Marketing’s Next Frontier: A Case for Internal Brand Development

Today’s marketing leadership faces the daunting task of developing a relevant brand. And when I say developing a brand, I do not a mean creating a catchy logo, a tagline and maybe even an advertising campaign. I mean the foundational work of creating an inward-focused, business-building and value-adding strategic brand — all of which is based on unique value propositions and a brand essence built around what is truly important to consumers and how it benefits them.

If marketers have the time to commit to brand development — and they get a catchy logo, tagline and advertising campaign — the next step is typically to get the message out. Share the outcomes with the world by selecting the right channels to place and communicate their messaging in an efficient and effective manner — simply put: convey the right message in the right place at the right time. Right? This challenge becomes more and more difficult due to the explosion of communications channels, complicating the decisions we make regarding who, what, when, where and how.

If marketers have had the opportunity to do the work of developing the brand, the instinct is to immediately share the brand (and associated concepts) externally with the world. It is exciting, and it can make an immediate impact on the bottom line.

I posit that there is a missed opportunity, which is internal brand development that focuses on how the brand has been adopted internally. The Brandon Agency uses a proprietary process called Enculturation™ to work with organizations to ensure that the brand is adopted internally to strengthen its effectiveness externally —making sure employees understand their roles and are living the brand.

Enculturation™ is the strategic tactic used to operationalize the brand, making it a part of everything you do as an organization. It’s a strategic initiative that drives customer loyalty, differentiation from your competitors, market leadership and value. And to achieve it, everyone in the organization needs to understand his or her role in bringing the brand’s promise to life.

Enculturation™ involves successfully “launching” the brand’s foundational platform internally, and then continually monitoring its status to ensure that it is being lived throughout the organization. At this point in the process, it becomes less of a marketing initiative and more of corporate initiative.

“In the end, the most important element of building a brand-driven business is your employees. Without their belief, guidance, ownership and participation, you might as well put your investment in Treasury bills. However, with employee buy-in, involvement and support from the top down, there is no telling what the true limits of brand-building success from your company can be.”

— Building a Brand-Driven Business

  Davis and Dunn

Internal brand development creates a mechanism for organizations to maintain a focus on the brand and its future by putting into place valuable engagement points, as well as by addressing existing touchpoints. Additionally, Enculturation™ provides a basis for each employee to understand and live the brand daily.

Through internal brand development, brand champions can be created for thought leadership, guidance and perspective, providing brand-centric management. Internal brand development also informs the team of active participants. Outcomes of this process include such elements as:

• A platform around which employees can rally

• Improved perceptions both internally and externally

• Less pressure on price points

• Increased valuations

• Increased profitability

• Employee pride

• Customers who are zealots

• Hardwiring the brand into the daily conversations/operations of the organization

• Living the brand personality at every touchpoint

• Integrating the brand into training and human resources operations

When evaluating the need for internal brand development, consider how you would rate your organization on the following:

  • Do your employees understand their role in the brand? Are they participating?

  • Do your employees have a positive perception about their positions? And about the product or service they create and sell?

  • Are your employees proud? And are your customers? Especially the core customers?

  • Evaluate the employee touchpoints — those places where the brand and employees can interact and connect.

  • How well is the brand integrated into the human resources function?

  • What is the culture of the organization? Does it align with your brand?

After a careful and pragmatic review of these questions, any hesitation should signal the need for an internal brand development effort so that your brand can strengthen and become your most valuable asset — regardless of the size of your organization.

Andy Kovan