A successful brand launch begins within your company, bringing the vision of the brand to your employees — the most powerful brand champions for any organization.
Redefining yourself. Let’s first define what we mean by “launching your new brand.” We don’t mean just a new ad campaign or an updated logo. We’re talking about a new way to look at your company and your products. A new definition of who you are. A new story to tell your customers, your employees and everyone who knows about you. A story that’s so good, people will start to tell the story to themselves.
Start at the top. A new story needs words and pictures. For certain, there will be new ads, new images, new messages — everything that people see from the outside. But it all has to begin on the inside with your people, your employees and your leaders. Start at the top. The CEO doesn’t just have to endorse your brand; he or she has to be your brand. Think about Sam Walton and Walmart, or Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines, or Bill Gates and Microsoft. Their unique personalities became synonymous with the companies and brands they represented. Those iconic founders set the tone for all employees of their companies.
Pass the torch. A positive, progressive brand should be just as inspiring to an employee as it is to a customer. It becomes the inner voice that guides everyone in a company. Find brand champions within your company — not necessarily the people with the big titles, but the hand-raisers, the engagers, the natural leaders that peers look up to. Those are the people you want on your team. Some companies form a Brand Council, a group of people from across all functional areas of your business that share their insights and experiences on how to live the brand better. These are your brand ambassadors and they will infect their colleagues with brand enthusiasm.
Rally when you’re ready. When you’ve defined your brand, prepared your leaders, and are ready to deliver on your promises to your customers, it’s time to launch and launch big. Plan a big employee event, or series of events, to include everyone in your company. Make it all about the brand. Give them a fresh new way of looking at their company. The rally should help every employee understand how he or she can live the brand every day in the way they communicate and behave. Make it fun. Feed the troops, but don’t make them cook the food. Give everybody at least one branded item to keep. And whatever you do, don’t make the new brand a burden, a set of new tasks added to an already busy work day.
Uncle Brand needs you! It might be easy for some employees to think of a brand as something for people in another department. Even if you can say “I’m not in marketing” or “I don’t deal with customers,” you’re not excused from living the brand. Every job in the company contributes to the value of the brand, and every employee needs a clear “line of sight” from what they do to what the brand means. Make your brand values a filter for recruiting and screening new hires, and for evaluating your current employees in their performance reviews. Find and foster people who can live the brand.
Leave the light on. It’s very easy for a new brand’s meaning to wither away, for attitudes and behaviors to regress to the old way of doing things. Give employees frequent and ongoing opportunities to learn, share and be rewarded for brand-living behavior. Tactics such as brand-centric employee recognition and reward programs, as well as internal sharing of brand heroes and their stories, keep the momentum going. Brands, like other living things, need daily care.
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