Why strive for internal brand engagement? Well, in the words of a CEO of a global fast food chain:
“We’ve invested millions in developing our brand… now it’s in the hands of our people”
Your brand is the most tangible and focused manifestation of your organization’s mission, vision, values and business strategy. It serves as a guide for every member of your community, inside your walls and out. It speaks to who you are as an organization, what you value, who you hope to become, and what your promise is to those who engage with you.
Your brand is experienced by your stakeholders in so many ways. The obvious being product satisfaction, logos, packaging, merchandising, marketing and advertising. All of these are important, but the entire brand experience includes all brand touch points––including, and arguably most importantly––the interactions your constituents have with your employees.
Gaining alignment with your brand is essential for all employees. An employee who is not aligned is truly a recipe for disaster. This goes beyond the obvious employee who has personal interactions with your customers and other stakeholders. All aspects of a business can affect the customer experience, including turnaround time, accuracy, product quality, distribution, cleanliness, accessibility and more.
On the flip side, an employee who is aligned with your brand will deliver on your brand promise and that translates into revenue. To continue to build and maintain a strong reputation, it is important that an organization convey a consistent, cohesive brand image. Your brand is expressed in your marketing materials and also in your actions—in how your employees answer the phone, interact with your customers and the larger community, and how you deliver on our commitments and brand promise.
However, just being aligned (while crucial) is not enough to deliver a stellar brand experience. I like to look at internal stakeholder brand alignment as a progression of four levels that have very distinct degrees of impact on your bottom line. As your employees move through the progression they will transition from a rational engagement to an emotional one. This emotionally engaged employee, the true brand ambassador, will have the most significant effect on your reputation and longevity in the marketplace. Your goal should be to ensure each and every employee is somewhere on the alignment progression and that your organization is doing everything possible to lead them to the point of emotional engagement for maximum business success.
1. Awareness: At this level, you have successfully communicated your brand to your employees and gained their alignment. They are aware of your brand promise and recognize they are responsible for delivering it to your customers. They have passed the point of apathy or ignorance and "bought in."
2. Understanding: Here, the employees begins to truly understand the significance of delivering on this brand promise. They understand the correlation between the living out the brand and the business impact it will make. They can see their efforts make a difference.
3. Commitment: Employees at this level are committed to the company mission and begin to show a concerted effort and true pride in delivering the brand. They are loyal and vested in your company outcomes.
4. Engagement: The employees that reach this level are your silver bullets. This is the peak you want all employees to summit. These employees realize every interaction they have with your stakeholders, internal and external, makes a difference. They are not only committed to delivering your brand, they are passionate about it. This is the true brand ambassador and they are worth their weight in gold, so keep them happy!Your brand is both your external face and your internal heart. Employee brand alignment is crucial to delivering on your brand promise. And delivering on your brand promise will build your reputation, customer base, and profits.
About The Author
Jennifer L. Park is the Director of Marketing and Sales at the University of Colorado South Denver. She is responsible for collaborating with other members of the Senior Team to lead CU South Denver success by developing enterprise and program strategy, driving and protecting a strong brand reputation, developing a strong consumer base, increasing revenues and ensuring auxiliary business profitability. A multi-decade veteran in the marketing field, Park has helped companies such as Procter & Gamble, Kellogg, Eastman Kodak, Kimberly-Clark and Frito-Lay, achieve their brand and revenue goals. She has 12 years’ experience in the higher education sector, as well as a strong background in advertising agencies, consulting, start-ups and major consumer product companies.