Stories of design across all media


Making Genentech the Place to Work

A company is only as successful as its workforce. So when Genentech, a leading biotechnology firm, wanted to make their recruitment campaign more appealing to top talent, they needed a message that would distinguish them from other high-profile employers in the science and technology fields.

To help them achieve that objective, they brought in San Francisco branding and design firm Iron Creative. Creating a message that reflected the brand—and differentiated Genentech from its competitors – was of utmost importance, says John Walsh, owner and creative director of copy for Iron Creative. “We think of recruitment as a brand problem because ultimately if the recruitment campaign is not reflecting the brand, then you’re losing all differentiation.” Led by design directors Lindsey Selden and Dave Caraker, Iron Creative set out to create a campaign that made Genentech stand out from the crowd.


Conveying the Value
One of the first objectives of the campaign was to show why someone would want to work for Genentech rather than another science and technology company. While some firms tout perks such as telecommuting and free ice cream, Genentech’s strength is in its mission. The company has a passion for solving real problems, Walsh says. “They are doing that hard – sometimes unrewarding – work that needs to be done in science to really change lives.” Working in such an environment would be appealing for someone who is looking to make a difference in the world.

The campaign also had to be memorable enough to appeal to those who might be happily employed today, so they would remember it when they woke up tired of their job and were ready to embark on a more meaningful career journey.

Finally, the campaign’s message had to be broad enough so that it would resonate with any person who might potentially work for the company. In other words, you don’t have to be a researcher to make a difference.

“If you’re working in IT or you’re working in accounting, you are contributing in a real way on a daily basis to changing the lives of millions of patients who at the moment have no hope,” Walsh says. “That key insight gave a real backbone to this campaign by tying each department back to that core message.”


A Creative Approach to Storytelling
Since the campaign consisted of a variety of different elements, from signage to digital to print, Iron Creative sought a way to ensure consistency. “We built a massive brand guideline book. In that guide are instructions for creating anything that would need to be produced,” Walsh says.

One way they differentiated the campaign from other pharmaceutical advertising was by making the bold decision to take people out of the equation. Instead of featuring images of people in the advertising, they used objects from employees’ offices and patients’ lives to tell Genentech’s story.

For example, one ad might feature a microscope and a baseball. The microscope would represent the tools being used in the lab that is working on the breakthrough medical science that is helping a little boy get back out on the baseball field. Another ad might feature pencils or a calculator to show that every employee at Genentech plays a critical role in the company’s life-transforming mission. For those who prefer a more traditional approach to storytelling, the campaign also makes use of descriptive copy, “so there is a nice high-level read,” Walsh says.


The mark of a successful campaign is its ability to make an impact on its intended audience. In the case of the Genentech campaign:

  • 81% of pharmaceutical job seekers surveyed during the campaign period said they were ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘very likely’ to apply for a job with Genentech in the future.
  • 93% of employees and job seekers said the ads made them believe that working at Genentech would let them realize their career ambitions.
  • Campaign ads shown on Facebook had an 86% greater click-through-rate than the average pharmaceutical ad in the same period.

Thanks to the campaign, potential hires know how they can be part of Genentech’s important mission. “Recruitment campaigns need to put the brand first just like any other advertising,” Walsh says. “The numbers prove that out.”




Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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