What comes to mind when you think of branding? You might envision a famous logo, a memorable ad campaign with a charismatic spokesperson, or maybe even the company’s reputation for quality products at a fair price. These are all things that create the public’s perception of a company in the outside world. But the thing is, a brand is every bit as important inside the company. Not because you need employees to buy your company’s products, but because you need them to believe in and be committed to the organization they represent.
After all, your company brand is more than smoke and mirrors (at least it should be). It’s a living, breathing expression of who your company truly is, what makes it unique, and what value it brings to customers. For that brand to be real – not just an empty promise – it needs to be understood and embraced by the people who make it all possible – your employees!
As an example, let’s imagine a quick service food restaurant that proudly proclaims its commitment to clean restaurants and friendly, speedy, accurate service. They tout it in their ads and post it on their walls, and those things are certainly admirable components of the company’s brand. But it means nothing if employees don’t back it up. If what patrons really experience is a messy interior, apathetic cashiers and incorrect orders, the company’s brand is nothing but an illusion, a house of cards on the brink of collapse.
For that company to survive, the brand promise it makes to the public must be loved and lived inside the company as well. Employees have to buy into what their company is trying to achieve. They have to know what values the company holds dear, what behaviors are expected of them, and how their commitment to these things makes a difference in the lives of real people. In the restaurant example, employees should come to work feeling good that by living the company brand, they’re providing consumers with a tasty convenience that might make their busy lives a little easier.
How can your company inject that kind of engagement into the workforce? For large organizations, it’s a long-term commitment to cultural change – a joint effort of marketing, human resources and internal communications to align the brand with internal operating principles. It’s no easy task, but it pays off in the form of more meaningful individual contributions, more consistent performance across the company, and ultimately, better business results. On a great deal of our projects, we find these coordinated efforts also overlap with the niche known as employer branding, using the company’s reputation for excellence as a tool to attract and retain the most talented people.
Strong internal branding creates the qualities that define the world’s most respected companies: outstanding customer service, bold product innovation, unmatched quality and reliability, etc. The companies that can make those claims – and back them up – have figured out that branding starts from the inside out.