Updated March 18, 2022
We recently heard a client say, “What is a brand?"
Simple: It is the entity that exists in our customers’ hearts and minds.” This is true, but that’s not quite all.
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What is a Company Brand?
A company brand is how potential and active customers identify your brand. This includes brand elements like your company logo, website, color scheme, tagline, and more. But many companies forget a key aspect of their company brand.
Read this: '4 Key Features of a Branding Kit'
An important and often overlooked audience is employees. Without the organizing principle of brand among employees, companies face a missed opportunity for bringing the brand to life...externally. Brand training for employees should be included in every onboarding session.
This article breaks down 5 reasons why it’s important for employees to understand their company’s brand with key examples:
Company Branding for Employees
- Strengthen Brand Promise
- Sense of Purpose
- Protecting the Brand
- Importance of Storytelling
- Power of Influence
1. Strengthen Brand Promise
Strengthen the brand promise among customers.
When employees internalize (not just memorize) the strategic direction of the brand, they are able to help a company achieve its mission. Understanding the brand is the best way to help employees make an emotional connection with the promise you are making to your customers.
Without that comprehension and unifying beacon, employees are misaligned in priority-setting and decision-making.
2. Sense of Purpose
Employees are galvanized and motivated by a common sense of purpose.
When employees understand, care about, and believe in the brand story, they’re inspired to work harder, together.
“Autonomy, mastery and purpose. Companies need to look at ways in which they can increase autonomy for employees, ensure everyone is competent and show them the bigger picture of brand purpose. This requires a culture change across leaders at all levels but is hugely worth the effort in increased loyalty and efficiency.” – Dan Pink, Three Conditions of Motivation
We all know that a unified team increases motivation.
3. Protecting the Brand
Employees like being charged with important company business drivers.
By establishing that every employee, no matter what their role, is an important part of growing and protecting the brand, they feel entrusted to contribute an important and meaningful charge.
If you are developing or refining brand strategy, ask employees for their input to show that leadership finds each person’s involvement valuable.
4. Importance of Storytelling
Understanding the brand makes storytelling come naturally.
Brand training for your employees isn’t about memorizing a mission statement or 5 brand pillar words. Intrinsically living the brand means that each employee does it in his or her own way, effortlessly.
Employees should understand the benefit of a strong brand for their own personal success and the overall company success.
5. Power of Influence
Employees make decisions, large and small, based on the same roadmap.
At every level, employees make decisions all day that mold a company and influence how the brand shows up to customers.
If your brand stands for, say, trust & safety, employees will use that tenet to decide what level of risk to take with a partnership, or which product to prioritize.
Below are some examples of internal brand engagement initiatives from Global Brand Works:
Internal Brand Engagement Initiatives
The video featured here is one that the Global Brand Works team developed when we worked for iShares, created by our talented friends at School of Thought.
It summarizes an internal promotion that supported the launch of a new campaign, whose tagline was “Keep Evolving.” We challenged all employees to think about what “Keep Evolving” meant to them, resulting in engagement with the external message, an understanding of the strategy, and company-wide support of the new strategic direction.
Holding these messaging seminars benefitted the company in many ways.
A decade ago, Starbucks recognized they had lost their way due to rapid expansion and replacing baristas with automatic espresso machines. Customers quickly became disenchanted with the beloved brand. This was the catalyst for a rebrand around the core concepts of nurturing the human spirit.
Photo Credit: Jacob Silberberg for The New York Times
Starbucks’ resulting brand essence is still in use today: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
A big part of this initiative was making sure the Starbucks brand was internalized by employees. Starbucks implemented this brand internalization by creating a training program that shut down 7,000 stores for 3 hours, all at the same time.
“We needed to regain our soul,” said Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. “This is not about training - this is about the love and compassion and commitment that we all need to have for the customer.”
Additional Reading: 'Internal Branding: 5 Strategies to Motivate Employees'
Taj Hotels presents itself as more than a place to stay while on holiday. The company provides a superior hospitality experience across a range of price tiers without sacrificing quality. The brand represents joy, quality, and adventure.
Photo Credit: Taj Hotels
Taj Hotels makes sure its brand standard translates to customer experience through its employees, using training and engagement programs. Taj Hotels’ intent is to inspire employees through the brand’s same core pillars: joy, quality, and adventure.
The fundamental strategic idea is “joy at work.” By making the brand come alive for employees, the concept of joy translates unsurprisingly to guests, allowing the hotel chain to deliver on its mission to provide “the best hospitality in the world."
The Mini experience is not just about driving a zippy, little car; it’s also about a sense of adventure. Experiencing a Mini immerses the driver in a journey. Drivers join the club of other Mini owners, the car’s iconic status rubbing off on the driver.
To make the Mini brand come to life for its employees, Mini complements its advertising with “invertising," meaning that the brand story is told internally as well as externally.
For instance, employees were invited to events where they have the opportunity to test drive the cars. One such event was themed "Monte Carlo."
By “sensing the adventure,” employees across the organization, no matter what their role, get to actually experience the brand promise, and in turn, are more likely to become natural brand advocates.
Brand Training for Employees is Essential
When teams understand, care about, and trust in the brand, they are more interested in being part of the story. The more employees are authentically convinced of the brand purpose, the more the brand story comes to life- naturally and intrinsically – strengthening the brand.
A strong brand drives the ability to attract top talent, opens the door to new distributing channels, makes it easier to introduce new products and services, and delivers a better return on marketing spend. A strong brand is developed and delivered by engaged employees who understand its meaning and importance. Ultimately, a strong brand drives business.
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About the Author
Shannon Riordan is partner, co-founder, and creative director for Global Brand Works, a small but mighty branding agency based in San Francisco. A robust background in all facets of branding provides her with the foundation to deliver compelling, clear, creative, organized, and occasionally outlandish solutions. She has held senior management positions at Visa, BlackRock, and iShares, lived in Paris in an attempt to be an artist, and was associate producer for an independent film, called The Hot Flashes.