Why PepsiCo Refreshed Its Employer Brand

When you think of “PepsiCo,” do chips and soda come to mind? You wouldn’t be far off the mark, but there’s much more to the global food conglomerate than just Mountain Dew and Doritos. Getting this message out was the challenge awaiting PepsiCo Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition Sheila Stygar, and her team as they sought to help the company prevail in the war for talent, so PepsiCo refreshed its employer brand.

PepsiCo, believe it or not, competes directly with the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google for new hires in areas such as marketing, research and development, finance and technology. The 260,000-employee company has operations in more than 200 countries and territories and is constantly developing new products and using innovative ways to market them in the rapidly changing food-and-beverage industry, where a growing awareness of nutritional needs and the costs of obesity means relying mainly on sugar-laden products for your business could turn out to be the fast path to business extinction.

“We’re in need of critical talent to help us innovate and complete our digital transformation,” said Stygar, who delivered the closing keynote at the Human Capital Institute’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference in Miami late last week.

Stygar knew that in order to prevail in the talent wars, PepsiCo would need to redefine the way people thought about the company. “We’re much more than chips and soda, and we needed our employees to tell the story of who we are,” she said.

In addition to attracting STEM talent and millennials, PepsiCo had also set a goal for itself of achieving gender parity in its executive ranks by 2025. Stygar and her team decided that in order to make the company an attractive destination for such talent, they first needed to understand what’s important to them. They conducted polls and interviews with 15,000 people in 15 different countries to determine not only what mattered most to them, but what their perception was of PepsiCo’s ability to deliver on that.

The insights gleaned from this research revealed that PepsiCo needed to better explain the breadth and scope of its products and to help potential candidates understand what it’s like to work at the company.

“We learned that people were looking for a dynamic place to work with lots of camaraderie,” said Stygar. “We knew we could deliver on that, we just needed to create the awareness.”

Her team came up with a number of slogans to reach this market: “PepsiCo sits at the nexus of business and pop culture.” “An entrepreneur’s mindset plus the reach and resources of PepsiCo.” “At PepsiCo, you’ll learn twice as much in half the time.”

Next, they conducted research to validate that such messages would resonate with the target audience. At least 20 percent said they’d be more likely to consider PepsiCo as a result of these messages, said Stygar.

The team settled on two headlines that would serve as the focal points for PepsiCo’s new recruitment marketing strategy: “What Makes You Unique Makes Us Better” and “Your Talent, Our Stage.” These messages were translated into 18 different languages, Stygar said.

The new campaign was rolled out to internal employees first, she said. “You can’t lose sight of the fact that you need to re-recruit your internal talent, to reignite that emotional connection they have with the company.”

This was also critical for ensuring employees would serve more effectively as brand ambassadors, said Stygar. They were asked to update their social-media profiles to showcase some of the cool projects they were working on, such as helping with the logistics at events such as the SuperBowl and the X Games, as well as the company’s extensive involvement with local charities.

Stygar also relaunched its social-media channels to reflect the new messaging, and her team partnered with other departments in creating videos that highlighted the interesting and dynamic work the company was doing. “Scrappiness and creativity made this happen–we didn’t have a massive budget for creating these videos, so we did a lot of internal partnering,” she said.

The team also highlighted PepsiCo programs such as “Ready to Return,” in which people who’ve taken extended leaves of absence from the workplace in order to care for a loved one can apply for a 10-week internship-style program in which they update their skills and receive mentoring and coaching to help ease their reentry to the workforce. About 80 percent of the program’s participants receive job offers from PepsiCo after completing the program, said Stygar.

“We had a special ceremony for all the folks who completed the program, and there was not a dry eye in the house after they spoke,” she said.

PepsiCo’s refreshed employer brand is still relatively new but the company is already seeing good results, said Stygar. She advised other companies interested in enhancing their employer brand to, first, “understand what the perception of your brand is on the streets.” Then, find out what it is the people whom you’re targeting are looking for in an employer and determine whether you can deliver on that.

Finally, she said, “don’t forget to re-recruit your internal employees–they can be your most valuable partners on this journey.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.