Living The Brand


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Aligning your internal and external brands

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Living The Brand

  1. 1. EVERETTBRANDING Living the Brand: Aligning your internal and external brands Chicago | Milwaukee 630.207.2334
  2. 2. Every year, the top 100 global brands are branding programs are being executed ranked on their brand equity by correctly? In other words, how can a Interbrand, a leader in the global company ensure that it is acting true to branding field. In the latest ranking its brand? (2007), Coca Cola tops the list with Microsoft, IBM, GE, and Nokia, To answer this question we must first respectively. These rankings should not understand how the state of branding has be a surprise because these brands are on evolved. In 2000, branding took a unique top of mind across the globe. What is turn, towards an internal perspective. surprising, however, is that the Marketers started applying the tools combined the brand equity of the top 5 previously used to promote the external global brands (266.1 Billion dollars1) is brand to consumers, towards attracting higher than the Gross Domestic Product and retaining talent for organizations. of 84 respective countries.2 After This hybrid of external branding and looking at the big picture, one can truly talent acquisition was coined “internal appreciate the magnitude of value that branding,” and it combined equal parts relies on branding. of marketing and advertising with corporate recruiting. As author Dale Since its inception in the 1990‟s, the idea Buss states in his article In Good of branding has spread like wildfire. Company, “The aim is two-fold: to Companies became increasingly attract the most promising new recruits concerned with their externally focused and make sure that existing employees on their reputation with customers, and understand the company‟s goals and the need for brand centric strategies was commitment to them. The best efforts born. This brand centered ideology soon also motivate employees in their pressured advertising agencies and approach to their jobs.”3 What is marketing firms to re-position interesting is that the branding evolution themselves as “branding” firms to avoid created a unique dynamic between the losing business. “Branding” firms two branding approaches; external popped up overnight; each with their consumer branding focused on making own claim to fame and “trademark” brand promises to consumers while branding process. internal corporate branding focused on attracting and retaining talent to fulfill Now it is almost 20 years later and we those brand promises. As Jessica still do not have the exact definition of Bobula, in her article on B2B branding branding. We also have a number of puts it, [internal branding] has become charlatan “branding” firms that “the delivery of mechanism for your propagate nothing more than integrated external brand.”4 As that delivery marketing communications as mechanism, it is imperative that your “branding”. And with the fate companies internal branding messages are in sync resting on the strength on its‟ brand, I with your external branding messages. question how one can ensure that its‟ 1 3 Interbrand. “Top 10 Global Brands.” Buss, Dale: “In Good Company.” Brandweek; May 2002. 43,20 Pg.28-34 2 4 World Economic Forum. “GDP per country: 2007” Bobula, Jessica. “Internal Branding becoming a Hot Topic for B-to-B.” B to B. Chicago. Sept. 12 2005. Vol. 90 Iss.11 wnload.aspx Pg 6. “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 2
  3. 3. So how important is a corporation‟s branding to get employees in every internal brand? In the article, Internal department to live the brand. Branding: Branding from the Inside Out Nader Tavassoli states, “In too many How do you motivate employees to “live organizations, branding remains an the brand?” It starts with bringing in the externally facing communications exercise…sadly most employees do not “Aligning the brand even know or understand their company‟s strategy. It should thus be no on the inside is more surprise that they fail to deliver the brand promise to customers.”5 In important in many today‟s fickle marketplace where brand loyalty is key to future growth, ways than marketing companies may only get one shot at a potential lifelong customer. Companies the brand on the that fail to deliver brand promises can lead to failed brands. outside…” If your brand promotes simplicity, but a right people. Apple computers, for customer has to talk to five different example, has a brand that revolves people to address their need, then your around innovation. Its products are customers experience a discrepancy consistently evolving and pushing between what you promise and what you technological boundaries. How does actually deliver. This discrepancy Apple do it? They actively recruit creates consumer disillusionment. As change agents; people who are anti- Dale Buss, author of In Good Company status quo. Apple does not point a finger states, “When a prospect calls in, if you at an employee and say “innovate” are saying one thing and your employees because it does not have to, the are doing something totally different, the employees are already looking around whole brand is proven to be a lie. So for opportunities due to their pre- they have to believe it and have to act on disposition to improvement. Apple does it.”6 Furthermore, “Many surveys have not hire employees who just value found that brand loyalty is directly technology or design, they hire people linked to perceived treatment by who crave change and therefore have the company representatives.”7 But paying characteristics to live their external a little extra for a great customer service brand. As Rick Jacobs states in his team does not secure brand equity. article Turn Employees into Brand Customer service is but a sliver of your Ambassadors, “Aligning the brand on work force. If you want to build brand the inside is more important in many equity you must leverage internal ways than marketing the brand on the outside…your core business is replicable by competitors; the only thing not reproducible is the people who make up 5 Tavassoli, Nader. “Internal Branding: Branding from the the organization‟s personality and, Inside Out.” Brand Strategy. (Jul 2007): 40. 6 Buss, Dale: “In Good Company.” Brandweek; May 2002. therefore create the competitive 43,20 Pg.28-34 7 Anonymous. “Getting it right on the inside.” Strategic Direction. Oct 2003 19,10, pg 10. “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 3
  4. 4. advantage.”8 With the technology of states, “…it is important that there is an today that increases the turnaround time understanding of the brand and that of copycat competitors, the idea of viewing employees as human assets is “…up to 40 percent of imperative to the future success of a brand. the marketing In my opinion, internal branding or investment is said to be “living the brand,” transcends talent lost when employees acquisition; it must incorporate company culture and strategic business processes. do not deliver on the Wal-Mart‟s brand, for example, positions itself as a low-cost leader. organization‟s promises Although Wal-Mart‟s cost leadership to clients…” strategy is a result of its leverage against suppliers, its success is more of a result every department has pride in it. of the cost management culture Sam Otherwise there is a danger that Walton instilled within the organization. companies cannot deliver on the Employees are cross-trained, distribution promises they make in advertising. is streamlined, management refuses to Insincere loyalty messages, irritating fly first class, and their corporate hold messages, complicated pricing or headquarters is a modest building in bad customer service can all result from Bentonville Arkansas. The culture‟s applying the brand only at the surface mantra of “Every Day Low Prices” was level.”10 So what is the impact of embedded in all employees, ultimately aligning your internal and external brand influencing processes that fulfill this on your bottom line? Rod Gapp and Bill promise to consumers. In his business Merrilees of Brand Management state, case, Wal-Mart Stores: Every Day Low “…up to 40 per cent of the marketing Prices in China, Ali Farhoomand states, investment is said to be lost when “It was Wal-Mart‟s credibility in employees do not deliver on the keeping this promise that had drew organization‟s promises to clients. To millions of customers to its door”9. this end, when employees understand When businesses empower employees to and accept that the values are genuine, deliver repeatable positive brand they align their attitudes and behavior to experiences, businesses are delivered the brand values, which results in greater repeat customers. satisfaction for both customer preference and loyalty.”11 To put that into So how does “Living the brand” perspective, in 2006 Wal-Mart spent translate externally?, In his article $570 million dollars in advertising.12 If Insider Branding author Sean Lewis 10 Lewis, Sean. “Insider Branding.” Marketing. London. Nov 2005 Pg 32. 11 8 Gapp, Rod and Merrilees, Bill. “Important factors to Jacobs, Rick. “Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors.” consider when using internal branding as a management ABA Bank Marketing. Apr 2003. 35,3, Pg 23-26. 9 strategy: A healthcare case study.” Brand Management. Farhoomand, Ali. “Wal-Mart Stores: „Every Day Low Sep-Nov 2006. Vol 14 Nos. 1/2 Pg 162-176. Prices‟ in China.” Asia Case Research Centre; The 12 Helm, Burt. “Wanna Be Wal-Mart‟s Ad Man?.” University of Hong Kong. Poon Kam Kai Series: HKU590. BusinessWeekonline: 2006. dnflash/content/sep2006/db20060918_842724.htm. Sept 19, 2006. “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 4
  5. 5. Gapp and Merrilee‟s estimation holds recommendations of a brand. By true, Wal-Mart would have wasted $228 aligning external and internal brands, million dollars if their internal and companies can increase employee pride external brands were not aligned. in the company. In essence, by creating brand alignment you are achieving the Another metric to look at is ROIPA, or ultimate goal in branding; an army of “Return On Internal People employee brand ambassadors. Alignment.”13 In an article on internal branding, Nader Tavassoli states, So how does one align external and “Marketers generally only look in one internal brands? If you ask 50 different place to see evidence of returns on marketers, chances are you will get 50 investments for the brand- the top line in different responses. Acknowledging this terms of sales volumes and price aspect, I set out in my research not to premiums. ROIPA, however has some deliver a “cover-all” approach, but to more direct returns for smart marketing read between the lines of various directors…For starters, HR can track opinions. Doing so, I uncovered the changes in current metrics such as the following 4 themes: Get Top number of qualified applicants, job- Management to Walk the Talk, Start offers accepted, absenteeism and with What You Know and Where You retention of talent.”14 Although the Want to Go, Convert Brand Values into talent acquisition and retention side of Behaviors to Empower Employees and internal branding is more Human finally Field the Right Team. Resources focused, the metrics that define success can reflect the external 1.) Get Top Management to Walk the status of the brand and the bottom line. Talk The number one priority in any brand In a survey of 2000 people in UK alignment is to get top management to regarding job satisfaction, Centaur buy into the branding process. This is Communications measured the amount not a surprise because research has of pride respondents had in their shown that getting top management buy- respective companies. They discovered in is the key to success of change within that “Increasing pride by just one per an organization. As Alan Mitchell cent would increase employee writes in Marketing Week, “Failure [of recommendations of the organization by internal branding programs] has many .83%, increase extra effort by .76%, causes. Often the organizations leaders increase recommendations of products simply fail to walk the talk.”16 Kai F. and services by .71%, and would reduce Mahnert and Ann M. Torres, authors of people actively looking for a job The Brand Inside: The Factors of elsewhere by .46%.”15 From a marketing Failure and Success in Internal standpoint, this study provides a link Branding also agree, “In order to be between employee pride and employee regarded as legitimate by the target audience, management has to lend its support to the program, as well as visibly 13 Tavassoli, Nader. “Internal Branding: Branding from the Inside Out.” Brand Strategy. (Jul 2007): 40. adhere to it…responsibility for the 14 Tavassoli, Nader. “Internal Branding: Branding from the Inside Out.” Brand Strategy. (Jul 2007): 40. 15 16 Centaur Communications. “Internal Branding: Taking Mitchell, Alan. “Getting staff to live the brand: work in Pride in your Work.” Brand Strategy. (Mar 2007): 44. process.” Marketing Week. London: Sep 2, 2004. Pg 30. “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 5
  6. 6. internal branding effort should lie with execution of external and internal the CEO.”17 If a company‟s CEO is not marketing materials.19 living the brand, employees will become disengaged from the brand alignment 3.) Convert Brand Values into Behaviors process. to Empower Employees Branding programs often have the 2.) Start with What You Know and internal stigma within organizations of Where you Want to Go being merely “touchy feely” initiatives Ask the CEO what he/she currently that hold no more inspirational posters. thinks about the brand. Then ask the To inspire employees to actually live the employees what their opinion is of the brand, you must first empower them. brand. Finally, survey the customers. Give them a checklist of behaviors that Ask the customers about their are “on-brand” just as you would during expectations of the brand. If all three a performance review. Alan Mitchell in groups match in their opinions on the an article from Marketing Week states, brand, your external and internal brands “…the real challenge is not so much to are aligned and the brand should be change staff attitudes and behaviors, but purely maintained. If there is a processes. But what have processes to discrepancy between what customers do with brand values? Simple. To be think and what management wants them meaningful, even the vaguest of brand to think, or if management wants their values such as „helpful‟, „friendly‟ or brand to evolve, then your task to align „fun‟ must be translated into real-life your external and internal brand begins. experiences.”20 So how does one audit their brand? According to Kim Lacina of Versant, a Translating these brand values is not as Milwaukee based internal/external difficult as you might imagine. Nancy branding firm, you start with asking top Woltzen, Vice President of Versant, management about its “brand spoke directly on this subject. She stated aspirations.” Versant calls this their that she would often use role-playing in “Brand Discover” step and it involves an teaching executives how to correctly unusual game of word associations. „Live the Brand‟. Reoccurring problems Lacina explained that sometimes Versant within an organization would be asks CEO‟s, “if your company/brand rehearsed in role-playing sessions. were a car or animal, what kind of car or Nancy would ask each executive to solve animal would it be.”18 These the problem in real-time as she or associations are then compared to another Versant employee would act as employee responses and the gaps, if any, customer. When the executives would are explored and researched to create the demonstrate behaviors “off-brand” she “Brand Voice”, a list of brand would have them re-visit the brand descriptors that guide the creative values and guide them in changing their behavior accordingly.21 19 Interview: Kim Lacina, Account Executive, Versant 17 Mahnert, Kai F. and Torres, Ann M. “The Brand Inside: Solutions. Mar 20th, 2008. 20 The Factors of Failure and Success in Internal Branding.” Mitchell, Alan. “Getting staff to live the brand: work in Irish Marketing Review. (2007) 19,1/2 Pg.54-61 process.” Marketing Week. London: Sep 2, 2004. Pg 30. 18 21 Interview: Kim Lacina, Account Executive, Versant Interview: Nancy Woltzen, Vice President, Versantworks Solutions. Mar 20th, 2008. inc.. Apr 18th, 2008. “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 6
  7. 7. that on-brand behavior becomes Another way of educating employees on instinctive.”23 how to live the brand is learned from the case of Citizens Bank. Lawrence Fish, 4.) Field the Right Team Chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial This is the most crucial aspect of any Group, in an effort to position Citizens brand alignment; the human assets. Bank for future expansion knew he Creating a laundry list of desired brand needed to get all of his work force behaviors is one thing, but having a behaving consistently; towards the workforce that had the abilities and community, customers and each other. desire to emulate the brand is another. This credo was not to be mistaken for Evaluating the fit between the brand and one or two sentence mantra that many the current culture is imperative to any organizations utilize. Instead, it brand alignment program. As Mahnert consisted of specific key behaviors. For and Torres state, “The cultural fit example, the „Customers‟ section held analysis is essential in the identification the following: “Hug the customer. of discrepancies between the values of Smile. Say thank you. Return phone the program and the values expressed calls and e-mails in a timely manner. Do through the organizational culture.”24 whatever you can every day, in every Simply put, if an organization‟s culture way, to provide world-class is not fully supporting its external brand, service…Give customers a reason to say, it will have to evolve. Since most „Wow, I love these people.”22 To corporations hire employees based on support and promote these behaviors, their “fit” within the organizational Citizens sent out monthly newsletters of culture, companies will experience some real-life stories of employees that attrition as employees who cannot adapt embodied the credo in specific events to the new culture or new internal brand called “Credo Moments.” Many will leave. When asked about how branding programs fail because companies identify those employees who companies tend to allow the initial aren‟t “on-brand”, Nancy Woltzen of momentum of change to dissipate by not Versant stated that companies don‟t have constantly monitoring progress. to, those employees do it for them by leaving.25 For those employees that As Colin Mitchell states in his Harvard remain but are unsure about the new Business Review article Selling the strategic direction, authors Mahnert and Brand Inside, “The messages should be Torres state that even, “„loose canons‟ directed at employee “touch points”, the who are committed to goals but lack day to day interactions that influence the understanding can be converted into way people experience the brand champions.” As for future talent workplace…By incorporating the brand acquisition,“…build the brand promise vision into these employee touch points, into the recruitment and selection companies over time inculcate the vision process so that only the most suitable into employee experience to the extent 23 Mitchell, Colin. “Selling the Brand Inside.” Harvard Business Review R0201J (Jan 2002):5-11 24 Mahnert, Kai F. and Torres, Ann M. “The Brand Inside: The Factors of Failure and Success in Internal Branding.” Irish Marketing Review. (2007) 19,1/2 Pg.54-61 22 25 Lal, Rajiv and Arar Han. Citizens Bank. Harvard Interview: Nancy Woltzen, Vice President, Versant. Apr Business Review. Jan. 2005. Pg 2-3. 18th, 2008. “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 7
  8. 8. candidates are selected and high performance can be encouraged.”26 Hiring individuals who are pre-disposed to the brand values of a company will deliver consistent “on brand” behavior. Debriefing This idea of external and internal brand alignment may not work for every corporation. I don‟t think Marlboro employees have to ride horses to work for the Marlboro brand to survive. Nor do I expect Red Bull employees to drink enough caffeine in a day to power a small city. But for corporations like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, who are in industries with heavy customer interaction, their employees become part of their brand by creating the customer experience. Hence, brand equity, the global measure of brand strength, rests squarely on the shoulders of employees. Acknowledging that employees can add value to a brand creates my opinion that brand alignment is more necessity than wishful thinking in certain industries. So, to answer the question on how companies can act true to their brands, I believe John R. Childress author of A Time for Leadership: Global Perspectives from an Accelerated Market Place, sums it up best with, “When brand expectations and culture clash, the effects can devastate a business. When brand and culture match, the effects can devastate the 27 competition.” 26 Anonymous. “Getting it right on the inside.” Strategic Direction. Oct 2003 19,10, pg 10. 27 Childress, John R. A Time for Leadership: Global Perspectives from an Accelerated Market Place. Los Angeles, New York: Leadership Press. Jun 200. Pg 103-124 “Living the Brand: Aligning your external and internal brands” 8