The journey that is internal branding is one that goes beyond communication—it involves company culture by creating excitement around a central theme and cementing employee commitment to the company. By informing and engaging employees, companies can ensure alignment with their values and behaviors that strengthen the company from the inside out.
When employees understand and embrace everything about the brand, the brand can then be delivered effectively to the customer. When companies minimize internal branding, marketing efforts are compromised. Ultimately, strong internal branding strengthens the company from the inside out.
So what does internal branding look like? How does it function on a day-to-day level? For one, employees need to be educated about the brand, its values, and what it stands for. When employees are aligned with the unique elements of the brand they become valuable brand ambassadors able to represent and endorse the products and services the company offers.
Even more important, company values need to be reflected throughout the company culture. Without this, employees may not buy into the company message and thus not effectively communicate it to the customer. When employees feel they are part of a unique group and making meaningful contributions, employees become more committed, performance improves and they better represent the company to customers, ultimately improving their roles as brand ambassadors.
According to Entrepreneur.com, Outdoor gear company REI provides a great example of how well-orchestrated internal branding can lead to company success. “Employees of REI, a cooperative where profits benefit its member-owners…agree that this is a place where greatness happens, even beyond the beloved camping and outdoor products. REI’s mission is to equip both customers and employees for the outdoors, not just to have fun but also in promoting stewardship of the environment. REI says that its employees give ‘life to their purpose,’ firmly attributing company success to workers.”
It is important, however, to give careful thought to internal branding initiatives. Before you start, do your homework by utilizing the very resource you are hoping to better your brand—your employees. Internal research can provide valuable insight into company culture and help build your campaign. Often times, using an outside branding agency can help gather and tailor the branding message through the use of focus groups, interviews, and surveys.
These methods also help to identify points of pride that can be emphasized, as well as areas of resistance that need to be considered when building a campaign. Likewise, an outside perspective often helps employees discover ways to better express new ideas or concerns. Also, think carefully when it comes to the timing of new initiatives. Points of transition and rebranding projects are important times to develop and strengthen internal branding and new campaigns.
Once your research is complete, carefully decide how you are going to approach your new internal branding strategy. Much like external branding, focus on the values, develop the story and then involve employees through information and persuasion. The key is to create excitement and a connection to the brand through accessible imagery and products, provide brief, consistent and interactive brand training sessions, then allow employees to personalize the story and communicate it effectively to the customer. Above all, maintain a strong company culture through ongoing social structures, mentorship programs, career development training, and incentive programs to keep employees feeling engaged and valued.
Ultimately, successful internal branding strengthens the company’s core, improves the flow of information both internally and externally, and allows the values and message of the brand to come to life. Remember that your employees are connected–they tweet, post, comment, and spread the word. When embraced, this can be a greatly effective means of marketing the brand as a whole.