The “new breed” of global brand leaders has turned traditional brand building inside out. Over the last decade we have witnessed a fundamental shift, placing internal brand building at the core of corporate brand-building strategies. Internal brand building has become the source of brand power for organizations like Starbucks, Google and Zappos. These innovative, game-changing organizations believe their true, sustainable brand power resides in activating and energizing the hearts and minds of their employees. They believe in the new brand axiom “the brand on the outside is a true reflection of the brand on the inside.”
For these true innovators building a strong brand is a natural result of igniting and nurturing employees’ authentic passion for making a difference. This is accomplished with a two-step process starting with providing employees a meaningful context to focus their intentions and behaviors that reflect the ethos and character of the organization. Employees are guided to leverage and focus that authentic alignment to make a positive difference for a customer that leaves a lasting impression. This new innovative way of thinking expands the possibilities of brand building, providing almost infinite leverage to traditional external brand building techniques.
In this new paradigm internal brand comes first, external brand follows. Internal brand building nourishes a culture that makes the difference for a customer; external brand building makes sure the organization gets credit for the difference it makes. External brand building and internal brand building are interdependent. An integrated internal brand and external brand create a seamless connection between the character of an organization and its impact on a customer.
Simply stated – what is internal brand building?
The core principle of internal brand building is to foster a relationship with employees that’s a true reflection of the organization’s desired relationship with its customers. Internal brand building creates a passion inside the organization that provides employees with an intrinsic understanding of the power and impact an organization’s brand can have on a customer.
Howard Schultz, CEO and founder of Starbucks, defines internal brand building from a leaders point of view.
“[Internal branding] It’s partly internal communications, but it goes beyond the typical staff memos and HR updates. It’s related to training, but it’s about much more than the “how” of what needs to be done. My definition of internal branding is simply having a continuous process in place by which you ensure your employees understand the “who” and “why” behind your business proposition.”
Internal brand building is an integrated, sustained organizational development commitment. It’s not a marketing program; it’s a marketing-inspired cross-functional shared leadership program. Marketing and communication leaders play a pivotal role in implementing internal brand-building tactics. HR leaders are equal partners in creating internal brand-building momentum. Senior-level leaders are the advocates and provide the charisma that gives internal brand building its credence. Internal brand building is the embodiment of an organization’s dedication to its authenticity and the passion for using it’s unique ethos to make a difference for a customer.
The power of internal brand building is its accessibility as a brand-building tool. Any and every organization can implement and benefit from internal brand building. For some organizations an internal brand building discipline can be started by coordinating and focusing existing internal communications activities. Other organizations may choose to develop a more robust internal brand-building program to get the full benefit of internal brand building. Regardless of the level of an organization’s commitment to internal brand building every organization has the opportunity to leverage the long tail of engaged employees, unleashing the brand power discovered by the new breed of global brand leaders.
Check back in on the Buzz Bin for part two: Lessons Learned About Internal Brand Building.