When developing your brand, how many meetings did you have with your employees? Does your management team understand and buy into your brand? Did you ask?
Author: David Slatter
Branding is a critical component of every organization’s success. It goes beyond the logo and color scheme and into verbally – as well as visually – communicating what your organization stands for. It’s a large component of explaining why you do what you do, and builds a relationship between you and your customer.
Because the brand touches every part of your organization – from the C-suite to customer service to accounting, it is important to remember that brand is, in fact, everything. Therefore, in order for your brand to deliver, employees must understand and buy into the brand.
So why don’t more companies integrate their brand statements internally? Perhaps it is because it has not been common practice. Or perhaps the belief is that branding is external and meant to communicate with customers. This type of thinking prevents your brand from being all that it can be. Belief that branding is external limits an organization’s ability to give customers a total brand experience. Why? Because the employees are not living the brand. In fact, they may not even understand it.
Challenge the Norm: Good branding builds a culture, and that starts at the top – with the leadership team. But it doesn’t end there. When your organization goes through the exercise of determining your brand, the conversation should extend to a cross-functional team to gain their perspective. Many a C-level executive is surprised to learn how different his or her vision becomes the further you move away from the corner office.
Strong brands have a clearly defined set of values, mission and vision at their core. If these are created through an internal process that includes the right mix of stakeholders, they will inform the brand position – that unique message you communicate to the customer that places you not only in his or her consideration set, but makes you that customer’s first choice.
It is crucial, then, that the brand culture be a part of how you live your everyday company life. Only then can you communicate with employees about what the brand means (in other words, when the leadership team walks the brand walk):
- Extend the brand into your environment. Display your values, vision and mission in conspicuous ways in your office environment or servicescape, and think beyond the break room. How about the front door? Perhaps as a runner along the walls in each corridor, or in the area behind the reception desk? Be creative, and make it fun.
- Communicate clearly. Set expectations about your brand experience among your employees, including how you intend to treat customers and how you deliver products or services. Don’t forget to consider how you intend to deal with mistakes.
- Work outside your limits. Every organization has tactical challenges in getting messages out to employees. Be creative in your approach to internal communication channels and methods. Ask others for their ideas.
- Be consistent. Because the key to branding is consistency, your employees must take on the responsibility of delivering the brand experience the same way day after day. You have a responsibility to reinforce the culture every day so they can be successful.
- Don’t forget your first impression. When working to attract new employees, make sure the story you tell them is consistent with your actual culture.
- Up-end the org chart. Invest most of your time and effort in communication, training and support at the point closest to the customer – your front-line, customer-facing employees.
- Recognize that innovation can come from anywhere. Employees feel empowered when they feel they’ve been heard, and front-line employees are often a source of great ideas.
Brands are most effective when action is taken. Communicating the brand value also encompasses communicating the action taken to support that brand. When you believe in your company brand, you can use it as the foundation for building your company culture. Now you can be sure that every customer has a great brand experience.