When it comes to leading brands, small and medium size businesses often look to replicate the success of companies like Apple, Google, or Zappos. They might wonder how to achieve that same level of brand fanaticism. Yes, these companies spend millions of dollars to build their brands. However, the truth is companies like Apple could not have achieved the level of success and brand loyalty they have without starting with internal branding.
Many people are not familiar with internal branding, or at least not with the specific terminology. Internal branding in the simplest terms is when a company uses the power of their organization’s culture to build a strong brand. It is aligning and engaging the employees to consistently deliver increased value to your customers. It is also connecting employees with the company’s vision for delivering distinctive value to customers.
Your employees will express their perception of your brand by the way they do their jobs, the way they treat your customers, the way they interact with each other, and the way they embody the brand on their own accord. You will always have a few people that just want to clock in (so to speak), do their job, and go home. But, the majority of employees truly want to be a part of something bigger than them and are ready to get emotionally involved in their work.
As with your external brand, your internal brand will develop whether you deliberately define and shape it or not. In fact, your internal brand is influencing your success, or lack of success, right now. That’s why it we think it’s important that you put just as much effort into developing your internal brand as you do developing your external brand. This is why at SunUp Group, we have built internal brand discovery into our core brand development methodology. Interviewing employees and garnering their input as to the perceived strengths, weaknesses and daily performance of their organization can be an enlightening part of the brand development process. We call this “brand truth”!
Customers are more likely to connect with your brand if they have a good understanding of what your company is about, what you value, and the experience delivered by your employees. Companies like Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton, Zappos and Southwest Airlines have dedicated time, resources, and attention to developing their internal brand so that their employees reflect the brand to the customer every day.
A side benefit, albeit a very important benefit of developing your internal brand, is that it can create a continuous cycle of improvement within your company. When your employees clearly understand your company’s orientation and intentions, they can address specific aspects of their jobs that are inconsistent or in conflict with those intentions. This in turn will improve your product or service and create a better customer experience.
As you purposely set out to develop your internal brand, it is critical not to leave anyone out – everyone in your company plays an important role and can benefit from understanding and embodying your internal brand. Obviously it is probably most important for your employees that interface directly with customers, but the employees on the production line, in the warehouse, and in the shipping department will be able to do their job better and make the right decisions if they truly understand your internal brand. Your employees should be a walking billboard for your brand – clearly demonstrating the ‘why’ behind your organization and the ‘what’ that makes you different.
We hope this brief introduction to internal branding helps you understand the need for an internal branding program. If you have questions or want to learn more about internal branding, please feel free to contact us or check out our webpage on brand development!