Could Internal Branding Transform Your Company?
The standard business model we all knew has drastically changed in living memory. As we've shifted into a more digitized world, the industry landscape has become increasingly dominated by a 24/7 online presence. Ratings and reviews can either make or break a business. So ensuring that a brand's image stays robust, consistent, and untarnished in the public eye is essential.
Whether you realize it or not, your customers are in the driving seat. They are the driving force for most of your business decisions. Brands that are "customer-centric" at their core experience higher levels of customer lifetime value and reduced churn.
To get to the customer focus core, considering those at the face of an organization should be a priority—and in this article, we'll explain why.
What Is Internal Branding?
When most of us think of marketing a brand, we probably think of a business trying to persuade customers to invest in or buy something they sell. While that is the main driver for 99% of marketing campaigns, there's another critical "market" to speak to: your employees.
An internal brand (or employer brand) is what will inspire engagement and loyalty from your employees. Rather than communicating directly to customers, internal branding is how a business embodies and shares its values, identity, and purpose to employees—ensuring your entire team understands and is invested in the company's purpose and culture.
Internal branding is a corporate philosophy that focuses on bringing the company's core culture, identity, and premise to its employees as well as its consumers, and usually looks to make workers at all levels "ambassadors" or true representatives of the company and its ideals. —Christine Hudson, SmartCapitalMind
When people care about their place of work—and that includes the people they work with—productivity increases dramatically, which is excellent for the bottom line.
External vs. Internal Branding
External branding is something that most people will be familiar with. The logos and taglines, the "feel," social media, brand colors, and slogans all offer a frontline view into a brand, and are carefully designed to coincide with one another. You could say they're designed with one overarching goal: to create associations and connections for specific products or services.
However, the same may be said for the premise of internal branding, albeit with a big caveat. You're striving to teach employees about the culture and mission rather than helping customers learn about the company.
While it can require training, culture-based education, team building, and more, in most instances, the aim of an internal branding campaign is to create a scenario where the workforce and workplace reflect the broader values of the business.
Why Is Internal Branding Important?
A Gallup Study showed that only 23% of U.S. employees stand by a business's values and the brand that employs them—they have no feeling or connection to their company.
So, almost 70% of employees are not getting on board with what a brand is about. Using internal branding to connect employees to a company's external brand is the way around that. But, internal branding isn't as easy to conceptualize as its external counterpart. This is because the immediate gain isn't as evident—but it is just as important nonetheless.
Success in business is all about people, people, people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its biggest competitive advantage." —Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group
Companies with powerful internal branding practices tend to have lower worker turnover because employees feel proud of the company they're working for. Also, it enables employees to create a solid emotional and meaningful connection to a brand and its services or products.
Improves a company's mission focus
Deepens employees' connection to the organization
Breaks down organizational silos
Strengthens organizational leadership
Helps with recruiting 'on brand' employees
Gives employees a higher sense of purpose
Encourages employees to promote the business to friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances
Unifies internal and external branding
When people don't understand what their colleagues do or how their work fits together, initiatives become disjointed and less effective.
It should be said that executives do understand that their teams should stay informed about the company's strategy and general direction. But, very few high-ups know that they need to reassure employees of their brand's power.
Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs. the same messages shared via official brand social channels.—MSLGroup
Tips for Building Your Internal Brand
Building a unique and compelling internal brand starts with developing a strategy. This can correct and improve upon any internal challenges your company has.
Your goal for the internal brand should be to transform employees into willing brand advocates who contribute to your company's success. We've included two internal branding examples further down to drive home the point.
A Nielsen study showed that 84% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues over other forms of marketing.
Define Your Company's Mission
Any company wanting to establish its brand identity, both internally and externally, should have a clear idea of its mission. A mission statement outlines why a company exists—it emphasizes the bigger picture.
Ideally, it is action-oriented, giving anyone who reads it a broader idea of what a business does and what impact it wants to make. But, a mission statement may change over time as the company evolves its goals.
What product or service is your brand offering?
What are your core values?
How do your company's offerings align with your brand values?
The mission statement should describe the purpose a company serves—its target audience, function, and its offerings.
Nike has always had a clear business objective beyond just running shoes. They have focused steadfastly on the impact they are striving to create: inspiration, motivation, and innovation.
Set Your Core Values
Brand values act as a business's guiding principles and fundamental beliefs, designed to help employees come together as a team and work towards an overarching and common business goal. Your core values can be directly related to business relationships, customer engagement, relationships, or company growth.
Core values can help foster decision-making, teamwork, collaboration, and communication of brand principles to brand outsiders and increase the likelihood of hiring new employees with similar values.
A mission statement lays out the brand's why, while your core values are the how.
For example, Discover's values are profoundly effective and memorable. Their website lists their values in an acrostic as the word DISCOVER.
Defining your company values requires closely examining your organization's culture and vision. Then, you need to think deeply about using your values to illustrate what your company hopes to achieve and represent. Consider these guidelines when establishing your company values:
Brevity: Keep it short, so your employees can memorize them easily.
Specific: No jargon or confusing lingo, and ensure that it ties into your company's goals and mission.
Goals: Internal and external goals focus on the employee experience and the impact you want to have on the outside world.
Uniqueness: Your values need to be as unique to your brand as possible. What sets your organization apart from others?
Engage Your Employees
Your business is your people, so they should be involved in the internal branding process.
Feedback from your employees will give you a great insider's view of your brand. It also offers them the opportunity to help define and shape it. In addition, employee surveys, brainstorming sessions, focus groups, and Q&A sessions put a stamp of ownership onto your employees, which will help broaden their potential for being receptive to internal branding and what it means.
Pick a couple of brand ambassadors. For example, assigning a group of employees as the business values and mission conduits can transform internal communication from the top down.
There is nothing quite like the power of your peers. Employees are much more willing to hear new concepts and take on ideas when they hear them from others in the trenches. In addition, it enhances the belief that the brand you are working for is worth championing because others firmly believe in it.
Align It With the External
An important point is how your internal branding will align with your overall external brand. If you're an established brand, your external brand has probably already been defined: the logo, fonts, set colors, tone of voice, taglines, key statements, and the overall look and feel.
Your internal brand needs to have the same kind of treatment. A memorable identity will help the brand stick and translate that 'meaning' into the everyday roles of your employees.
Relate your internal brand to the external. Let's say the message you're putting out to your consumers is "to provide the ultimate customer experience." If your employees are hearing, "our priority is to get as many leads as possible," there's going to be a confusing disconnect from your company's purpose.
Promote your external ideas to your employees, but perhaps add an individual element to your internal brand to continue that feeling of ownership. For example, create an internal podcast with employees as the guests, hosts, and advisers. Use it to highlight what is happening within the company along with any customer highlights—keeping your brand values at the very top. Or, go smaller. Maybe change up the brand's logo color?
Display Your Mission and Core Values In Key Areas
Setting up your mission and values in strategic places for your employees to see is an ideal way of instilling your brand beliefs. A company's website is a great place to start. Add sections about your company culture, mission statement, and values to a dedicated landing page, or within the "About Us" segment.
The idea is to share what you do as a business, why you do it, and who is behind it all, within your team.
Include Internal Branding in Employee Onboarding
Finding the right candidate for a role within your company can be lengthy. However, once you find that perfect member to join your team, you want to start them on the right foot.
Internal branding must be a part of the employee onboarding process. Invite them to learn about your company's mission and how they can contribute to that overarching goal. It's a way to ensure the employee experience feels personal to them. Presentations, videos, and buddying up with another brand advocate employee are great ways of increasing a new employee's engagement with a company.
Share and Communicate
Internal communications will always be an essential element of any business. Announcements, policy changes, upcoming job roles, holiday schedules, and other significant changes to the brand should all be laid out for your employees. Whether you do this within a dedicated Slack channel, email, or stand-up meetings—it needs to be done.
Your leadership team needs to sync with the internal comms strategy for branding changes, such as product launches, recent awards, and website refreshes.
Final Thoughts on Creating an Internal Brand
As with a solid internal communication plan, internal branding and employee engagement go hand in hand. Building and embedding an internal branding strategy can take time and a fair amount of resources, but it is an important and worthwhile investment.
Having employees act as brand ambassadors can yield numerous benefits for your business, such as brand endorsement, employee retention, customer service, and revenue.
Outlining your mission statement, values, and employee engagement and merging the external branding with the internal is tantamount to achieving this strategy and will ultimately help keep employees engaged and on board with your overall mission.