What does Coca-Cola teach us? Sell the Lifestyle. Don’t Sell the Drink. Millennial Recruiting and Retention Lessons from the World of Advertising.


It’s a well-established fact that in many first world countries there is currently a severe skills shortage. In my last blog, Why Brexit will create an even worse serious skills crisis in the UK – but could also create new opportunities longer-term, I broke out the real world facts of this crisis in the U.K. jobs market.

As such, organizations now need to take on more refined, able and focused hiring mechanisms to fill roles. The rise of employer-focused social media sites such as Glassdoor have added a further level of complexity to the game, with employer reputation now more important than ever.  

So what does this mean for organizations out there trying to lure in and keep top performing Millennials? Well if the literature available is to be believed, you would have to include mobile and social enablement in your hiring practice that allows for one-touch functionality in processes including application and calendar coordination. While this is a great starting point, unfortunately it’s where many recruiters stop in their approach to Millennials.

Too often, Millennials are defined purely by the channels by which they engage the world.

This is a drastic over simplification of our generation and one that seems to miss the key point. This is a young generation roughly aged between 22 – 39 years of age. People in this age bracket, especially at the lower end, are in the first stages of establishing their position in the world regarding fashion, subculture and ideals. Why don’t recruiters appeal to this key element?

Consider some of the leading consumer brands in the world, Coca-Cola, Levi, Pepsi, Guess, American Express, Ralph Lauren. What do their (extremely successful) marketing campaigns all have in common? They very rarely sell a product, but rather they sell a lifestyle. Just think of Coca-Cola’s annual Christmas advertisements.

So why aren’t large organizations, desperate (or should be) for Millennial talent, doing the same in their hiring strategies?

I have friends who work in top end digital marketing agencies, working for some of the most visible brands in the world, who put out one-line job adds on LinkedIn that link back to a bland job description on a blank landing page. No wonder they can’t fill roles with the right people.

Companies need to market roles to Millennials that sell a lifestyle, not just a job description.

So what can organizations do in this regard?

Firstly, the marketing content behind a recruitment campaign needs to be on point, including images and language that speak to the lifestyle one would associate with working for the company. Put simple job descriptions in context and focus on the type of person (such as personality, interests, style, etc.) that succeeds in this role.

Secondly, internal company structures need to match this lifestyle. Organizations need to consider dress code, desk arrangement, hierarchical structure and internal silo’s making sure these match the lifestyle portrayed.

Thirdly, location, location, location. These are young people and at the younger end of the spectrum, many won’t commute in from any great distance. Therefore, office location needs to be attractive and also fit the lifestyle portrayed. Selling a young, hip, urban image can be challenging when your offices are based in Chipping Norton…

Overall, organizations need to better align with the candidates they are targeting. A focus on lifestyle is something the advertising industry has been doing for years and an area where hiring strategies need to catch up.

Posted in : HR Strategy


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