Staff-brand alignment key to business growth

16 Apr 2006|Added Value

Most of us have amused our friends with those delicious ironies about the gap between what an advert claims and our actual experience of the product or service. All too often, this disconnect is caused by someone behind a till, on the other end of a phone or on the shop floor.

As consumers, our experience of brands is typically based on three things – the story the brand communicates (most commonly through advertising), what the actual product or service is like and finally, the service experience around the brand. Whilst companies are well aware of the importance of brands and spend vast sums on traditional brand-building exercises they are not investing in helping employees keep the promises their brands make.

Some companies are spending money on brand events, but they tend to be once off ‘rah-rah’ sessions that are more about ‘making the numbers’ than about brand delivery.  Where these do take place, they are often chosen because there’s a golf course the organising committee haven’t played before, rather than on developing an understanding of what consumers expect and using this to build the brand.

Brand delivery that drives growth requires making it possible for employees to develop an intuitive feel for what the brand stands for, as well as pride in it.  Clearly this takes more than a single induction video. Companies need to help their employees understand how the brand’s promise and values translate into behaviours that are ‘on brand’.

Once they embrace what is required, they need to be inspired to make a commitment to acting in ways that build the brand, consistently. Sustainability can only be achieved through appropriate internal campaigns (often redirecting money that is already being spent).  When companies set out to give employees an understanding of “what’s in it for them”, and give regular reminders and reinforcements of the goals with corresponding rewards, more successful brand delivery is ensured.

Experts from Harvard Business School have gathered evidence that directly links profit and growth not only to customer loyalty and satisfaction, but also to employee loyalty and satisfaction. Companies that have launched internal campaigns, like Volkswagen and Unilever have felt the benefit.

So, if it works, why aren’t more companies making this investment? There are couple of reasons: it sounds simple, but isn’t and it requires significant effort and, most importantly, focus and commitment from a company’s senior people. Internal turf battles between departments can also get in the way.

While it is difficult to quantify the result of these programmes, success can be assessed in other ways; like measuring people’s understanding of the brand, measuring customer behaviour and monitoring your staff’s feedback. Sears Roebuck in the USA, for example, experienced a 4% increase in employee and customer satisfaction over a two-year period that translated into a $200 million increase in revenue.

Based on studies like these and our experience, Blackshaw predicts that successful companies will be the ones who help their people meaningfully engage with their brands. Ultimately, as much as I enjoy conversations about brand promises not being kept, as a consumer, I actually look forward to interacting with brands that keep their word.

By Dave Blackshaw

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