Employees must be living embodiments of the brand promise.
A zen philosopher once told me, “The brand is the organization and the organization is the brand.” Yes, we are all one. But let’s not join hands and sing just yet. Developing and protecting your brand takes work. It’s a promise to your customers. And it will all go down the drain if you don’t ask yourself this critical question: Why would customers and prospects believe your brand promise if it isn’t conveyed by your company’s employees?
The external branding work may be the most fun and get the most exposure. But internal branding must be given equal love and attention. When your employees truly embrace the brand, and communicate it to your customers, prospects, and partners through their actions, the brand grows stronger. It will also help you attract top talent.
Internal branding is deeply connected to company culture. Your goal is to focus employees on driving business success through behaviors that support the brand. It’s more than showing your employees your new ad campaign, or giving everyone a hat with the new slogan on it. You must develop brand champions.
So how do you go about it?
Automotive suppliers will understand this next point. You need quality components to put in place. You need a plan, and a process to get everyone on the same page, and understand there’s something in it for every employee. Make sure every employee knows the brand values they’re expected to reinforce, how they contribute to the company’s success, and how they will be rewarded for that effort.
It starts with senior leadership. You can’t delegate this to middle management. It’s a sequential process: communication, understanding, commitment, adopting behaviors. That’s the only path to success.
All together now.
It has to incorporate every part of the company. Every employee has the power to influence brand perceptions. It doesn’t matter if they’re not directly interacting with customers because they are interacting, and potentially influencing, colleagues who are in constant contact.
Take a full accounting of every customer touch point. Yes, they see your advertising. They also speak to your call center. Meet with salespeople. Receive statements and invoices. These are just a few of the opportunities to reinforce the brand.
Limit the number of brand pillars. Determine no more than a handful of key brand components that everyone can understand and repeat on a daily basis that will guide their behavior. Wal-Mart has five: Caring, Authentic, Innovative, Straightforward, Optimistic. Keep the language simple. Here’s how Wal-Mart defines Authenticity: We’re everyday people like our customers.
Happiness comes from within.
Internal branding has significant benefits. Studies have shown when it’s practiced and embraced by employees, they feel more connected to the company, morale is higher, they exhibit greater loyalty and, most importantly for your bottom line, they make customers happy. Now that’s something we can all join hands and sing about.