When most people think of branding, they instinctively focus on the outward “package” of the brand: the logo, the web site, the marketing collateral (or lack thereof), and the value they provide and impact they make on the target market. In doing so, organizations try to determine the true needs and desires of the customer, perceptions of the brand, and what message is going to resonate.
There is, however, another key stakeholder of a brand that is equally important yet often ignored— the employee. After all, the salesperson, the cashier, the delivery driver, and the executive of a company all must interact with customers, and therefore all must know the story of the brand if they are to communicate its core values and a consistent message to the outside world. As such, brands are valuable to the internal stakeholders of an organization for the following reasons: they reinforce the company’s purpose, ignite passion in workers, and are a source of pride and overall job satisfaction.
Brands instill in employees a sense of purpose.
Organizations will spend countless hours, hold dozens of “brainstorming sessions” and spend thousands of dollars developing “Mission-” or “Vision Statements” that ultimately can become verbal representations of a brand’s essence. Naturally, because of the time and money invested, these companies will plaster these statements anywhere they can, from the home page of the company web site to the back of business cards, and everywhere in between. Unfortunately, they are not meant for external audiences or customers to see; they are relevant in helping to establish a purpose behind the brand by giving employees a reason to care about their work, their employer, and most importantly, the customer.
Brands ignite passion in employees.
Everyone wants to feel good about what they do in life, both personally and professionally, and that in some way they are “making a difference” within the world. This is the reason why many people today are flocking to not-for-profits in search of work that is meaningful to them. While most businesses are in business to make money, ultimately a company is trying to fill a market need of some sort, whether that is through a product or service. If implemented correctly, brands have the ability to communicate to employees that their goal is not only to make money, but to make a difference—helping employees get enthusiastic about their organizations and believe in the value they provide. The more they believe in the brand, the more likely they will go above and beyond expectations to help customers, thus furthering a positive perception of the organization within the marketplace.
Brands are a source of pride for employees.
Brands that consistently deliver on their promises are remembered and adored. They draw not only more customers to the company (increasing sales and profitability), they also have the ability to attract (and retain) the best and brightest talent to work for and be a part of that organization. On the other hand, employees are embarrassed to admit that they work for a brand or organization that they don’t believe in, such as those that don’t fulfill their obligations, do not value their customers or employees, or are solely focused on “efficiencies” and the bottom line over customer satisfaction. In this case, the best logo, most creative print collateral, or highly functional web site will not be able to save the brand.
There are many stakeholders to consider when developing your organization’s brand. While it is true that shareholders (i.e. the “bean counters”) demand a return on their investment in the form of increasing revenue and profits, it is important that the organization considers not only the customer’s needs and desires, but those of employees as well. By giving them a sense of purpose, getting them excited about what they do, and keeping them proud of the organization, it is possible to realize the inner value of your brand. After all, happy employees are loyal ones who will champion your brand in front of the consumer.
—Ryan Hembree, principal/brand strategy