Internal Branding: It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts

By Jon Kaupla, BrandConnect, a division of Core Creative, www.corecreative.com

Every company has a vision for the success of its brand. Yet far too often that vision is shared only with the customer, overlooking what may be the most important audience – employees.

An internal branding program connects employees to the organization’s brand promise. It focuses on defining the vision, then effectively communicates that vision throughout all layers of the organization so that all employees are aware and supportive of the company’s core values and the plan for success. Successful internal branding practices result in employees who hear, believe and live the brand.

Increased employee engagement in the company and the brand
Internal branding practices position the brand in such a way as to make the brand understandable and relevant to employees. “Living the brand” means that employees are engaged in the company brand values, its products and services. As a result, they become credible brand advocates, on-message to talk about the product, service and company in the same voice as the external branding message.

It is interesting to note that employees are so central to the process of brand building that their behavior can either reinforce a brand’s advertised values or, if inconsistent with these values, can undermine the credibility of advertised messages. A recent study found that up to 40 percent of the marketing investment is lost when employees do not deliver on the organization’s promises to clients. Internal branding and coaching can identify and correct misdirected employees, referred to as “brand saboteurs.”

Employee engagement also generates a sense of pride, which is a great motivator to further embrace the workplace. Employees are much more likely to feel a sense of personal accomplishment as well as satisfaction that they and their colleagues are working toward the same goals.

Increased Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
Employees who are satisfied with their role and engaged with their employer deliver higher levels of customer service. Customer satisfaction develops into customer loyalty and increased sales.

Satisfied customers are those who have a positive, consistent brand experience each time they interact with a company. The employee role is critical because it is typically employees who make that important connection between a company’s aspirations and the delivery of those aspirations. Thus employees must be fully attuned to brand messaging; when employees understand, accept and believe in the values and brand promise of the organization, they align their attitudes and behavior to those values and deliver on the promise.

Increased Workplace Productivity
Overall, employees who have positive feelings about their roles and identify with the mission, vision and values together will create a more positive work environment. Research shows that employees who are engaged in the business of the organization deliver higher levels of service to “internal” customers. Team productivity improves because employees are working toward a common goal they believe in.

Employees need to understand the mission of the company and how their individual efforts support the mission. Once that knowledge is acquired, engaged employees commit to organizational goals and the core competencies of the organization are maintained. Involved and committed employees are also more likely to contribute ideas for greater efficiencies and new, improved ways of doing business, leading to enhanced productivity

Improved Recruitment and Retention
An internal brand management initiative increases both the number and quality of applicants and reduces the turnover rate among employees, including top performers.

Practices for retention and recruitment include consistently promoting images and messages of the brand, sound business practices and employee successes that together position an organization as an attractive place to work.

Through recent canvassing of working Americans, a Maritz poll reports that a company’s brand image and reputation are critical factors in attracting and engaging employees. Nearly half, or 49 percent, of recent poll respondents indicated that their companies’ brand or image had played an important role in their decision to apply for a job at their respective workplaces.

Achieving a reputation as an employer of choice has other benefits. Since high application rates result in shorter recruitment time, recruitment costs are lowered. The decreased time spent on the hiring process can be converted into other productive activity.

Internal branding also has a great impact on employee loyalty. Employees experience greater job satisfaction because they are engaged in the company and feel they have a role to play in the overall goals of the company. In addition, loyal employees have the potential to recommend the organization as a “preferred” place to work to other potential candidates.

In summary, an internal branding program provides a true competitive advantage, developing employees who are “brand champions,” storytellers who spread the brand idea. Additional benefits will appear directly on an organization’s bottom line. Engaged employees, increased productivity and  enhanced branding strengthen a company’s future growth and success.

 

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