Internal branding

Core Creative Inc., a Milwaukee-based integrated marketing firm, recently launched Brand Connect, a new division that provides internal corporate communications and integrated brand management for clients.

“Companies often times spend a ton of energy and money on marketing their brand image to their customers, when they might be missing their most important audience – their own employees,” said Ward Alles, president of Core Creative, which is based in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. “What we do is really try to make ambassadors out of their employees.”

The Brand Connect service is specifically marketed toward service-oriented companies such as retailers and hotels, in which the people are the product, and companies with multiple facilities that need to achieve brand unity across locations.

Companies interested in branding internally go through a four-step process, in which Brand Connect employees, along with the company, audit the situation and identify the brand behavior wanted, create a plan, execute the plan and measure the results.

“We are able to come in, sit down with the company and try to identify what it is they are looking for as an image,” Alles said. “After that, we can decide what they are doing right and knock down the other dominos so we can start rebuilding.”

Brand Connect helps a company identify its strengths and weaknesses. Brand Connect can then pair the ideas generated to marketing concepts such as presentations, information booklets and incentive programs, to relay the brand image.

Gretchen Herrman, vice president of internal communications at Racine-based Johnson Financial Group, has been working with Brand Connect since May.

“It was really about us trying to wrap our arms around what our internal brand is,” Herrman said. “We knew we felt like a family, but we wanted to define it, so we could sustain it and not dilute it across geographies.”

Johnson Financial Group does business in eight regions in southeastern and central Wisconsin and Arizona, Herrman said.

“The farther you get from Racine, where the central business lines start, there is dilution or misinterpretations of what we do as a company,” she said. “It was really important for us to take the first step in getting language around our image and our brand as an overall company.”

According to Herrman, Johnson Financial Group will be using the branding information gathered by Brand Connect in the company’s recruiting materials, in order to provide the right language around the image of what the company needs and expects from its employees.

” I think there will be a strong measure of success in a few years, but internally the people involved in the communications side of things are looking forward to seeing the results. We’re excited about the process,” Herrman said.

Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based Talecris Biotherapeutics Inc. also is working with Brand Connect to help develop the internal communication between its plasma collection centers.

“The plasma collection centers are almost like a retail business, so connecting with Core and (Jon Kaupla’s) experience with retail at Kohl’s was a perfect fit,” said Wendy Wilson, senior director of corporate communications and investor relations at Talecris. “We grew that business over a two-year period from a 30- to 40-center target, to a plan for 70 or 80 centers the next year. We have just had explosive growth, and no way to communicate our message with all of those new employees and offices.”

Wilson previously worked at Racine-based Modine Manufacturing Co., where she first utilized Core Creative’s services.

“We started working with them in March. It’s still too early to tell, but the process so far has been unbelievable,” Wilson said. “Branding our communications has gotten attention from our senior management team, our associates, everyone has loved it.”

“This could easily be a six-figure investment,” Alles said. “Larger companies get it. It might be tougher for smaller companies to accomplish, but what you get in return saves money in the long run.”

According to Alles, Brand Connect can save a company time and money in the form of increased employee retention, increased brand value, increased customer satisfaction and increased productivity.

“It costs a company 1.5 times an average employee’s salary to find a replacement worker when an employee leaves,” Alles said. “Multiply that by the company’s annual turnover rate, and that can add up.”

If employees are engaged from the beginning, know what is expected of them and are rewarded for the right behaviors, workforce loyalty increases, Alles said.

“It’s about implementing procedures and ideas,” Alles said. “It’s about getting the employees, the ambassadors of the company, to start living the brand promise.” 

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