One of the main roles that The Page Group plays for its clients is aligning the consumers needs with the brand, but the next step is to then align the brand, brand story, and brand image throughout the organization itself. Why? Because your employee’s influence your consumers every time they interact with, and any time they connect with them. Todays consumer interacts with your brand in a multitude of ways, and your employee’s are part of that connection. So it is critical that every marketing executive make sure that you constantly engage your employees in the conversation and update them on any changes made to the brand values you wish to present to your consumers. Every touch point that the consumer has with your business must reflect the same brand message as the next. Every interaction the consumer has with your brand should be returned with a consistent brand story. The attributes of your brand must be consistent. That influences consumers and ads confidence to their relationship with you. So be sure your influencing all your employees with living the brand lifestyle when it comes to interacting with their customers…it truly will have an impact and influence the strength of your brand.
Don’t Neglect Internal Branding
Starbucks (SBUX) got a lot of press last February for shutting down each and every one of its 7,100 company-owned U.S. stores for two hours to conduct a “partner” (employee) training event. The event was, according to a news release, part of the company’s ongoing efforts to “renew its focus on the customer.”
Starbucks’ iconic founder, Howard Schultz, said of the idea, “Our unprecedented level of commitment to and investment in our people will provide them with the tools and resources they need to exceed the expectations of our customers.” Some cynics called it a publicity stunt, but I think it was a sincere initiative from a company that has long demonstrated a commitment to helping its employees live the brand.
Starbucks’ bold, store-closing move was about more than training and free press; it was a potent form of internal branding. Closing the stores sent an unmistakable message that Schultz was serious about his expectations that all 135,000 Starbucks employees deliver on the brand promise.
“Internal branding” may not be a term with which you’re familiar. It’s partly internal communications, but it goes beyond the typical staff memos and HR updates. It’s related to training, but it’s about much more than the “how” of what needs to be done. My definition of internal branding is simply having a continuous process in place by which you ensure your employees understand the “who” and “why” behind your business proposition.
The Missing Link
The longer I’m in business the more I’ve come to believe that companies that overlook internal branding are doing themselves a critical disservice. It can be the missing link between perception and reality, promise and delivery, effective marketing and positive outcomes. Yet internal branding doesn’t receive nearly the time, resources, or attention that external efforts do.
Most companies will expend a great deal of effort on their external marketing. This often includes collecting reams of research in an effort to develop intimate portraits of their target audiences. They’ll spend big bucks to gain insights into the lifestyles, attitudes, perceptions, needs, and wants that inform their prospects’ purchase decisions. Then they’ll spend even bigger bucks to leverage that knowledge into external marketing programs to attract an ever-larger number of customers
There’s just one problem. After all that effort, most companies effectively file away all that wonderful information somewhere in the vault of the marketing department. Then they wring their hands when their employees don’t deliver as promised.
Recycle That Knowledge
What if, instead, all of the brilliant insights gained in the external branding process could be ingrained in the minds of each employee? What if there were a deliberate process in place to help employees not only do the functional aspects of their jobs better but also more intimately understand those whom they serve? What if each and every employee could be enabled and equipped to be a powerful steward of the brand? What if—this is sad but all too common—employees actually had a chance to see the company’s advertising before the public did? All of it is possible, and that’s why internal branding presents such a big opportunity for improvement in most companies.
Ideally, whether a prospective customer is looking into, learning of, thinking about, or shopping for your brand—not to mention purchasing it, using it, and then reflecting on the experience—the impressions you deliver along the entire continuum should be seamlessly integrated. At many of the points along that continuum, what your employees think, say, and do has a significant impact on your success.