Every business has a reason for being. Every business also has its own way of being. Internal brand activation connects the first, your brand promise, with the second, your company culture. Which, ultimately, makes the way you connect with customers more authentic.
For this connection to happen, companies have to see their brand not as a hard-and-fast pyramid strategy that gets set in stone and then disseminated for people to learn and repeat. They need to value it as more than a part of the business owned by the marketing department. Instead, the brand needs to become a guiding force that fuels your entire organization: your vision, operations, product/service development, culture, interactions and impressions on the world.
The secret to all this is your people. Because they are the ones who deliver your brand to your audience, whether through actual customer interactions or through decisions they make that impact what you deliver and how the brand is perceived. Simple Truth helps clients develop internal brand activation policies and platforms that let employees actually participate in and shape the brand.
Here are three rules of thumb for investing in true internal brand activation.
Come from the core, start at the top. What your company stands for, what sets it apart and its character are all critical in fueling vision and business strategy and development, as well as culture and marketing. This means activating the brand starts with leadership.
Consider this: If asked what your brand’s purpose, point of differentiation and character are, would your senior leadership all have the same answer?
Immerse, inspire and incentivize.
Your brand promise should come to life through the physical environment your people work in. It should seamlessly extend into programs, events, forums and so on. Ideally, it should even affect how you hire and evaluate performance. Immerse your people in endless ways to live the brand. Inspire them to contribute more. And don’t underestimate incentivizing; great activation is valuable, and that value should be acknowledged.
Consider this: How many things about your company culture could you point to that embody what the brand is all about?
Open channels, open opportunities.
While senior leadership sets the example, they by no means hold all the keys. Knowledge, insight and great ideas can come from anywhere. When you create ways for people across your organization to share what they know, what they experience and what potential they see in the brand, you activate a culture of opportunity.
Consider this: If your employees had ideas about how to bring your brand to life in the way your company operates, would they know how to share them?
One example of how we create an atmosphere of open exchange is through regular creative reviews — agency-wide lunches where select teams share their work and everyone else has a chance to hear what others are up to, ask questions and be inspired.
In this one, our brand team shared a project they’d done to revitalize a client’s company values. Afterwards, they gave us a taste of what the client had experienced by splitting the staff into small, random groups to design beer labels that embody the Simple Truth brand. The results, and the stories told, deepened people’s connection to the brand but also revealed things that helped people see it in new ways.
These are just some of the strategies that brands like Intel, 3M, Patagonia and Google use to make what they stand for real in their employees’ (work)lives. Internal activation allows the brand to affect how employees work together and how they connect with your audiences.