The main theme of the branding project last week at my company was about Internal Branding. Some also call it internal marketing. It is all about making your employees feel for the brand, to devise ways for them to come to an intimate understanding of what the brand is about, especially if its values have never been explicitly enunciated before. Ideally, these behaviours would not have to be “manufactured” since a branding exercise is really about bring out what your company is already about.
So, why do we bother doing internal branding?
1. Aligning your outward brand with employee behaviours
Each employee is an important touchpoint of your brand. The way that the employee interacts with partners, customers, or other stakeholders is very telling of what your company or brand is. Disney has become famous with its “service with a smile” mantra that has been both lauded and criticized over the years. For better or for worse, this disciplined line towards how employees should behave has contributed to Disney being “The Happiest Place On Earth”.
Brand channel puts it this way: “Employees have the power to either reinforce or break a brand’s promise every time they interact with a customer, shareholder or even another employee. Because of that, you can’t build and sustain a strong brand externally if you don’t start with your employees, building your brand from the inside out.”
In order for your brand to be genuine, it HAS to come from within. The first step has to be your employees.
2. Engaged employees perform better, are less likely to leave
According to research done by Interbrand (link to PDF), employees who have been engaged actively and are part of the brand are more willing to put in discretionary effort in their work and are less likely to leave.
When employees believe in your brand, your business on the whole benefits. On top of positive interactions with customers, employees also bring more positivity to their work when they believe in what their company stands for. This means higher morale, and naturally, better employee retention and work performance.
3. Improved talent recruitment
Who wouldn’t want to work for a strong employee brand? Research from Interbrand has shown that the top brands attract top talent because they communicate “stature, values and purpose”, attributes that are viewed as important to top talents. Potential employees have to believe in your brand enough to want to invest their career in it. This would have to come from a mere facelift of the brand identity that so many companies in Asia think Branding is about.
Branding should involve a decided commitment on the part of the company to stay true to their values and to lead and operate their business according to these values. This might mean turning down certain short-term opportunities that earn the company money so that it would benefit in the long run. A company might be profit-motivated, but a firm that runs solely after money will not be able to inspire pride in their employees like the top brands in the world do.
So. How exactly do we implement Internal Branding?
All too often, the task has been seen as mere communications rather than a holistic approach that incorporates internal communications and HR policies that makes employees feel important, engaged and empowered. Communications might serve a short-term function to hype up your employees in preparation of the unveiling of your brand, but without REAL and significant change, a logo would remain just that.