I read a white paper entitled Internal Branding; What is that exactly? By Allan Steinmetz, CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting, Inc. And felt compelled to add to his insights and hit on a couple of key overlooked areas of the process.
First, I’d like to begin by addressing one of his opening comments in the paper where he says “Everyone knows what a brand is, and everyone knows what advertising is.” Unfortunately, many companies are out of business because they don’t understand the differences between these two efforts. Yikes!
Knowing the difference is essential to aligning your internal brand building strategies with your external messaging and ultimately earning employee and customer trust by being able to walk your talk. All too often that effort is not happening with many small to mid-sized companies. And what’s even worse is many attempt the marketing/advertising function without even embarking on an internal brand development process. Skipping or overlooking the internal development piece can cause a lot of employee and customer confusion, indifferent customer experiences, unmet expectations, and the need for a lot more marketing dollars!
The other piece overlooked in the paper was the need for an actual brand definition process itself. Companies just can’t change the culture without knowing what to change it to. Sure, vision and mission statements are good, but they are limited in providing a robust range of detailed actionable elements. Without having a clearly defined brand foundation to springboard new ways of being, and having the support and backbone to back up the change, the efforts aren’t sustainable long-term.
So, what is internal branding? Our definition is this:
“Internal branding is the process of identifying, and defining, who you say you are as an organization (collectively), and then implementing (becoming) those attributes through your leadership, systems & processes, and employee culture.” – Brand Ascension Group
Why internal branding? Consider these statistics…
- 85% of a company’s market value is now calculated on intangible assets, defined as knowledge, reputation and human talent.
(Source: Brookings Institution)
- 70% of customers’ brand perception is determined by experience with people. (Source: Ken Irons, Market
- Higher than average levels of employee engagement also realized 27% higher profits, 50% higher sales, 50% higher customer loyalty levels and 38% above-average productivity. (Source: Gallup )
Small, medium or large businesses become more self-actualized through the process of internal brand development. It is transformational. It is clarifying. It is directional. It helps to create:
- a strategic brand positioning blue print,
- brings the blue print alive through tangible actions and behaviors that:
- elevate the customer experience,
- create clarity in the mind of the employee and the role they play in the success of the brand,
- and solidify the brand value position in the mind of the customer and stakeholders, and
- establishes meaningful, brand-relevant content for market messaging and promotion.
Internal branding is focused on the organization and it’s development, how it does what it does, how it is different in every way, and how it delivers consistently on its brand promise.
Marketing, on the other hand, is externally focused. It is primarily concerned with increasing the bottom-line, what it thinks the customer wants, and disseminating the message to all reasonable targeted audiences through multiple channels. Notice I didn’t say anything about the employees, the company processes, or building a memorable customer experience? Marketing doesn’t focus on the ‘doing’ of those things, but rather just the telling/selling of those things (consistent to the experience or not).
Here’s the dilemma. When it comes to business building activities, many companies spend most of their time focused on external marketing/advertising efforts (telling customers how good they or their product is) rather than on strategic, internal branding efforts (those efforts that help to keep the customers coming back and telling their friends.)
Now, internal brand building and external marketing efforts can co-exist and build a fabulous, synergistic friendship that builds business through a symbiotic relationship. Walking your talk.
“How do we start the internal branding process?”
- Identify and define your top four core Values.
- Identify and define your overall brand Style.
- Establish key Standards of Performance that reflect your Values and Style attributes, then map out supportive actions needed to live up to those standards.
- Brainstorm your authentic Differentiators (those quantitative differences that your competitors cannot claim) and market them, and train your people to leverage them.
- Craft an inspirational, employee focused, brand mantra to capture the essence of the brand’s DNA
- Compose a purposeful brand promise that cites what the brand promises to deliver day in and day out to all stakeholders
- Now, get these elements into the hearts and minds of your employees, engage them, empower them to action it!
It is time to take a step back and ask, “Are we fully walking our talk, consistently?” “Do we really know who we are compared to our competitors?” “Are we the leader in our industry?” “Do we have high employee retention rates?”
Now, stop and consider what’s in your BRAND DNA?