Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M understood that putting a face to the company was a way to personalize the interaction with consumers and potential employees and make people want to interface with such a large multinational organization. Predating Combo’s relationship with H&M, the company had established Place of Possible, a brand centered on the employee experience. After years of a singular interpretation, however, H&M recognized the need to breathe new life into the employee brand with a full update.
In its original iteration, Place of Possible took an aspirational point of view of the employee experience. Through employee interviews, Combo strategists learned that if you only talk about the positives and ignore the negatives, it takes away the pride people take in their jobs. From this insight, Combo’s proposal was for Place of Possible to become far more realistic, leaving room to acknowledge the large amount of work and long hours of working in the dynamic, constantly changing environment of fashion. Reframing the employee experience this way provided a richer narrative than simply focusing on the good, and was aligned with the company’s career growth path: Because of the high rate of promotion from within, most senior executives were retail employees who grew into leadership.
Place of Possible had always used images of employees rather than models, and while this was effective at showing everyday people as an extension of the company, they were all styled to fit within a particular aesthetic. In reality, H&M employed people who expressed a wide range of styles, from punk rock to buttoned-up and everything in between. So, to capture this diversity, Combo took a come-as-you-are, piercings-and-all approach. The team selected and showcased employees from all over the country (and, in later years of the project, even the world), inviting them to flaunt their unique personal style and adding a professional stylist’s touch.
The Combo design team created a robust library of original marketing assets, enabling many applications of the images as well as videos. A new typeface was created in the style of a handwritten font. Copywriting leveraged real quotes from employee interviews that were paired with the expressive portraiture and bright patterns. H&M was able to create a host of marketing material that engaged the target audience and was even found to outperform the main H&M brand work, successfully communicating the benefits — career advancement, good salaries, being part of a fun and creative work environment — of being an H&M employee.