How many events have we seen where a celebrity is used to excite around the brand or new product? In reality our best brand ambassadors should be our own people. After all every day they are on the front line of influencing customers and the balance sheet.
Having your staff as the ‘face’ of your new brand is not new, but few companies harness the power of a ‘employee-driven brand’. Why? Because they don’t know what their company stands for so are unable to understand let alone ‘live the brand’.
Brands are like people – they have personalities, they value specific things, they behave in a particular way. If you are a business that fails to engage and encourage positive brand behaviour traits, then you leave your staff no alternative but to adopt negative behaviours learnt from their colleagues and managers.
Identify the values and personalities unique to your business
This is a pretty simple task, but is missing from many businesses who mistake their ‘brand’ for the ‘logo’ and not how their behave. You can find out more about how to identify and create your one-page brand coffeepot here.
Don’t ignore a pre-existing negative culture when bringing in the new
When launching new values as part of a brand refresh, it’s tempting to ignore the current negative internal culture. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. It’s better to be honest about pre-existing cultural failing. To own those mistakes, before trying to encourage a new culture.
Many big brands have been called out on their response to the Black Lives Matter protests. Trying to adjust their outward policies whilst failing to acknowledge their past behaviour. Trying to play catchup with ‘woke’ statements which aren’t true internally is a recipe for public ridicule – a lesson L’Oréal Paris learnt in June 2020. At the start of the BLM movement they posted on Instagram that they stood in “solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind” and were immediately called out by Munroe Bergdorf who they fired a few years before after she spoke out about racism online.
It’s bad for business too. Peloton‘s share price dropped nine percent following their 2019 sexist Christmas advert which highlighted their internal bias. Consumers demand authenticity, transparency and accountability from the brands they engage with. So it’s critical that companies encourage good brand behaviours at every level of their business.
Get buy-in to communicate to your employees
Sounds logical right? But internal marketing is often overlooked by companies launching brand refreshes or campaigns likely to effect staff interaction with customers. Internal marketing is often done poorly or not at all.
Launch face-to-face, but make sure you support it digitally
In the words of Robin Sharma “change is difficult at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end”. Like any change, changing your brand, is going to be difficult for your employees. Your employees need to see their management live, face-to-face. To look you in the eye and know you genuinely value them in the process. How you launch your brand to your employees will either make them its biggest fans or most destructive enemies.
Whilst live, face-to-face communication is a perfect launch platform, digital is a great way to keep reinforcing these messages. Keeping the conversation going shows your employees how important these new brand value and associated behaviours are for the business.
Don’t just tell your employees they are valued, show them
In 2006 we won a pitch to convey the new Bentley Motors brand to their customers and 4000 staff. It was more than a brand refresh – it was a cultural change of owner and practices. The new VW bosses wanted to break down the old barriers which had become engrained between managers and workforce.
Our campaign ‘Power in Your Hands’ told employees they were the driving power behind the brand, not the company managers. A live event used a mix of theatre and film to land this new message. We also used the format to challenge ‘the old ways’. We made all attendees exit via the stage – an area traditionally only the domain of the company directors. But we didn’t stop there. To reinforce this message and convey the new brand values and behaviours we created an online tool. This explained the new brand with simple ‘we are’ and ‘we are not’ words and images.
Reward with caution
Other brands have found imaginative ways to reinforce their brand through internal policies. Testing new candidates during the recruitment process against their new values. Or highlighting good brand behaviour through peer voting for soft rewards like additional holiday time… There are lots of examples. Reward with caution though. For example, financial-based schemes can often reinforce pre-existing negative values such as “survival of the fittest” or “greed is good”. Any reward needs to support positive values which oppose these common mindsets. Transparency International UK have a really helpful free guide on incentivising ethically.
Don’t hit and run
Launching and then never talking about your values again, tells your employees they were not important after all. Face-to-face reinforcement can happen via the occasional Webcast, whilst digital channels can highlight business impact news stories.
Need someone to train your staff on your new brand? Make them the teachers
We’ve found that the most powerful exponents of a new brand are the people entrusted to live it out day to day – your staff.
Training up individuals within your business to stand before their colleagues and teach them about your new brand shows it is important and is more likely to succeed in winning over sceptical staff members.
This is an approach we took in 2014 when we redefined the Hitachi brand values and coffee pot and needed to communicate them to 26,000 staff across Europe. We created a simple interactive presentation that dozens of volunteers used to train their fellow colleagues. This was further supported with a fun online training tool which staff completed after the face-to-face training to cement their knowledge.
Changing brand behaviour takes daily commitment
“Brands need to move at the speed of culture and culture is moving faster than ever”ALINE SANTOS
Encouraging on-brand internal behaviour is achieved through everyday employee experiences, not by short term, one-off events or soon-forgotten campaigns. But internal behavioural change is critical not just for long term business success but also for your short term survival.
The challenge is every day and always moving. “Brands need to move at the speed of culture and culture is moving faster than ever” is how Aline Santos of Unilever describes it. Social media sees through the façade presented by brands and consumers are voting with their feet. New issues will come to light. As they do we need to be ready to call out wrong behaviours as they surface and assert the good behaviours the brand believes in.
Yes it’s a daily commitment but businesses who launch their new brand values well, and reinforce them over the long term, become a formidable force. Empowering and realising their greatest asset – their people.