Internal Branding: Chocolate covered marshmallow cookie

May 4, 2012 by     4 Comments    Posted under: Branding, Business Success

I like to think of Internal branding as mushy on the inside, solid on the outside… just like those chocolate coated marshmellow cookies! Businesses must realize that their internal brand must be a focus and it takes more than a positioning statement on t-shirts or jackets to make that happen. It is no longer viable for companies to rely on their external customer base to propagate the brand experience to their internal customers: their personnel. Gone are the days that the external message of brand is all that counts.  In today’s environment, in order for an external brand to succeed, the internal organization, its employees, its processes all have to align themselves to the external brand…. if not, you’ll be short in offering your market base in brand experience, brand premise, brand promise and brand delivery.

Remember when offering friends and family discounts to your staff was the whole internal brand initiative companies employed? By doing this, companies provided employees with a way to “advertise” their product. In today’s social market, employees’ friends and families cast a wider net! Internal branding allows the potential of each employee becoming a proponent of your brand. They can and will be your best PR campaign. Word of mouth has taken on a whole new meaning.

Whether your business is in CPG (consumer packaged goods), b2b, medical, financial or non-profit… the ability to engage your personnel with your product, brand and service goes a long way in creating a complete brand experience. Organizations need to walk the talk.  Today’s savvy consumers/customers expect and want more from their purchasing experience. In order to buy into a brand, to endorse it and select it, the complete 360 degree brand messaging must be consistent… and that includes your internal people. But how to do that?

To start, develop a clear company vision: Just like a brand positioning statement, this doesn’t have to be elaborate, however, it needs to be succinct. This isn’t anything new. Companies have always had a visions statement…. however, what you do with this company vision must be considerably more than framing it and placing it on the wall.

Identify key personnel to be the “internal brand ambassadors”, to motivate  colleagues to embrace the vision: This is imperative. Identifying leaders within each department of your business will go a long way in creating a holistic experience for your brand. Empowering these ambassadors will ensure that within their department that the brand vision and premise stay strong and in line.

The company vision needs to be communicated to the internal team and “adopted” by senior management: The old adage “Do as I say…. not as I do” doesn’t work anymore. The culture of an organization needs to deliver on its brand promise. Actions speak louder than words. Management must get in line and be expected to tow the mantra.

Develop clear goals and measurement metrics, to assess along the way. (ie: sales mix % per sales person, customer service process and goals). This goes a long way in engaging employees and making them part of the process as “part of their job”. This assists in establishing the expectations and tying them up to the brand experience.

And lastly, but definitely very significant in the adoption of internal branding, is the ability to establish goals and reward personnel who demonstrate that they have embraced the culture.

In order to propel a cultural shift within an organization where employees are more client focused and more business focused, a developed and organized plan is essential in order to lead to the desired outcome. Just like everything else in business, a strategic plan identifying key goals is the first step. This will enable all key employees, and key stakeholders to be more engaged and relevant in the business process. I don’t remember where I read this but it did resonate with me: “There is a difference between communicating a message, and getting it understood, and changing behaviour.” So next time your are in a marketing meeting ready to establish your brand deliverables, don’t forget to bring those chocolate covered mashmallow cookies!




About the author

Miriam Hara Miriam is the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of 3H Communications Inc., a full service branding and advertising agency. Her experience has enabled her to bring together strategic business savvy with an all-encompassing creative vision to product and service marketing, which she shares here, in her many posts. Join the conversation, register here. Miriam’s own brand of marketing experience and expertise is the basis of her marketing ebook series including Social Media Understood, the most recent addition. Download it here. You can also find Miriam on Google +.

4 Comments + Add Comment

  • Great article, Miriam.
    The internal component of brand development is often overlooked in favour of the more exciting external activities. I like to think of it as one of those wonderful, elaborate Viking vessels with all the rowers on the keel (okay, they were slaves, usually, but what a wicked challenge for buy-in!). On the outside, the Vikings appeared to be masters of the very ocean they sailed on. Inside they had a bunch of people rowing to push that ship in the right direction. Internal branding is getting these people, who have to do the often thankless work of living up to the company’s promises, all rowing in the same cadence. For some it was a job, for some it is what they do to survive, some people just like to row with the right ship. That harmony can only be achieved with an internal brand strategy. Yes, yes, we’re slaves – I mean, THEY were slaves, but with the right incentive, the right internal branding, they become a part of the promise and it means something to them personally when the ship comes successfully to port. People outside the company see that. WestJet’s campaigns are a great example of how to make your internal branding your external branding.

  • Miriam Hara

    Thanks for chiming in Brian! You always include some great examples. I agree that WestJet has done some good work in internal branding and so does Porter Airlines. My experience with the brand experience has been very positive. Do you know of any CPG or Banks or Service companies that do a good job?

  • Brilliant article Miriam! For a person who is part of the internal communications, find this quite inspiring! I can totally relate with the thoughts shared by Brian! Though it always feels like, ‘the pudding is right there, but not tasted it yet’, internal marketer certainly enjoys the position of knowing the corporate insights better than an external marketer. I would like to see internal marketing steering in the direction of partnering with external marketing and playing an equal role in strategic brand decisions, as the employees are the best brand ambassadors! If the brand positioning/brand message does not strike a chord with employees, it certainly is going to traverse in different directions!

    Coming from the service industry, I can definitely say that Accenture and Infosys do a good job in internal marketing. They constantly try to come up with different products and creative campaigns for their employees!

  • Miriam Hara

    Thanks for your comment Vidyashree. Yes, I was suggesting in my article that the today’s marketing team must plan and integrate initiatives to ensure that the brand is equally and properly represented internally. What makes a brand today is the total experience. Working in service, b2b and in the CPG industries, we have always taken into account the role of internal branding and have integrated it in our plans as a total marketing approach.

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