Employer branding to developers is no easy task. It's even harder when you're confined to conveying your message in a small online advertisement. You need to grab a developer's attention with only a single graphical element and a sentence or two of copy.
This year, our small creative team at trivago saw great success in our developer employer branding initiatives, taking home an award for our ‘Diwurstity’ campaign and earning a nomination for our 'Endangered Species' campaign. Since adapting the creatives of both these campaigns to our Stack Overflow banner ads, we've seen both engagement and application numbers double in a matter of months.
Here are just a few of the processes behind our successful employer branding concepts, as well as a couple examples of the ads we ran.
If you ask any creative person working in advertising, they will tell you they shudder at the phrase “data-driven creativity”. The notion that in this modern age numbers should somehow influence one’s natural ingenuity is enough to make a copywriter’s quill dry up. However, data is not the enemy, far from it. It just depends how, and more importantly when, you decide to use it.
By looking at the analytics of our campaigns, we can use our findings to pivot, tailor and optimize our creatives to keep improving performance (and we do), but creativity should always come first. If you rely too much on past data from the outset, you run the risk of missing that special piece of magic that connects with your audience and has a real shot at “virality”.
At trivago, two of our core values are “Power of Proof” and “Entrepreneurial Passion”. At first these two values sound a little conflicting, but really it just means that even though we base all of our decisions on data, no ideas are ever off the testing table. It is both liberating and judicious.
I get the pleasure of working with a variety of multi-talented designers, who all possess a data-driven mindset, yet when our project team develops any campaign, we always start with the right side of the brain (the creative) and gradually move over to the left (the logical) once the ad sets are up and running.
You know the phrase "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket"? Well, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice any eggs; just use more baskets. And by baskets, I mean concepts.
Once upon a time, the creative process was a long journey full of meetings, pitches and arguments over which creative was the best one for the job. Okay, it’s still a bit like that, only now we can have that decision made for us by thousands of people in minutes.
This is why we don’t put all the eggs in one basket, but try to run a few creatives simultaneously. Yes, it means more work at the beginning; developing different concepts, designs and copy to a high standard, but you soon find out which is going to have the biggest impact. As an added bonus, it keeps the creative team diplomatic and the bickering down to a minimum!
This will simultaneously get you results and drive you mad. By using Murphy’s Law to your advantage, the thing that you deem most throwaway will, 9 times out of ten, be the most successful.
For any campaign, try throwing in the most off-kilter thing you can, just for fun. We did that with our ‘Diwurstity’ campaign (ie. what’s the wurst that could happen?) This was silly, but it connected, because what was making us laugh at the creative table, made others giggle when they saw it. It has been by far our most successful campaign to date.
With this in mind, it’s important to not be too precious. Take pride in your work always, but that genius idea you had? Be prepared for the red herring to blow it out of the water.
Obviously as a copywriter it is my job to come up with zingers that inspire, engage and motivate the audience. But truth be told, in some cases it’s imperative to get in some outside help when crafting copy.
For a lot of our tech-heavy recruitment campaigns I worked closely with our own developers and IT experts to ensure I was speaking the right language. If I hadn’t first sought this counsel I would have been found out pretty quickly, and the ads would have invited backlash from the audience.
This was especially true in our ‘Endangered Species’ campaign, where we created creatures and stories based around specific programming skills and terms.
Don’t ‘fake it until you make it’. Make friends with it.
This is a phrase probably very familiar to many Software Engineers, and agile methodology is completely applicable to the creative process.
Speed of deployment is imperative to getting the first results so we can optimize the next iterations of the campaigns, especially when working with so many running concepts and creatives (or, baskets and eggs…)
The more “MVP creatives” we have running, the easier it is to see what the audience is responding to, and the quicker we can focus on improving and scaling the best performing. Once we have a front runner, then it’s back to my personal favourite place: the drawing board.