A brand is the sum of everything associated with an organisation—name, product or service, the service levels, the organisation’s staff, the logo, the offer. It’s what the organisation stands for, what it does, what it says, and how it looks. In sum, a brand is defined by its “brand experience” that the recipient experiences. Developing & maintaining this ‘brand experience’ is a 24X7 activity that’s critical in ensuring trust.
The true power of a brand-driven organisation is in its ever strengthening relationships. Every interaction, at every touch point, is an opportunity to strengthen or dilute the experience the stakeholder has. Experience that’s an opportunity for the organisation to increase the trust and loyalty the stakeholder has with the brand.
Why is trust so important? Trust enables the brand to close two very important transactions—one is the commercial transaction which impacts on financial sustainability and the second is the brand value that impacts on the reputation and image of the brand for recurring business.
At the heart of a brand are the employees of an organisation. They are the key influencers and enablers of the trust & transaction formula. For any organisation this group usually is the first and the most ardent supporters.
But, in reality, this is also the key group that’s often left out in managing and strengthening a brand!
This group is oft the last group addressed or engaged with in terms of brand communication.
An area of brand management overlapping with human resource is in this area. Getting the employees aligned with the business goals, brand values, brand mission and representing the brand as planned for. Jargon wise this would be parked under “employee-engagement’. Having employee engagement is critical in ensuring a strong and healthy brand.
So how do we get employee engagement? The programs and communications are, but, delivery mechanisms. What’s important is to make the employees believe, feel and be part of the brand. To do this the leadership of the organisation needs to answer one very important question:
“Do I know what my brand is, and am I consciously managing it, leveraging it, and strengthening it in order to continuously grow my supporters and move them from supporters to fans?”
The way to answer this would be to look at the organisational values and the brands’ core values. These values should be aligned as the brand is the identity of the organisation. These values need to resonate with the employees and actually drive their behaviour. That behaviour is the organisations’ culture.
If the values are aligned and resonating with the employees then the internal service levels i.e. teamwork would reflect outwardly also in all interactions the brand has with its external stakeholders. Net result—a continuously pleasurable brand experience to the stakeholder.
Whilst they may sound simple on paper, it takes time to develop such positive internal climate. It’s not impossible. It can be achieved through the leadership putting priority on employee-engagement and on brand representation through consistently well-planned internal communication.
Communication plays a very vital role in this process. Work communication as well as the program communication of key messages needs to tango together. There cannot be a directive or pace-setting style of leadership operating on the work level and a set of soft, warm, emotive messages going out on behalf of the program. Such a disjoint will ensure an early death of the brand.
A brand, at the end of the day, is as good as the people behind it. And people are emotionally led. Therefore, by ensuring emotional bonding or engagement that results in employee satisfaction, an organisation ensures there is a strong base of people recommending, propagating and delivering the right brand experience to the external stakeholders.