Monday, February 22, 2016

Branding and Employees


Working for international brands or as a business consultant I have come across several organizations that focus their branding efforts on marketing activities such as advertising campaigns and packaging billions are spent each year on such activities, yet an essential part is often neglected one of the most powerful brand assets your company has is the people inside these organizations and how they deliver the brand promise.

Research studies have shown us time and again that what most influences how customers and external stakeholders think and feel about a company is their interactions with it. Brands extend far beyond a logo or an advertising campaign, they are the very core or DNA of the company and every touch point between the customer and the company which needs to reinforce what the brand stands for.

Branding is about people. People build brands. People buy brands. The relationship, at first glance, is a simple one—build a good brand and others will buy it. At the heart of this relationship, however, is another group of people, that of the employees. It is the employees who enact the attributes of the brand and whose actions ultimately foster customer experience—whether good or bad. Staff actions should reinforce the promises a brand makes to its customers. If wisely conducted, this reinforcement breeds more success in terms of sales, awareness and loyalty. Employees have the formidable task of demonstrating the brand by the actions they take. The adage actions speak louder than words is a truth that holds firm in the process of building successful brands.

If employee are not being inspired to be ambassadors of the brand, most likely the organization is missing out. According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. 41% of us believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.” When a customer interacts with one of the frontline employees, or with the work produced by behind-the-scenes employees, everything being done from PR and marketing departments will be put to the test.

The relationship between employees and customers is—or at least should be—genuine, two-way and sincere. What is displayed on the outside to the world should be a reflection of the activities of the internal organization. For this reason, internal brand management should not be limited to providing training materials/programs only. Instead, it should be the creed by which the whole organization chooses to live and breathe. Internal activities should always support the customer experience sought. 

Therefore, brand management efforts must be focused inside the organization as much as, and possibly more than, they are externally. The key is to provide staff with appropriate tools, allowing them to be the strategy and live the brand.

A clear brand strategy provides the clarity that employees needs to be successful. It tells them how to behave, how to win, and how to meet the organization's goals. Regardless of which industry building a strong brand requires that all employees feel connected to the corporate brand and understand their role in turning brand aspirations into reality thus creating a culture and processes representing the brand.

Organizations with great corporate brands do five things well:

1. Their brand has a clear vision and values understood and believed in by all
2. Have employees who enthusiastically and tirelessly deliver what the brand promises
3. Make sure that all activities are aligned to the brand including recruitment, induction, training, communication, reward and recognition, processes and culture
4. Leaders and managers ‘live the brand’ through their behavior – it’s not just rhetoric

5. They measure brand awareness, understanding and delivery, internally and externally.