retain high potential talent in a consistent and more proactive and direct manner across Europe. A reduction of recruitment spend and moving away from each country having its own HR site were also aims of the refresh.

Know thy employee and your competitors

The project started with research – both internally and externally. The internal research covered 25% of Coca-Cola Europe’s total population and consisted of a questionnaire, focus groups and in-depth interviews with senior leaders. Externally, the company-conducted interviews with ‘hard-to-source’ candidates to get under the skin of the precious would be employees that leading companies fight tooth and nail to get. No research would be complete without and assessment of the closest rivals, and a comprehensive competitor analysis was also high on the list in the research phase of the project. The aim here was to get a better understanding of what type of packages the company’s competitors were offering staff.

Some perception busting findings emerged from the research, particularly the value employees placed against autonomy, innovation and flexibility in their roles, which were much higher than the amount that new hires and headhunters thought.

From the research, the challenge Coca-Cola Europe’s employer brand needed to meet was representing an iconic global brand for a multicultural European audience while accurately reflecting the employee experience plus responding to the external perceptions of the organisation.

To meet the challenge, the following brand statement was coined and played an integral part of the project moving forward: “There is no single formula for passion; what defines The Coca?Cola Company’s people is the ability to convert their passion into action. It’s how they push the world’s greatest brands to new heights. What’s your secret formula?”

Coke 3Recipe for success

The formula element was to play a central role in the company’s employer brand. One of the first places to feel the changes was Coca-Cola Europe’s recruitment website. Under the new branding, the main part of the site is the stories of Coca-Cola employees from around Europe – talking about their role and journeys they have taken within the company. As well as potential job applicants watching what working at Coca-Cola Europe can entail, there is also a quick questionnaire people can take to see how suited they are to the working environment of the company.

Hand in hand with the website came online and offline advertising highlighting the different formulas needed to be both successful in a particular role and when doing the work. Another important part of the new employer brand jigsaw was the recruitment agency toolkit, featuring updated designs and information. This was circulated to all Coca-Cola Europe’s recruitment agencies, and detailed the Employer Value Proposition and how it should be positioned to potential employees to ensure that the best-suited candidates were sourced. As so much of the brand proposition hinges on the formula format, a thorough set of brand guidelines was produced for designers to reference.

Capping off the refresh

The employer brand refresh is viewed as a success within Coca-Cola Europe and several exciting steps are now planned including the implementation of a social media element, an employee referral programme and the launch of an onboarding extranet. The biggest next step however is the global roll out of the programme to other regions.

Loud and clear from the event came the message that employer branding is not dead. On the contrary a good reputation as an employer can help a company through tough times.

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