Small companies tend to have an easier time merging marketing and HR, largely because managers are used to wearing multiple hats and the CEO or owner is in a better position to make sure his managers are cooperating. That was the case at Red 5 Studios, a video game company based in Aliso Viejo, California. CEO and founder Mark Kern had had horrible luck with traditional recruiting techniques, in part because his venture-backed company was still in stealth mode and hadn’t yet released a game. Though at his previous job Kern led the team at Blizzard Entertainment that created the wildly popular World of Warcraft games, he couldn’t get top programmers to submit resumés and had no luck posting want ads on online job boards. “It was hard to communicate anything about our company in a way that stood out from the other guys,” says Kern.
So Kern decided to dedicate himself to creating an employer brand. He identified the 100 workers in the game industry whom he most wanted to hire and sent them each a special package in the mail. The package contained a box, with a smaller box inside of it, with an even smaller box inside of it, and so on, like a Russian nesting doll. At the center of the smallest box was an iPod Shuffle. On the iPod, Kern had recorded a personal message describing why it was worth applying for a job at Red 5. “At Red 5 we’re assembling a team of incredibly talented individuals dedicated to pushing the envelope in online entertainment,” the recording said.