There’s more to building an awesome brand than creative ad campaigns and effective marketing strategy, although those elements are key. It is also about leadership values that inspire your team to rally around them. Values that anyone on staff can understand and apply at any time.
It runs deeper than any marketing construct. People fall in love with brands because of what they stand for. It is the story you tell customers, your employees and everyone who knows about you. You want that story to be so good, people will start to tell it themselves.
So, how do you do that? How do you breathe life into a brand and ignite a flame within the executive team and the employee base that will catch fire out in the world? Here are some of Thoma Thoma’s best tips for brand leadership that sticks.
Make your messaging authentic.
The stories, the facts, the rationale must be grounded in truth in order to click with your people. If your program is not authentic, employees will see through it quickly.
Brand purpose is based on the DNA of the company, its culture, its history and its uniqueness. That’s why a cookie-cutter approach does not work. The branding or rebranding process first involves taking a clear-eyed look at your organization. For that reason, it’s often helpful to enlist a marketing firm to assist.
Find and tap the natural leaders.
Leaders are those whom others want to follow, and those individuals are not always in top positions within your organization. Look for influential individuals at all levels. Your job in developing and activating a powerful internal branding program is to first find those individuals in the organization that have strong “followership.” Then, plug them into your initiative in meaningful ways.
In Thoma Thoma’s practice, we frequently recommend the development and activation of an internal brand council — a group of 15 or more such native influencers, who serve as “roundtable advisers” to leadership, as well as activists and ambassadors to the employee base. These brand councils are sources of extraordinary creativity and innovation, because they know your organization and your brand best. The brand councils we work with often draw out and elaborate the meaning of a brand in unexpected ways.
Put some skin in the game.
Some managers and owners might think a paycheck is all they owe their employees for showing up. The brand leader is not so naïve. Money might get the folks’ bodies to work, but it will not engage their hearts and minds. Pay ranks down around five or six in the rewards people ascribe to their work.
That said, it’s still helpful to add some tangible incentive or reward to your internal branding program. It helps encourage participation and sets things in motion.
Gateway Rewards research reveals a big disconnect in perceptions around reward and recognition within companies. While about 90 percent of senior decision-makers believe their companies are sufficiently recognizing people who demonstrate organizational values, more than 60 percent of employees believe that managers and leaders should be acknowledging their colleagues more. To ensure your recognition program is effective and accomplishes your branding goals, follow The Thoma Ten Commandments of Reward and Recognition.
Extensive, long-term employee data developed by Gallup underscores that employee engagement and alignment correlates directly with the financial performance of the organization. Pat Lencioni argues persuasively in The Advantage that “organizational health trumps everything else in business.”
Organizational leadership does not sign onto internal branding programs just because they are “good for morale.” These leaders want and need to know it will deliver tangible, bottom-line results to the organization.
Being accountable means bringing relevant and concrete success metrics to your program. Use metrics as simple as “can our employees repeat our brand purpose, brand principle and brand promise” statements to more bottom-line measures such as “how many new opportunities did we open based on employee referrals?”
Work both top-down and bottom-up.
Clearly, the organizing principles and brand strategy are an executive-suite discipline. But once you turn it loose into the wild, you want your internal branding effort to harness and enjoy the wisdom of the crowd. As we have found in multiple client engagements, the collective intelligence of the organization is vastly greater than the brain trust of the brand strategy consultant and top leaders, holed up in the executive suite.
Distributed, bottom-up approaches are congruent with our social media-driven culture, in which every person has universal access to powerful communication channels. Designing your internal brand activation program with these tools and temperaments in mind gives it the chance to catch fire and spread virally within the organization, which after all is the objective: a defined, productive culture that feeds off its own momentum and continually strengthens, improves and accelerates.
Thoma has worked with businesses for almost 30 years to help them develop their brand values and teach them how to “Live Your Brand” as well. To learn more, contact us.