Brian Wilkinson, CEO
Matchtech Group is the parent company of several leading recruitment brands. The group operates internationally and has an annual turnover in excess of £500 million.
The end goal
Since its formation in 1984, Matchtech Group has grown into a leading player in the recruitment market. This growth had been driven by creating, and latterly acquiring, several brands each of which was focussed on a particular market niche. Adopting this ‘house of brands’ strategy brought a number of benefits, especially the opportunity for each brand to build a stronger identity and position itself as a specialist.
However, Matchtech Group’s management team also saw the potential downside. Maintaining several distinct brands multiplied marketing costs, reduced group cohesion, may have caused confusion and failed to leverage the power of the parent brand. As such, alternative brand architectures were being evaluated. Perhaps it would be better to adopt a ‘master branding’ strategy where the parent brand is used with service descriptors? Or maybe it would be more effective to take an ‘endorsed’ approach where sub-brands remain but are augmented by the parent brand?
Whilst Matchtech Group’s management team could make a decision based on careful evaluation of the pros and cons of each option, they knew that the best route would only become clear once they understood the target market’s point-of-view:
- What does the target market want a recruitment brand to stand for?
- What meaning do they attach to each brand in the Matchtech Group family?
- How strong an attachment do they have with each brand?
- What relationship, if any, can they see between the brands?
This was Circle’s brief – to uncover brand perceptions and, on the basis of this, make recommendations about the optimum brand architecture.
To identify the optimum brand architecture, it’s essential to understand the views of all key stakeholder groups. This will ensure that the brand has 360-degree appeal and reflects the true essence of the organisation. With this in mind we designed a research programme which canvassed the views of three audiences:
- A series of in-depth, hour long interviews were held with Matchtech Group’s clients
- A structured online survey was conducted with more than 1,200 candidates
- Interviews with Matchtech Group’s management team
As ‘brand’ is an abstract concept it was critical that these engagements probed beyond superficial responses and really got under the skin of this issue. This led us to employ several techniques designed to elicit people’s true thoughts and feelings such as projective techniques to delve into the ‘personality’ the brands.
The research revealed three critical findings.
- ‘Industry knowledge’ is just as important as ‘recruitment knowledge’. The unique nature of different industry sectors and professions means that a recruiter needs to intimately understand this environment if they are to find and place the best candidates. Clients and candidates want to work with a specialist.
- A shared culture is key. It also became clear that clients and candidates highly value the personal relationships they have with individual recruitment consultants. Moreover, they recognised that the way these individuals behaved was a reflection of the culture and values of the wider brand.
- The Group has strengths that should be utilised. Whilst the power of individual brands was clear, the value in the Group brand was also recognised. The Group was seen to bring strength, resources, and most importantly, shared best practice between brands.
These findings led us to suggest that Matchtech Group retain their ‘house of brands’ approach, but augment this by increasing the visibility and role of the group brand. Each individual brand would retain its own identity, but Matchtech Group would create a unifying culture across the brands, actively spreading best practice, learnings and market-wide insights.
The business outcome
Matchtech Group remains a ‘house of brands’ and continues to thrive. Their brand architecture has also been invaluable in Matchtech Group’s acquisition of Networkers International, a specialist ICT and engineering recruiter. From day one Networkers International was able to fit neatly into the wider family whilst maintaining existing brand equity and goodwill.