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Rethinkers: rethinking recruitment for Dyson


By Awards Analyst, writer

May 30, 2017 | 8 min read

Livity won an award for 'Social Media Strategy of the Year' at the Drum Marketing Awards 2017 for its work with client Dyson. Here the agency talks about how it transformed Dyson's recruitment strategy through an online campaign.

Executive Summary

We needed to do something big and disruptive that would appeal to elite talent and promote Dyson’s position as a global technology leader.

Our research showed that the unifying characteristic between all elite candidates is their innate competitive spirit, so we decided to challenge the brightest and best to prove that they were up to working at one of the world’s leading technology companies.

Reaching this audience required a new approach - ads on recruitment websites weren't going to cut it. We developed Rethinkers, a cryptic online challenge that pushes candidates to their limits to determine whether they are up to the task of working at Dyson. Launched exclusively through Reddit – a social platform that can be hard for brands to achieve traction with – followed by YouTube and LinkedIn, we sent potential candidates across the internet, solving puzzles for the chance to explore Dyson’s secret R&D lab, all the time engaging with the brand through social.

Due to its meteoric success over the past two decades, Dyson was experiencing an increased demand for talent. A significant portion of this involves attracting people early in their careers across all departments in its 14 offices, with roles ranging from engineers to designers, software developers to human resources.

We needed to do something big and disruptive that would appeal to elite talent and reframe Dyson as a global technology leader.

Our biggest challenge when approaching this brief was the wide diversity of skills, experience, job titles and locations we were trying to appeal to. Dyson has key attitudinal archetypes it looks for in employees but uniting those into something single-minded was challenging, and finding the people who exuded them even more so. Given the global nature of the brief and the lack of departmental focus, we needed to find a commonality between a huge spectrum of people in order to have a single-minded creative idea.

After running interviews with the relevant audience we discovered that even though they had completely different CVs and portfolios, there was one powerful hook that united every person Dyson was looking to recruit - their competitive edge. This was true across all departments, all locations, and is also baked into the Dyson spirit - Dyson is a company built on its ability to step into a category that hundreds have failed at and still manage to reinvent it. This competitive edge was true for the audience, true for the brand, and acted as our key insight for the campaign.

Dyson’s recruitment strategy up until this point had been focused on going where candidates already were - recruitment fairs, University days, and advertising on recruitment websites. We wanted to flip this on its head, and do something that would pull our audience towards us by creating a campaign that tapped into their strong competitive spirit.


Our solution - Rethinkers - was a cryptic online challenge that pushes candidates to their limits to determine whether they are up to the task of working at Dyson.

Most similar challenges revolve around technical skills - hacking, coding, encryption, or similar. Since we wanted to pull in a wide range of roles this wasn't an option for us, so we had to take a different approach.

The challenge had four key stages - the key, the maze, the journey and the lab. We kicked off with the key, a cryptic video that allowed for maximum distribution. The voiceover told the audience that Dyson had created a recruitment challenge in order to find Rethinkers, and that the winner would be allowed unprecedented access into Dyson’s secret R&D lab, as well as a private 1-2-1 with Dyson’s chief executive officer. However, instead of building a call to action or driving people to a new destination we decided to build the first clue into the video, prompting viewers to spot hidden clues throughout and build an origami cube from them. Once this was built they were taken to the Dyson LinkedIn page where the next clue awaited them.

The next three stages weaved them through different Dyson channels - YouTube, LinkedIn and the careers website - and immersed them in the world of Dyson’s recruitment. Each stage got progressively harder and tested different aspects of what was required to be a Dyson employee.

We targeted communities we identified as ‘Rethinker hubs’ where the world’s smartest and most influential people would see it - Reddit, Stack Overflow, Hacker News, The Tech Game, Hack Forums and more.

The challenge was how fickle these communities can be. Reddit in particular is incredibly hard to achieve traction with, and many brands have fallen foul to its temperamental community. We knew it would be a difficult balance, but we also knew it was key to our success, so we aimed to deliver a real value exchange by employing some key principles to engage with them:

  • Absolute transparency

    We knew how much Reddit values honesty so we went to extreme efforts to ensure everything was done transparently. We posted it from one of the key people behind the campaign’s personal account and spoke openly about our agenda.

  • Exclusivity

    Since Reddit was so key to our success we decided to take an unprecedented move and offer them the campaign a day early. Before we sent out the press release or distributed it through our owned channels we engaged with Reddit, and offered them a chance to get a day ahead of the competition.

  • Dialogue, not broadcast

    One of the biggest push backs when brands try to engage with Reddit comes when Redditors feel like they’re being taken advantage of. In order to counter that we ensured we were actively engaging with the community, and keeping them involved in every stage of the story as it unfolded.

By adhering strictly to these guiding principles we were able to do the unthinkable - not only getting our content on the front page of a major subreddit (/r/videos), but also creating a highly engaged community in our own branded subreddit - /r/rethinkers.

Once the community was created we also used media spend to target other relevant communities on the site - technology, engineering, gadgets, science, puzzles and more - and pushed them towards our community hub.

From here the content amplified out to other relevant communities through traditional PR and social media.

This campaign marked a huge shift for Dyson in its approach to identifying and engaging with new talent. Instead of targeting individuals and trying to push messages towards them, we cast a global net that would pull people towards us.

Each Rethinkers task is engineered to test ingenuity, wrong thinking and perseverance. A key part of how Dyson works is about deconstructing things, reinventing them and rethinking what came before. They are obsessive about the finer details, never leaving a stone unturned and the challenges are designed to test these traits.

We targeted communities we identified as ‘Rethinker hubs’ where the world’s smartest and most influential people would see it - reddit, Stack Overflow, Hacker News, The Tech Game, Hack Forums and more.


Rethinkers achieved both our marketing and our communication goals, and is well on track to hitting Dyson’s longer term commercial goals.

Our marketing challenge was to drive an incremental 96k people to the recruitment website as a result of the campaign. At time of writing (February 2017) we have received 62k incremental hits which represents 67% of our overall objective and has been received in under a quarter of the time frame.

Our awareness goal was to hit 1.92m media impressions. Social media analysis of organic Twitter usage revealed 8.82m potential impressions, which, based on industry standard estimations (10% audience viewership of tweets) gives us 882k estimated impressions. Rethinkers gained editorial coverage in major publications including The Telegraph and Wired, as well as international media, so through PR, we estimate 16m reach, based on daily unique users of the major publications. On YouTube we also received 73k views, all unpaid. In total, we estimate we received 16.94m media impressions, representing an over delivery of 782%.

Sentiment analysis also revealed that the campaign was overwhelmingly well received, with 75.3% positive social mentions, and less than 15% negative.

Not a hard metric, but we also found the global distribution of the winners cause for celebration. It showed that not only did this campaign have global reach, but Dyson had achieved some incredibly deep engagement with fans from all corners of the planet.

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Dyson Ltd is a British technology company established by James Dyson in 1987. It designs and manufactures household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, hand dryers,...

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