The Importance of Internal Branding
Branding has become a huge buzzword in business and marketing. All marketing is done with a business’ brand in mind.
Marketers are asking themselves: what colours represent our values? What should our voice on social media be? What is our brand’s personality?
Entrepreneurs have been spending a lot of time thinking about how their consumers might perceive them and their products. With all this focus on external branding and marketing, the importance of internal branding can get lost.
Internal Branding Foreword
Internal branding is about creating consistency within your company. It is equally important to market your brand to your employees, as it is to market your brand to potential customers. It starts with identifying brand values, ideas, and goals. Once these elements have been identified, it is your job to communicate those components externally and internally using various methods.
Internal branding is significant to company morale, culture, productivity, and ultimately, revenue. If you haven’t yet been convinced of how a company’s success can be influenced by internal branding campaigns, read on to learn how internal branding can make a difference in any business.
How to Establish Your Office Culture
The best way to establish your company’s brand among your employees is by weaving it through every element of the culture. This can include the physical setup of your office, the decor, company outings, memos, and perks.
If the external brand you’ve created is based on community and acceptance, that should be reflected in your company’s culture and communication.
Establishing your office’s culture leads to improved morale and employees who are excited to be at work. It also allows for easier and more transparent communication between staff and employers.
Consider organizing company outings that are both on-brand and entertaining. If an important brand value of yours is teamwork and support, try attending a local sports game or by entering a recreational team for your work. If your brand values community, maybe you should organize a philanthropic initiative.
Keeping your activities fun and consistent with your branding will leave you with employees who are excited about what they’re doing.
Warby Parker, an online eyewear retailer, has created a team dedicated to maintaining their company culture. The responsibilities of the team include planning regular group outings, ensuring there are educational programs available, and setting up employee lunches.
Recruiting On-brand Employees
Successful internal branding can also lead to easier recruitment. If potential employees are interested in your company, they’re likely familiar with your external brand. If your business doesn’t prioritize internal branding, you run the risk of creating a disconnect between how your business is perceived and how it operates.
When hiring, consider what would make someone want to work for your business and what attracted them to you in the first place. Implementing internal branding guidelines will not only advocate for your business’ values and make people want to work for your business, but it will also help you understand who would fit best with your company.
During interviews, you can keep an eye out for applicants who embody the same values as your brand.
You can try to figure this out in a few different ways: ask questions that aren’t typically asked in interviews and would give you a good idea of what the interviewee’s character is. These can be lighthearted, if in line with your business’ values, or more profound.
Whether if it’s by creating an environment where people would love to work or helping you develop interview strategies, successful internal branding will make recruitment easier for you.
Southwest Airlines, for example, uses their internal branding as a key driver for their hiring process; they conduct interviews with their brand’s values in mind, meaning they vet candidates based on personality as well as experience.
During their group interviews, they ask questions revealing character and allow each person in the group to assume a role, whether it’s leader or follower. They also ask questions like “When has your sense of humor served you best?” and “How would you describe yourself in one word?”
Questions like these allow candidates to show that they can think on their feet and align themselves with brand values.
For recruiting, if it seems that employees are happy and excited about their work, job candidates are more likely to be enthusiastic about employment.
Link External and Internal Branding
There is far more to external branding than choosing colours to represent your business. The way the public thinks of your business comes down to your communication, advertising, slogan, product, and how your company operates.
If they don’t work together, your brand’s message and goals will be muddled. Being clear about your brand’s voice, values, philosophy, and goals is the best way to ensure your employees are all on the same page.
One of the best reasons to implement internal branding guidelines is to foster consistency between your marketers, other departmental employees, and all of your platforms. Without establishing clear internal branding guidelines, you run the risk of having different voices across platforms.
Your internal and external brand identity should blend seamlessly. If your business hasn’t prioritized brand guidelines and internal branding, your employees could have differing ideas of what your brand is or how it should be communicated.
To establish an external brand, there needs to be consistent messaging on all your platforms. Successful marketing can’t happen if your email marketing, customer service, and social media voices are all conveying company messages with different tonalities. Without a consistent voice, your customers will confuse your brand perception with its reality, resulting in less trust.
Internal and external brand consistency is important to limit confusion from customers, but it’s more important for your employees. When employees are told one thing by management like increase sales but observe a different message is sent to the public, they start to question the integrity of the company. When your employees’ perceptions about your company are out of line with the public’s, this can create a negative work atmosphere and morale.
In order to keep internal and external expectations the same, create external advertising messages that address both external audiences and internal stakeholders. By taking out ads in notable publications, you can address your company message to the world and to your workers in one shot. It’s encouraged to form all your external messages with the same tonality you would write your internal publication messages.
Branding communication can be more fun than just a newsletter or advertising. Think about linking internal and external branding in more creative ways outside of copy. For instance, at Nike, senior executives have created new titles for themselves to incorporate themselves better into their brand’s culture. Being an executive in title is important, but being a “Corporate Storyteller” is more serving to your brand’s identity. Instead of focusing primarily on financial success, executives now make it their job to reflect stories centered around their trademarked slogan, “Just Do It.”
The only difference you should have between internal and external communications are promises. Keep your external promises ahead of internal capabilities, just by a margin. This will give your employees incentive to meet those promises given out.
Consistency can give your customers clear expectations and your employees something to work toward. Only when there’s consistency, can the brand be effectively communicated to potential clients.
Re-invest in Your Brand
One of the best things about establishing your business’ values with internal branding is giving your employees the opportunity to feel excited about what the business is doing. Reiterating your company’s purpose and fundamental values reminds your staff why they’re there and how they’re helping people.
It’s an excellent idea to have your business’ values and goals both visible and accessible to your employees. Your goals and accomplishments are something everyone within your business should be proud of.
Starbucks made headlines for hosting, what could’ve been considered, a convention for its front-line employees. They went all-in, creating an event for store managers to connect with each other, its brand, and the coffee-making process.
This resulted in employees who were reminded of core brand values and why they should be proud of their work. It also proved that Starbucks cares about their employees by creating an educational event for their benefit.
While having employees who are proud of what the business is doing is great for company morale and employee relationships. It is also important for marketing and recruiting. When employees are excited about what they’re doing, they are more likely to share the company’s content on social media and with their friends.
Internal Branding Turning Points
Many companies enact poor internal branding campaigns. This isn’t due to the methods they use, however. It’s due to ineffectively communicating why employees should be convinced of the company’s brand power. Most internal communication speaks to updated strategies or direct, while neglecting reasons as to why employees should care. Most companies take this fact for advantage. Even if you’re leveraging the best channels for communication the likes of memos, newsletters, and team messaging systems, you need to write to attract attention from your employees and not expect it to be a given.
Turning points are great opportunities for your company to enact internal branding campaigns. Turning points are periods in your company where there is change happening. When change happens, it can have two effects on employees. It could either impact them positively or negatively. It’s during these times an internal branding campaign, encouraged by management, can move workers in a new positive direction by articulating the uniqueness of the company and their position. Turning points are, effectively, launchpad moments in time which can propel momentum for your business.
Think of any changes like new leadership, mergers and acquisitions, and branch openings as crucial turning point moments to begin a new internal branding campaign. In the case of acquiring a new leader, staff want to know who they are and what they are planning to do. Organize an event that can be streamed to all company members where the leader briefs the company and can welcome questions as well.
Speaking of questions, asking employees questions is not done often enough. By using internal surveys and focus groups, you can quickly delineate issues your brand are facing.
Touch-points are physical or electronic locations or places where your employees will interact with your business. These places are great ways to sell your brand values and create champions.
Messages directed at employees through touch-points will change the way employees experience your company. Don’t under-estimate the power of day-to-day interactions. Over-time, interactions will build instinctive behaviour in line with brand values. This is because brand vision will be cemented into the foundation of your employee interactions. The more you can incorporate these touch-points throughout your work environment, the more you will benefit from increased on-brand behaviour.
An example of this could be naming your business’ facilities after key figures or indicators related to your business or industry. If you work in sports, you could names your buildings are prolific athletes. If you work in video games, you could name work places after video game characters – the “Mario Brothers Break Room.”
If there are no physical touch-points you can think to create for your company, try doing an informal “fireside chat,” from leaders to employees. Leaders should be in an open space, not holed-up in an office. If the physical locations aren’t large enough to hold every employee or there are logistical problems, these chats can be streamed to employees.
Recognize Brand Champions
The best way to create evangelists is to recognize and reward employees that act in accordance with your brand values. This is how you create champions. Just because you create a brand guideline or policy, it doesn’t mean people will follow it. You should reward those who act in accordance with or promote brand standards by giving out things as simple a gift-cards, vacation days, memberships, professional development contributions, swag, paid lunches, and more.
Even better, let your employees recognize their peers for their advocacy by giving them the power to directly reward others or vote for the consideration of rewarding others.
Before you give sole ownership of your internal branding responsibility to your marketing department, consider soliciting feedback from other departments first.
Create internal focus groups, surveys, and interviews to help map out the bigger picture of your company culture. Likely, and depending on your company’s size, there will be different subcultures that exist between departments. These information seeking tools will help you to outline all existing subcultures and how they interact when exchanging information.
For example, you could conduct a brand spectrum survey and tally how your brand is perceived through tallying and analyzing answers. This tool is good for receiving quantifiable data about your brand; however, don’t forget to include open-ended questions as well like, “how would you define our company.” Qualitative feedback can provide the same, if not more, insight than quantitative data.
Also, look to incorporate feedback loops in your communication and decision making processes, as two-way dialogue between managers and employees can help you understand your audience better from all levels of your business. Initiate two-way dialogue in your social media, company intranet, emails, office displays, and internal messaging systems.
Lastly, you would be doing your company a disservice if you didn’t include your front-line staff in your surveys and questionnaires. They are the ones who are the most likely to have an accurate perception of how the company is viewed.
Indeed, everyone in your company needs to know what the brand stands for. From the CEO to rank-and-file employees, every worker needs to understand if they fail to deliver the brand’s values, they fail the company. This is why focusing not only on external but internal branding should be a priority for any small business.