Creating an employer brand

With more than 25 businesses under one virtual roof, Disney ABC needed to establish one voice that would resonate with everyone — from network and cable television to production and book publishing. It had to be broad enough to connect its employees at all levels, yet flexible enough to be tailored by business
or geography. Disney ABC needed to find
 the common thread that would both engage and inspire the workforce and attract top talent in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

At the time, the competitive recruitment landscape was a real concern. The lines were continually blurring between entertainment and technology. From a recruitment and retention perspective, this meant the market for talent was becoming increasingly competitive. No longer were traditional entertainment companies the sole competitors. Now technology-savvy companies like Google and Netflix were equally legitimate competitors. In the face of this war for talent, Disney ABC needed to recruit the smartest and brightest and retain top talent. Sitting on the sidelines without a clear voice wasn’t an option.

Our aim was to find a common thread to engage employees across highly diverse business units and foster a competitive edge in the talent marketplace. From the get go, there was no illusion of ease. Our client shared that some folks in the company believed the task was impossible. The creation of an “employer brand” had been attempted unsuccessfully on the corporate level twice before. But, we’d worked with Heather, the VP of HR Communications at the time, earlier in our history. She was spearheading the project and was determined to prove the odds wrong.

Teaser Campaign

We were charged with the task of developing the brand platform, and were asked to:

  • Find the common thread between the business units and ABC and Disney.
  • Generate fresh creative content, avoiding conventional approaches and accurately reflecting the culture of the organization.
  • Tell a credible story in a tight-knit industry with a clear awareness of the brand’s past as well as its present.
  • Differentiate the DATG employment brand from others at a time when competition for top talent was more intensive than ever.
  • Attract candidates who exemplify the qualities valued and celebrated by the Disney ABC culture. 
  • Speak to a global mindset.

“When we first embarked on this campaign a lot of people told me it frankly wasn’t possible, and I refused to believe it. I told Baker ‘people are saying we can’t accomplish this. Now let’s see what we can do.’”

Heather Rim
Former Vice President, HR Communications, Disney ABC Television Group

Revealing the common threads

To immerse ourselves in the organization’s unique challenge, we rolled up our sleeves and got deep, researching and asking questions. During this process, we referred to:

  • Stacks of background materials provided by Disney ABC
  • Interview transcripts from 30 interviews we conducted with leading executives and managers
  • 3,500 responses to Disney ABC’s employee survey
  • Validation and direction from key members of the Disney ABC Marketing, HR and Communications teams

Our extensive research served a couple of goals. One — we needed to create a solution that truly resonated and stood the test of time. That required a lot of rigor and open-mindedness to connect the dots. Two — the only way the brand would stick across such a wide organization was through awareness and buy-in. Interviews and surveys enabled stakeholders and employees at all levels to have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Whatever the solution, this initial participation would encourage them to engage in the outcome more fully.

Brand platform

Building the blueprint

From our insights and findings, we arrived at a platform that served as a blueprint for the core employer brand idea, voice and look-and-feel. It distilled the essence of what connected the company’s employees across geography and business units: a passionate commitment to creating and delivering innovative, quality content. The central idea or value proposition described current and future employees’ deep connection with their work, their colleagues, the company and the global community through the content they created.

We explored the essential building blocks within the platform, including the cultural strengths, brand essence, employment brand key strengths, positioning, promise and personality profile. We fleshed out the details of each of these for Disney ABC, explaining the layers of insight and takeaways moving forward. Collectively these attributes would inform the expression of the brand story across all media.

Brand expression

Designing the look-and-feel

To mobilize the brand, we developed an integrated program that supported employee and recruitment communication needs. The new look-and-feel combined key elements from the Disney and ABC brands with a new design ingredient: silhouettes. This visual element served as a universal symbol for every employee and provided a flexible canvas to showcase each group’s distinct product offerings. Merging each division’s programming imagery with silhouettes reinforced the company’s value proposition and promise to employees — that they can make an impact and become part of something larger than themselves.



Shaping the rally cry

Next, we needed to give the brand a rallying cry. We worked with Disney ABC to shape a tagline based upon our research. After its introduction in one of our meetings, “Create what’s next” stuck. The tagline resonated so deeply that Disney ABC President Anne Sweeney began using it long before the official brand launch. She even went on to create her own personal extensions of the tagline — “the next memory, the next story, the next big idea.” During an interview with Fast Company, Anne described it as the company’s “unspoken mantra.” It aligned with Disney ABC’s value proposition and championed the creation of cutting-edge content for a highly competitive, media-savvy market.


“What matters is you experience (life) as if you could not fail. It speaks to big dreams, innovation, challenging yourself and pushing to create what’s next.

Anne Sweeney
President, Disney/ABC Television Group and Co-chair Disney Media Networks; in Fast Company
Internal launch

Inspiring internal teams

For the internal launch, we aimed to inspire employees and business units alike to take ownership of the tagline and interpret it for their unique situation. Everyone was invited to discover and “create what’s next” — creatively, professionally and personally. We collaborated with marketing directors of the different divisions to identify each group’s “next” product offerings. Each division’s interpretation of the tagline specific to their work made it real and personal. We created posters reflecting these unique interpretations; they highlighted a cross section of programming: prime time, news, ABC Family, Disney Channel and daytime. The posters were instrumental in breaking through organizational silos. With words defined directly by the departments, these posters connected the distinct business units authentically.


Touch point development

Designing different touch points

As we moved forward, we shaped many touch points including:

Culture video

Perhaps the greatest expression of bringing the brand to life, this video captured the company’s energy and passion, directly featuring voices of employees. Watch video at top.

Culture guide

An online brochure intended for both internal and external audiences celebrated the company’s heritage, breakthrough achievements and transformative role in the media industry.

Culture guide

Recruitment campaign

A recruitment brochure, series of postcards, recruitment fair booth graphics, recruitment website and extended culture video all challenged prospective employees to find and create their own opportunities at Disney ABC.

Recruitment ad
Recruitment website
Recruitment t-shirt
Recruitment trade show booth

Human resources campaign

Touch points specifically for HR educated employees on the depth of untapped resources HR could provide, inspiring them to take advantage of these resources.

Human resources lightboard poster
Human resources brochure

Breaking new ground

This project allowed us to walk the line between pride in work and humility in relationships. We had to be driven enough to take on the challenge to begin with and open-minded enough to listen to our client’s feedback along the journey, altering our approach to those needs. In the end, we got to celebrate alongside our client.

The employer brand was embraced company-wide and worldwide, and we received positive feedback across many levels. The SVP was so pleased with the video that he shared it with the CEO who went on to describe it as “simply fantastic” and shared the work with the board. Positive employee comments rolled in about various expressions of the brand, and we received industry recognition through a feature in the Society for Human Resource Management’s publication.

In our eyes, this was such a rewarding partnership, working with others to move beyond business as usual and raise the bar in the workplace. As a team, we found this project exciting and something to be proud of. At its onset, we had been told it was impossible. At its close, we could celebrate the excitement and success, truly breaking ground within such a major organization.



Disney uses employer brand to inspire creativity

NEW YORK — How do you create an employee brand that respects the Disney heritage — dating back to the 1920s — while resonating with a group of global employees ranging from those who produce soap operas and kids’ shows to hardened media types at ABC News? Read article.

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