Imagine you are about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. You’ve received brochures for a luxury resort. The rooms are lavish; the grounds impeccable. Photos of the restaurant’s signature dishes look delectable. You’re sold.
You go to the hotel. The room is musty and dirty. The food is barely passable. Service is brusque and spotty at best. When you complain to management, you’re met with indifference, or worse, silence. You leave disillusioned and disgusted. For all the hotel’s slick marketing, they’ve fallen woefully short.
Branding goes well beyond marketing. It will not be successful without ensuring that all aspects of your business reflect and support your intended brand. One of your most valuable assets—your people—must be well-trained in articulating and delivering on your brand. This step is particularly important for service organizations that don’t have concrete products. Their offerings are soft assets like knowledge, experience and people.
When employees don’t deliver the brand, it can be the kiss of death for a business. Conversely, employees who represent the brand flawlessly and consistently can propel a business to stardom.
Brand: The Sum of All Its Parts
Despite what many believe, brand isn’t about your logo, tagline and glossy brochure. Instead, a strong brand integrates multiple components, all of them necessary, including customer interactions, employee communications, corporate philosophy and advertising/marketing efforts. Your brand extends to your employees, customers, the media and even the general public as the above story illustrates. If these components don’t consistently reinforce your brand, customers will become dissatisfied. The negative impact of their perception, should they voice their opinions to other potential customers or even the media, could have a ripple effect on your business. This can erode your brand equity and create misperceptions about your company in the market, that in turn could lead prospective customers, employees and investors to pass on your organization.
On the other hand, brand consistency throughout all levels of the organization helps drive an organization to grow and prosper. Strong brands can drive an increase in sales. The company is better suited to attract and retain the best employees. Vendors can see value in your brand and look to establish partnerships with your business, while investors will see the business and your brand equity as a valuable commodity.
Branding Through Your Employees
Your employees are one of the most critical touch points for your customer. Here are several steps to ensure that they are representing your brand in the best light possible.
Develop a company philosophy
A thoughtfully planned philosophy that guides how your company operates as the first step to reinforcing your brand among your workforce. The prestigious Ritz Carlton Hotel Company is an excellent example. They have created five “Gold Standards” for their business operations that reinforce the brand and detail an employee’s role in delivering on this brand:
Maintain Brand Consistency
This step is essential to building a strong brand. However, it is often one of the first steps to unravel. You must establish consistency throughout all aspects of your organization. But setting the standards is not enough. You must constantly evaluate your actions. Establish checkpoints for each aspect of the business that interacts with customers and the general public. Ensure that each employee is empowered to identify and address inconsistencies in your brand. Fail to deliver on brand with one customer, and he or she might forget. Fail to do so for another, and he or she might not be so forgiving. It only takes a scant few to dispel the brand you are touting. Successful Marketing Starts From Within
Create a marketing organization
When working on your marketing campaigns, make sure that you have input from all departments so that all your staff have an appreciation of the importance of your brand and what is expected of them. Marketing departments should not work in silos.Regularly train your staff about your brand and how it fits in with all stakeholders. Staff must identify with the brand in order to work as a team and to promote it externally.
Hire the right employees
When hiring employees to work with you, choose those that are aligned with the corporate values of your company. Having the right set of skills will enable you to achieve the most effective brand representation you desire.
Make it easy for your staff to talk to the CEO
Many of us know of at least one MD who would fit to act in the Devil wears Prada movie. Organizations that promote a culture of fear of management consistently loose their best performers and usually have disgruntled staff who do not identify with your brand but come to work because they have no alternative jobs to go to. Keep internal communication lines open at all times. This will enable you to reinforce and enhance whatever existing values that are being executed to meet the promise of your brand. If you keep nurturing this in the mind of the employees, then they will be able to develop that soon enough.
If you want to create an effective internal branding system, every company must give attention to the following set of principles:
1.) Give freedom not control. An effective internal branding management is one that emphasizes a set of rules that are agreed on by the employees, so they could genuinely contribute to the advancement of your brand.
2.) Decentralize. Learn how to trust your employees to deliver the quality your brand deserves.
3.) Communicate your company’s message to the personnel first before the customers. How do you expect your employees to deliver the type of standard you want to achieve if they do not have proper understanding of the company’s objectives?
4.) Synchronized operation. You need to be able to pull together different departments of the company so that everyone works at the same pace and perspective.
5.) Think long-term goals. No brand is created overnight. Therefore, you need to create that mindset in your personnel that enables them to think of the long-term impacts and effects of an effective internal branding system.