BRANDS are only as strong as the people behind them. Internal branding works by winning the hearts of the people who deliver the brand promise and care for the brand over time.
The first imperative of any brand owner should be the employees, from the factory worker to the managing director. The more they understand and live the brand’s essence, the truer and more real the brand experience will be for the customer.
For the few great, authentic brands, everyone becomes a brand ambassador.
Internal branding is a business strategy that impacts business results — but only if the initiative works at all levels of the organisation. The challenge is true congruence and inter-connectedness when it comes to keeping the brand promise.
The brand’s ability to meet real needs and aspirations at every contact point builds its credibility and value. After all, the value of the brand is not what goes into it, but what its customers and other stakeholders get out of it.
All internal and external actions and communications must match at all times, in all places and at all levels of the organisation. This normally requires a change of mindset and behaviour. In fact, it amounts to nothing less than a brand culture transformation.
It is an ongoing process. This transformation can proceed relatively easily when the leadership team champions internal branding initiatives consistently and actively.
The seven drivers of internal branding are motivating forces in all human endeavour. The seven drivers from Richard Barret’s Seven Levels Of Organisational Consciousness model are adapted from Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
These cultural transformation tools map the values and behaviours of a culture and give a clear road map for culture change.
1. FINANCIAL STABILITY
To fulfil the need for financial security, internal branding must first ensure that business plans and brand plans are aligned. Employees need to understand the brand positioning, before they can buy into it and develop a sense of ownership. They need to feel secure that the brand they support in turn supports them.
2. BELONGING AND LOYALTY
Recognition for significant contribution to brand growth and delivering the brand promise fulfils the need for belonging and loyalty among employees. Collect stories that can be retold of brand behaviours that increase customer engagement and can be emulated.
Create a safe environment where open communication and mutual respect thrive. Encourage the use of different media to open minds and keep brand communication consistent. Introduce and welcome new ideas that keep all relationships internally and externally fresh.
3. PRIDE IN PERFORMANCE
Cultivate brand pride and pride in performance by establishing policies, procedures, systems and processes that create order and promote best brand practices, quality and excellence. Set brand standards and measure their performance through a “dashboard” of indicators.
4. CONTINUOUS RENEWAL
Stimulate innovation so that the brand defies stagnation and remains relevant. Ensure that people supporting it are empowered to take action that supports brand growth and development.
Their agility, adaptability, innovation, continuous learning, and personal growth will inevitably impact the brand. This requires delegation, teamwork, flexibility, knowledge and information sharing, and the courage and willingness to take risks.
5. ALIGN VALUES AND VISION
Develop the capacity for collective action by ensuring that vision, mission and values are central to the brand and inspire employee engagement, commitment and enthusiasm. Align employees’ sense of personal mission with brand vision to ignite passion and personal productivity.
Celebrate living brand values to create a climate of commitment, creativity and enthusiasm. Establish a strong, positive, unique brand culture where everyone articulates and champions the brand so strongly that it leaves an indelible impression.
Actualise the purpose of the brand and make a difference internally to employees, and externally to customers, the local community and society at large.
Employees need to know how they are making a difference with the brand to continue building and championing the brand cause. Without this, they are merely showing up.
7. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Deepen the brand’s commitment to social responsibility through a commitment to the common good and the well-being of future generations. Brands must consider the impact of all their decisions on the sustainability and long-term viability of society and the planet.