Internal Brand Building – The Missing Link to Business Success

A business can be successful without internal brand building, but a business has a much greater chance for success and is more likely to achieve higher levels of success if it gives internal brand building the importance it deserves. By internal brand building, I’m referring to educating your employees about your brand promise, position, message, and goals so they believe in it and feel passionate enough about it to become your most powerful vocal brand advocates, brand champions, and brand guardians.

The Importance of Internal Brand Building

zappos employeesThe influence of employee word-of-mouth marketing is undeniable. When employees talk about their companies’ brands, they make the brand more human which adds a level of trust in the brand for consumers.

However, you can’t just assume your employees understand and believe in your brand promise. Truth be told, the vast majority of them probably don’t, and that’s why internal brand education is critical to brand success. If you don’t teach your employees about your brand on an ongoing basis, they won’t fully understand it or care about it as much as they should.

Remember when Google was the place to work? The corporate environment was fun and rewarding and employees truly believed in the brand. Their brand advocacy and influence reached far and wide, and Google’s bottom-line benefited greatly from it. Today, Zappos is one of the best examples of a company that prioritizes internal brand building and the results prove that prioritization works. Zappos employees love the company they work for and fully believe in the Zappos brand. Check out the Zappos internal culture site for all the details about how the Zappos tagline, “Delivering happiness,” applies just as much internally as it does externally.

As the social web has grown, consumers have access to more information then ever, and allowing employee brand advocates to talk about the brand offers an incredible opportunity to extend your brand’s reach, correct misinformation, nudge conversations in the right direction, build relationships, and drive business. No longer should employees be viewed as liabilities who should not be allowed to talk about the companies they work for and the brands they work with. Today, their voices are a vital part of an integrated marketing plan.

Employee Brand Involvement

Employees should be involved in the brand in every way possible to increase their emotional connection to it and their belief in its promise. Their daily efforts should be tied directly to the brand, so they fully understand that the work they do affects the brand, consumers, and the business.

While companies like Home Depot, Pizza Hut and Overstock.com have used employees in commercials to add the human element to their brands (watch an Overstock.com commercial featuring employees in the video below), others have gotten more creative with building internal brand champions. As Beth Snyder Bulik explained in an article on AdAge.com, Kraft created an app called Foodii that it uses to gather information and data from employees before conducting formal consumer market research. The app is also used to gather marketing ideas, product name ideas, and other ideas from employees. It’s a great way to make employees feel valued and part of the brand’s success.

Not only does internal brand building help drive sales and connect a brand with consumers but it also creates a feeling of shared focus and camaraderie between employees that further increases their emotional connection with that brand. As a result, internal brand building helps boost employee morale and employee performance. It also helps increase employee retention rates and attract the best new employees.

Internal brand building should be a priority for employees at all levels, including employees that are in direct contact with consumers and those who work behind the scenes. In an ideal situation, every employee is able to describe the brand’s promise and position, how the brand benefits consumers, and what it means to them. Follow the link to learn more about how to educate employees about your brand.

It’s up to a company’s leadership team to put the processes, training, and communications in place to ensure employees always fully understand the brand promise, believe it, and are anxious to advocate it. If employees can’t do those three things, then the company has missed an important step in internal brand building. That’s why the role of chief brand officer is so important, and that’s what my next article will be about. Stay tuned!

Images: Zappos

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.