By John H. Fleming and Dan Witters
Aligning employees with your brand’s identity is essential to a company’s success. But too many employees don’t know what you stand for.
Companies often choose high-profile celebrities or sports stars to serve as brand ambassadors and advocates for their brands. Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Salman Khan, and a host of others have been the public face of brands such as J. C. Penney, Hanes, Nike, and Yatra.com.
To find brand ambassadors, look no further than the front line, or maybe the office right next to yours. But celebrities and sports heroes aren’t the only — or the best — ambassadors you can find. You should be grooming other, more local ambassadors who can exert a powerful influence on your customers. To find them, look no further than the front line, or maybe the office right next to yours, because the world’s best brand ambassadors are your employees. Unfortunately, most of them are under-prepared for the job, and they could be costing companies millions of dollars in lost opportunity.
Competing in the “new normal”
The notion that your company’s employees represent the “face” of your brand isn’t new. But as companies seek to win in today’s hypercompetitive, post-financial-crash global marketplace, many executives have begun to recognize the untapped potential that their employees and customers represent.
To maximize the power of this resource, however, you must arm your employees with the knowledge and resources they need to be effective brand ambassadors. They must:
- Know what your organization stands for and what makes it different from others in the marketplace
- Understand your brand promise and be able to explain the most important elements of your brand identity
- Be empowered to deliver on your brand promise
So executives, take note: In many industries, particularly those with a high degree of customer contact, too few of your customer-facing employees know what your company stands for and what makes it different. Yet you are relying on these brand ambassadors — not celebrity spokespeople — to represent your company’s brand every day in the marketplace. If your employees don’t know who you are and how you’re different, it’s unlikely that your customers will. And that’s a big miss, one with substantial performance implications.
10 Ways to Boost Your Company’s Brand
Gallup’s research shows that few employees are aligned with or empowered to deliver the core elements of their company’s brand identity and promise. But there are actions executives can take to help their employees become effective brand ambassadors.
1. Acknowledge that all employees play a key role in bringing the brand to life. Successful branding is not just a marketing or sales function; it is an essential activity for human resources, management, and leadership. In fact, your entire company.
2. Audit your internal communications to ensure that they are consistent with your brand identity and promise. Invest in making employees aware of your brand promise, and empower them to act on it.
3. Articulate what your brand represents and what you promise to your customers. Inject the core elements of your identity into the workplace constantly and consistently across time, locations, and channels. Use these elements to define not only how you treat your customers but also how you manage, coach, and treat your employees.
4. Deploy simple processes to ensure that you highlight and discuss the core elements of your company’s brand identity every day. Use minute meetings, lineups, or staff gatherings to provide specific examples of how to deliver the brand promise.
5. Use simple tools such as wallet cards as ready references to the brand, and encourage employees to memorize the key brand elements.
6. Regularly assess how well your employees know and understand your brand promise. All employees — especially those in customer-facing roles — should believe in and feel they have the resources and permission to deliver your brand promise. Provide additional support in areas that fall short.
7. Ensure that new employees understand your brand identity and promise. All new employees should be able to articulate what your company stands for and what makes you different within their first 30 days of employment, and your managers should reinforce this message every day.
8. Make sure that every employee understands how his or her job affects the customer experience. This is particularly important for roles that are not customer-facing. Constantly connect the dots between what employees are paid to do and what your organization stands for.
9. Recognize employees who deliver your brand promise to your customers. Recognition is an important psychological need. Employees who know that they will receive recognition for acting on the brand promise will have a strong incentive to do so.
10.Regularly solicit opinions from your employees on new and better ways to deliver your brand promise. Convene town hall meetings that allow employees to share their ideas and receive feedback. Demonstrating an authentic commitment to alignment is the best way to embed it in your company’s culture.
Employees are the key to a WOW! buying experience for your customers. Be sure that they “get it”!
About the Author
Gordon Conner is a Branding Consultant/Coach and Copywriter who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing, branding and copywriting services for 39 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at Gordon@BranWorks.com, or www.BranWorks.com.