11 August 2007

Internal branding: Coffee and Donuts/Oct 06

Internal Branding:The marriage of Marketing and HR

The changing branding landscape
Traditional belief about branding - and the biggest myth in the world of business - continues to be that branding is for external purposes, for communicating to consumers and that it is the exclusive preserve of the marketing function.

Then came the belief that advertising, PR, database and direct marketing, interactive media must all create a consistent impression and thus was born Integrated Branding,360 Degree Branding, Total Branding etc. Not to mention PR agencies, direct marketing agencies and interactive agencies. But there aren’t as yet, organizations that specialize in what is called Internal Branding.

While Internal Branding is becoming an increasing imperative for all organizations, it is even more critical when people front the brand and need to display brand values in every interaction: like the service industry – retail, finance, insurance, hospitality, telecom, education, tourism and hospitals.Technology companies with long sales cycles and having people deputed and stationed at customer sites; industrial product and commodities manufacturing companies where brand consciousness may be low but will increasingly be the differentiator; and organizations that need to interact continuously with government bodies, export councils, importers and the like. Business leaders are increasingly acknowledging that branding today demands a certain kind of behavior and interface with customers and business partners.

Internal Branding: Whose responsibility is it?
There is no arguing that customer promise and outside messaging – typical brand strategy and marketing efforts, needs to integrate totally with organization vision and goals – typical organization strategy and HR efforts. The question is whose responsibility is it?

According to Hugh Davidson, visiting Professor of Consumer Marketing at Cranfield and author of ‘Managing the Organization Brand’, unlike a product brand, the responsibility for which may be with the marketing department, the responsibility for an organization brand is shared – finance handles shareholders and investors, external affairs handles media, operations handles distributors and suppliers, sales handles distributors, HR handles employees.
“I reckon about 20 percent of a brand is its physical attributes, like a logo, color, letterheads. The rest is all about behavior” says Ian Buckingham, head of Interbrand Inside. "Marketing is the custodian of the physical brand, but who are the custodians of behavior? If it is just HR, you've perhaps got a problem… The best sponsor for an internal culture is the CEO… Employees bring a brand to life; they are its ultimate custodians."

Internal Branding in Action

There are two consistent philosophies held by companies that have been most successful in building their brand equity
- They view their brand as a central organizing principle, which ensures that all practices and processes are aligned
- They recognize that, just as brands should be unique and differentiated, internal practices and processes that support the brand should be differentiated and unique to the organization

Nike, Disney, Virgin and Starbucks are companies that successfully ‘live the brand’. All three have their own language and modus operandi, reflecting the brand inside the company. This covers both symbols and practices. Employees at Nike’s head office are familiar with the ‘Walk of Fame’, which reminds employees of the company’s heroes and role models. Disney has its own language: customer facing staff are ‘cast members’ and shifts ‘performances’. Catherine Salway Group Brand Manager for Virgin says "We've always been clued up about getting the right people on board; the external brand tends to attract the right people anyway. We ask a lot of questions that aren’t traditional, to get a feel for what the person is like. We select on attitude and personality and a feel for whether someone's a bit different from the crowd, can cope with pressure and has a good sense of humor. That's what makes our brand come alive." Starbucks clearly articulated the brand promise as being “rewarding everyday moments”. Aligning of HR policies and practices to ensure sustainable delivery of brand promise. According to a published case study, the Starbucks plan to ensure this included: Focusing on Starbuck’s ability to attract and retain good people to deliver that critical brand experience; Employee policies drafted to clearly signal the critical role played by thousands of part time employees in ensuring the success of the organization; Starbucks became the first company in the USA to offer medical, dental and vision benefits to part time employees - It was also the first to offer them stock options; Starbucks recruitment philosophy was tuned to focus on people with outgoing personalities and high social skills; The recruitment posters put up at its outlets spoke only about delivering satisfaction; The training programs reflected the same emphasis – working in the people business serving coffee, not in the coffee business serving people. Starbucks thinks of itself as being in the people business serving coffee, not in the coffee business serving people.

Internal Branding: The Emerging Best Practice Process

1. Establish that Internal Branding is for Better Performance

Leaders need to convince the whole organization that vision and values are not a framed poster in their rooms but need to be converted into an actionable agenda for every individual in the organization and that this can make a tangible and measurable difference to the organization’s performance. The goal of Internal Branding is to orchestrate and integrate everything the organization does, to ultimately create lasting customer relationships with a positive topline and bottom line impact.

2. First Articulate and then Operationalise the brand

A well-knit organization brand is one in which every part contains the whole, where every action is based on the brand.To do this, the organization needs to clearly define its center of gravity, communicate that center and act upon it.

The best companies that have successfully done this are very clear that the brand needs to be "operationalized" into clear objectives and roles. While externally vision and values are converted into products and services that build customer commitment, internally vision is translated into strategies and values and into measurable practices.
Both are embedded in working systems – recruitment, appraisal, rewards, succession – they provide the substance to support brand promises, becoming a guide to drive everyday behavior, encouraging employees to live the brand. If necessary, the company needs to announce and implement any additional training or incentives that will be necessary to encourage, support and reward the required behavior.

3. Selling Internally: Inclusive, Consultative, Imaginative

Allan Steinmetz, CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting argues that communicating the brand values to staff requires the same methods as external marketing he says; "If you impose a brand culture it will fail. If you expect to change behavior without asking if it’s a good idea you will fail, you need to segment your internal population just as you would your external audience and communicate appropriately. Communication needs to be relevant, and in today's climate, experiential as well.They could be rallies, workshops, online training, even picnics."
Ian Buckingham head of Interbrand Inside says; "It's not good enough to run spin campaigns for staff,”.“The top team has to foot the bill. They need role model behaviors.You can't ask thousands of staff to behave in a way that people at the top won't model." Besides actively engaging the employees in discovering the brand, practitioners are clearly calling for the picking of Brand Champions to spread the word from within.

Hugh Davidson’s Seven Step System for Internal Branding

1. Build Foundations – Understand needs of key stakeholders, link them through vision and values
2. Turn vision to measurable strategies
3. Turn values to measurable practices
4. Communicate the vision and values through action signals and words
5. Embed strategies and practices through recruitment, training, appraisal, rewards, promotion and succession
6. Brand - organization’s branding to expresses vision and values
7. Measure - rigorous measurement of how effective vision and values are implemented

The point is, when marketing is trying to turn external customers into brand evangelists, shouldn’t SOMEONE be trying to turn employees into active advocates? Should HR be applying the principles of branding more actively? Should marketing widen its sphere of influence to create engagement internally too? Or should this programme be brought to you by the CEO?

Read the original article here http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/catalyst/2006/09/07/stories/2006090700130200.htm

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