A few things quickly come to mind when the topic of branding comes up with my clients and colleagues: logos, colors, messaging, product packaging, advertisements and commercials. Drawing in and keeping customers is paramount to a business’s or product’s livelihood — how to get noticed, how to keep interest, how to create and maintain a loyal audience and, when all is said and done, how to make money. There’s no question that external branding can play a critical role in a company’s bottom line, but what is often overlooked is the great value of internal branding.
Millions of corporate dollars are spent on branding efforts directed toward customers every year, from strategic product development and placement to public interest surveys, from print and digital customer outreach to engaging agencies for advertising or marketing services. Internal branding is not often a line item on corporate budgets, and even if it is, when dollars and cents come together, it’s most likely one of the first items to be left on the cutting room floor.
My years of experience working with company leaders in professional services industries have taught me that appreciation and knowledge of the power of a brand falls on a wide spectrum, even trending toward the idea that branding is unnecessary or something on which to not waste time or money. “People already know who we are,” “people aren’t hiring us because they care about our logo,” and “the only advertising we need is word of mouth” are just a few of the phrases I have heard all too often.
What many executives don’t recognize is that, while many of those things do carry their own weight, the power of a brand is often relatively invisible and much more complex than visual references and soapbox publicity. Just as much as a brand can draw customers in, it can also draw employees out.
Having happy employees is something that many companies don’t see as a branding opportunity. Executives throw their money and attention into pay and benefits and company perks (who can argue with that?), but tend to give less thought to company loyalty. They say that money can buy loyalty, and in many situations it does, but what else is there to keep an employee from jumping ship every time a better offer comes along?
A brand can go a long way toward strengthening an employee’s bond with a company, and in turn, can create genuine brand ambassadors for your company even when your employees are off the clock. If your employees are happy, and if they truly believe in your company and its mission, they are more likely to communicate that fact and positively represent your company with clients as well as with their own friends and family. One of the best ways to enhance your company’s external brand is to start at the source, with you and your employees.
So how do we use internal branding to develop company loyalty in a way that is effective and won’t inspire scissor acrobatics at the budget board? There are many ways to begin, and it can start as simply as using deliberate communication with your employees. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when considering launching an internal branding communication effort:
- Does your company have a mission statement and is it written down?
- Does your company have core values and are they written down?
- Do your employees believe in the product or service they are selling?
- Do your employees know who you are?
- Do your employees know what your company stands for?
- Do your employees know the history of your company?
- Do your employees know what a brand is?
- Do your employees know what your company’s brand is?
- Do your empolyees have access to tools they can use to communicate your company’s brand?
Of course, these questions are just the beginning, but will hopefully get you thinking about things you can possibly say and do to start developing your brand within your company and build a stronger foundation on which your external brand can stand.