Employees, like consumers, are bombarded all day by information. Brands are a way by which we identify our priorities. Consumer brands help us simplify our lives and streamline our selection-making. Internal brands enable us to prioritize our most precious resource: time.
By linking your corporate brand to your culture and values – thereby creating an [tag]internal brand[/tag] – your organization can create a platform from which to communicate to your employees the vision, mission and urgency. Internal branding helps improve credibility and strengthens the bonds of trust between leaders and employees. When people are united in purpose and know where they are headed, positive results can occur.
Brand is a sum of identity, image, and aspiration.
- Identity is what the brand stands for.
- Image is what the brand represents.
- Aspiration is how the brand makes us feel.
The same principles hold true for an internal brand:
- Identity represents the culture and values of your organization.
- Image is akin to the vision and mission of your organization.
- Aspiration stands for what your organization will do.
Internal branding is a linking of the organization’s culture and values to an individual’s values in ways that enable both the individual and organization to achieve their goals. Leaders can, and should, link their leadership communication to the internal branding process as a means of binding their goals to organizational outcomes.
The sum of brand identity, image and aspiration is the promise or guarantee of quality, service and performance.
The Benefits of Brand
The benefits of internal branding are straightforward:
- Internal branding nurtures an organizational identity
It helps reinforce who we are and what we are doing. Take the Red Cross, for example. Its employees working in blood donation know that their message is to augment the nation’s blood supply; the net result of collecting blood is the saving of lives. It is a noble mission and employees feel good about it.
- Internal branding serves as a platform for pushing change
If we know where and who we are now, we have a better idea of what we can become. Harley Davidson has gone through a few organizational transformations from the eighties until now; what has made the transformational process successful is that employees are committed to the product — and its brand — as well as the people within the organization.
- Internal branding is a communications shorthand for getting the message out
Messages tied to brand come with the employee who is pre disposed to receiving them. For example, if you go into a store looking for cereal, the Kellogg brand is familiar to you; you associate the brand with good taste, good quality, and good value. Likewise, a branded message from a senior leader, or a team, is familiar to the employee and connotes a sense of importance, even urgency.
Driving Organizational Clarity
Brand helps clarify alignment. In big hierarchies, orders spill down from the top and remain clear through the first few layers of management. But over time (often in a matter of weeks) if those strategies and objectives are not reinforced, they become unclear and managers are left to improvise. While there is nothing wrong with improvisation, if it’s done willy nilly it causes the organization to veer out of alignment. Internal branding can really help keep customer service and other front line employees in tune with your corporate values as they relate to product performance and service efficiency. And finally the internal brand is an assurance of consistency.
Building the Internal Brand
So how would you go about creating an internal brand? Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Build your brand on your mission
The starting point for any brand is what the organization stands for. Its mission and vision, backed by culture and values, are what the brand means to the employees. Any deviation from mission and culture will strike a false note.
- Make leadership the brand driver
The brand needs your senior management support in order to survive. It’s as simple as walking the talk. Leaders need link their goals to organizational goals — a powerful way to do this is through branding. When leaders are in synch with the organization, they have a better chance of getting results. At the same time, a leader pushing change can use brand to drive the transformation by finding the impetus and support for the initiative inside the culture.
- Nurture the brand through communications
Brand without communication is like an unlabeled can on a shelf by itself — you don’t know what it is and you really don’t care. Any communication tool, from a broadcast email to an all employee meeting, reinforces the brand. Choosing which media and when depends upon the message; the heavier the brand message, the more media you will need. To keep it fresh and vital, email and banners might do the trick. Again, keep the communications consistent with the brand identity, image and aspirations.
- Inject a sense of fun into the brand
Who says life inside an organization has to be dull and boring? Link the brand to activities in the organization that are of a less formal nature; e.g. corporate outings, off site activities, after hours bowling or softball leagues. Your branding can be as simple as displaying your corporate logo on a banner promoting your upcoming ice cream social, or putting your logo on hats made available to corporate retreat attendees. After all, part of brand identity is merchandising. In this way, your brand becomes a unifier and reinforces your organizational culture.
- Grow the brand
Organizations either grow or they die. Same for brands. The brand must be inclusive and by that, it must embrace new initiatives that arise with regularity. Think brand extensions. For example, if manufacturing rolls out a quality initiative, the team would be well served by linking the quality to the company wide brand. In doing so, they add credibility as well as awareness.