The Whiteboard: Five signs of a strong internal brand culture
We expect the leadership of a company to be passionate about its brand. That's their job, after all — build the brand.
But one of my favorite sayings is, “Leaders need followers.” And that’s the real question — does a company have a strong brand culture that employees want to join? Or is it just a job to them? Do they feel that working for a particular brand is special, or could they simply go across the street and do exactly what they are doing over there without missing a beat? Here are some signs of a strong brand culture that can mean greater success at growing and maintaining a brand.
High-level brand awareness among all employees: In a strong brand culture, every employee understands the brand. They can explain it in a few words. This often starts with a thorough brand orientation when they are hired. New workers are expected to learn about the history of the company and basics of the brand. In strong cultures, it’s self-perpetuating. This is not to be confused with the general concept of team building that is often a part of employee training. And a strong brand culture can increase the sense of team unity, as well.
Employees are avid ambassadors for the brand: I don’t just mean the sales force or the marketing team, I mean virtually all the employees. They love the brand and talking about it. Companies with a strong brand culture tend to organically create people who can articulate their brands in glowing terms. For firms that depend on networking and referrals to generate new customers, having many brand ambassadors can be a boost.
People want to work there: Whether or not a company competes for workplace awards, there is often a strong correlation between those that focus on their employees and those that pay attention to the brand and what it stands for. This applies particularly to companies that have a major service component to their business. The quality of that service is usually critical to competing. Making it different from and better than the competition often comes from an internal brand culture that is committed to getting everyone on the same page.
It’s self-correcting: Strong internal brand cultures are good at staying the course. They reward thinking that supports the brand strategy and correct (or reject) thinking that gets off track. Ideas and actions have to pass the important question of “Is it on brand?” If the answer is no, a new or revised solution or behavior has to take its place.
A proactive alumni program: Companies usually understand that most employees will probably end up working somewhere else as their careers progress. But those with a long-term vision for their brand often see ex-employees as an opportunity. It becomes part of their brand culture to create an alumni program that supports former employees and gives them value in exchange for the expectation that they will be ongoing ambassadors. Of course, not everyone will leave on good terms, but ex-employees can become great referral sources and, sometimes, even clients. A strong brand culture recognizes this and invests in it for the long run.
David Taylor is president of Lancaster-based Taylor Brand Group, which specializes in brand development and marketing technology. Contact him via www.taylorbrand group.com.