The aim of marketing has long been to carry the brand message to the public.
This is not done for altruistic reasons but to simply entice them to buy the
product or service that you sell. But did you know that your brand is
carried by your people as much as by your marketing?
A few years ago, the management mantra ""If you take care of your employees,
they will take care of your customers" appeared out of the customer service
function leading to new development in internal branding. Interestingly, the
marketing function did not follow-suit straight away and has only recently
started to engineer internal marketing strategies to ensure that employees
are well versed in the brand attributes and values.
What is it?
Internal branding, internal marketing, internal communications…call it what
you will. In the end, it's all about making sure your employees are brand
advocates. Brand advocacy goes beyond being courteous to the first customer
in the morning. It's about being fanatic about the brand, otherwise, it's
just a job. And that's where the problem lies, for many of your employees,
it's just a job. One they could easily give-up for another offering them a
5% salary increase.
Internal branding is not about building loyalty even though it's one of the
side benefits. It's not about managing to retain your best employees, it's
about developing a marketing story so compelling that people want to work
for you and those who do, carry themselves with pride and honor. Now, your
marketing story can never be a lie. Building your business on a promise you
can't deliver is the surest way to fail. It has to be real and believable by
both your customers and employees. And the latter can be more difficult than
Most marketing stories are written for customers often making the company's
employees smile and joke about the ‘story.' Is yours written in a way that
your employees believe? And would they tell you if they did not?
So your brand is a story. A story you tell both your internal and external
Why do you need to focus on Internal Branding?
Seen in this light, it's easy to understand why you should develop your
internal branding strategy. The benefits are tremendous: better informed
employees potentially becoming happier with their jobs, their lives, etc.
resulting in happier customers coming back for more. As most companies are
not built on altruistic grounds, no business is truly a democracy, the focus
on your employees is a real business strategy aimed at increasing your
revenue and controlling your costs in a non-manipulative manner. How's is
that for benefits?
It's often easier to identify the negative than the positive (ask any
executive who has gone through a SWOT analysis.) And in the case of internal
branding, the result of not doing is simple: Your company could fail. The
problems you face today are often due to a lack of proper communication or
understanding which can be addressed by explaining your values in details
(an internal branding tactic) allowing your employees to make a daily
decisions with customers based on a sound principles.
Formal vs. informal Internal Branding
Building your brand to ensure that your employees buy-in the story is often
more difficult than to create one for consumers. Why is that? It seems that
the internal knowledge employees have of the company prevents them from
believing what is often referred to as ‘the marketing message' (pronounce
this with a derogatory tone.) A brand message that is at odd with the real
culture top management stands for is a sure way to fail. So ‘the marketing
story' starts at the top. If your top management doesn't believe in it or
even live it every single day, how can you expect your employees to do so?
There are two ways to go about building your brand internally. The first one
is to simply match what you say to what you do. It's a simple strategy but
often difficult to implement as it requires a real connection between who
you are as CEO, your actions and your brand. SMEs are at an advantage as the
CEOs are closer to the operations and can therefore oversee the brand story
and its implementation throughout the organization (and don't be fooled,
branding is the CEO's problem, not the marketing department.) It's harder
for bigger corporations and this case a formal approach might be the best
A five steps recipe:
1. Define your brand/marketing story (and get your employees involved) 2.
Align your brand and your culture 3. Understand the employee touch points
where your brand is playing a part 4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
and Communicate some more 5. Your brand evolves, don't let it go stiff
It's a simple enough process but matching your brand to your culture, and
vice-versa is often easier said than done and you might be wise to ask for
external help. Once done, it's all about implementing it day-in, day-out
without fail, discouragement or doubt. Remember, there is a direct link
between what you do everyday and your brand.
Point 5. is important. The traditional logic is that a brand, once defined,
should remain unchanged until it's accepted by your target markets. This
still stand true in many cases but you'll soon find out that peripherals
attributes, such as products, will change overtime, sometimes even
redefining your brand in the process.
It's all in the tactics
The development of any strategy should always start with a deep definition
of the target markets. In this case, your employees. Do you truly know them?
What are their characteristics? Aspirations? You need to define your
internal market thoroughly just as would an external target market. Once
done, you can properly identify your objective (including ROI), the most
appropriate strategy, tactics, schedule and budget. The planning part is
important but it's all in the tactics. In internal branding, what you do is
more important that what you say. Here are a few examples of standard
tactics that will help you develop your internal branding:
• Brand Benefit Communications
• Company Celebrations
• Internal Branding Campaigns
• Intranet Communications
• New Employee Orientations
• Organizational Development
• Rewards & Recognition Events
• Team Building
Which one should you choose? It depends on three factors: time, labor and
money. Your strategy and tactics will depend on which one you have most of
(and who has time these days?)
Should you involve HR?
Before we go further, the answer is yes.
If you look at the list of tactics above you could quickly decide that this
the responsibility of human resources, and many marketing manager would
quickly agree. I disagree. As a marketer, if you are lucky to have a
progressive HR Director, you will reap tremendous benefits by developing an
internal branding strategy with him or her and work together in the
implementation. Going further, internal branding is a company exercise and
your employees should be involved. While the idea of creating an internal
branding committee could quickly defeat the purpose, having people from
different functions involved throughout the year is certainly a good idea.
Can you measure Internal Branding?
Like all branding related activities, measuring it is as difficult as
measuring advertising effectiveness. Short of putting your employees to a
test, conducting regular checks on their brand awareness, support, etc. is
useful. Doing an internal brand audit on a yearly basis could be considered
as part of your internal branding strategy anyway.
Conducted yearly, the Internal Brand audit can become your measuring
yardstick. Covering the different angles your brand offer, it is a helpful
tool and can be as simple as a survey or as complex as you want it to be.
The simpler the better though as its aims is to both reinforce the value of
the branding message and identify areas of improvement.
It's been a while since Orison Swett Marden, the first editor of Success
Magazine, talked about chivalry and honesty in the business field. These two
powerful words would serve well in developing an internal branding strategy
worthy of the business consumers deserve. In today's world the impact your
employees have on your business is even more important. Gone are the days
where all you were hiring were hands to do a job. Today, each employee comes
with a complex set of behaviors, emotions and attitude that can make or
break your brand in a single heartbeat or phone call. What is the use of
investing thousands of dollars in marketing if each time your customers
calls, the receptionist is rude or unwilling to help?
Gone are the days where your value as an employee or vendor was linked to your loyalty and seniority. Today, companies are in a constant state of reorganization in response to the rapidly changing demands of the market. In a sense, you are functioning like your own personal corporation. And that means that you have the same need to differentiate yourself and build demand for your services among your target markets.
Small Business Branding: The Personal Connection
As the leader of a small business, how do you succeed in a dynamic world of increasing complexity with a much larger set of competitors? The answer seems too easy to be true: Be Yourself.
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Copyright (c) 2006 Frederic Moraillon
About The Author:
Frederic leads marketing for Business Objects in Asia-Pacific & Japan
where, with his team, he develops and implements profitable marketing
strategies aimed at helping customers and prospects develop their
business through the awareness, use and development of performance
management solutions. Frederic brings with him 15 years of diversified
industry and functional experience enhancing revenues, profits and
market share of multinational businesses operating in Asia Pacific. See