Welcome to the first issue of Conversations at Tangible in 2023! In this 43rd issue, we explore what internal branding is, why it is important and some common mistakes that companies make.
Manpower shortage. The Great Resignation. Attracting talent.
If these are phrases that you’ve found yourself worrying about recently – you’re not alone. With the pandemic, inflation, and other trends that we have all had to navigate in recent years, it’s clear that change is happening. And it’s happening globally.
Manpower has been a key issue across many industries, and we have seen a significant shift over the past decade in what makes a workplace attractive. In order to keep up with the changing landscape, companies are starting to recognise the importance of not only external brand equity but strong internal branding as well.
But first, what exactly is internal branding?
When we bring up strong internal branding, some might think of the extensive, well-stocked pantry in an office designed to attract young talent or even the company polo shirt that they were given a year ago (which they might secretly wear as pyjamas!). But it goes so much deeper than that.
Internal branding is connecting your employees to the company’s external brand promise and values so that they know how they fit into the company and their roles in working towards achieving the company’s goal together. In other words, it’s aligning employees with your external brand, so that everyone is working towards the same goal. Really, the benefits of internal branding are multifold.
Ever heard of the saying ‘happy wife, happy life’? While that might be true, another proverb of wisdom should be ‘happy staff, happy business’. It may come as no surprise that when your staff are engaged and happy, they are more likely to be productive, which contributes to a better and stronger product offer. They are also more likely to stay in the company and be strong ambassadors for your brand, which works to attract top talent and contribute to a positive company culture.
Think of it like push-starting a car – the more you can rally your employees behind a shared vision so that they know where the company is headed, the faster and further your car is going to go. On the flip side, if they are dissatisfied with what the company stands for and how it operates, the opposite occurs. They will either act as deadweight for that car or jump to another company to help push their car instead.
A common question that gets asked is: Who should take responsibility for internal branding?
Should it be HR? Corporate communications? Or the CEO? Well, the answer is – everyone. For internal branding to be successful, it will not just take hanging a shiny new banner on the office wall. The decision makers and management of the company have to be invested in making it work, and if HR believes that their role is simply administrative, then your company culture is missing a big opportunity. In essence, internal branding is a team effort that involves aligning everyone from the doormen to the C-suite executives, and rallying the team behind a clear and unified purpose.
However, even though many companies know the importance of internal branding, there are some common mistakes they make. Let’s look at some of them:
Mistake #1: Too common
When it comes to creating employee values for internal branding, chances are that when left to our own devices, the management or HR teams will start creating some sort of acronym from values which include: teamwork, excellence, integrity, and innovation. While these are not bad values, the issue is that every other company, school and organisation are using the exact same values.
Without differentiation (which is the main point of branding), there is no way for your brand to stand out and attract a steady stream of top talent. In other words, we need to stop saying the same thing as everyone else or our words will get tuned out.
Mistake #2: Too removed from reality
The success of a company’s internal (and external!) branding is highly dependent on how committed it is to deliver on its promise. For instance, if you promise to be a company with an innovative spirit, what are the ways in which you are encouraging your employees to think innovatively in their work? And are they actually effective and sustainable? A good indicator of how effectively you’re living out your values will be to see if your employees can actually remember your employees’ values and articulate them.
The landscape of work is changing to one where workplace satisfaction and happiness have been more important to employees than ever before. This means that you can’t just slap on the shiny buzzwords as your brand values and hope that people will be inspired by it, but you’ll have to actually commit to tangibly delivering on what you promise your employees. Your people will either be your biggest advocate or biggest detractor and how successful you are at delivering on your internal brand promise will greatly influence what your employees say about you.
Mistake #3: Too broad and vague
When we end up with the same set of positive values mentioned above, another issue is that it is too broad and might not address specific issues that your company faces. When done well, your brand should be able to garner positive brand associations and mitigate the negative associations and perceptions. For that to happen, it requires in-depth research and conversations with your stakeholders, customers, and potential hires so that your internal brand can work strategically for your business. (Note: This is also why Tangible’s process involves utilising market research and insights to inform our strategic planning for your brand!)
Your employee value proposition should also be contextualised within the industry you are in. For example, if there are certain issues that are prevalent within your industry, this is a good time for your brand to strategically mitigate that with your employee value proposition.
Having the same broad set of values also means that there is a high chance that it has no relation to your external brand. This means that your brand will be perceived very differently externally and internally, forming a very incohesive picture. The implications of an inconsistent brand are more pervasive than you might think – it can cause confusion amongst customers and stakeholders, a lack of trust, as well as difficulty in building brand equity.
This is why Tangible’s approach is to create a strong, consistent brand by aligning your internal branding with your external brand (think: your vision, mission and values).
Most companies you see around would have their vision, mission and values already crafted and displayed for all to see on their website. However, many do not know the power that these seemingly common or normal “corporate phrases” have. When done well, a company’s vision, mission and values can be leveraged as strategic management tools for their business. And this is exactly what we endeavour to achieve with every single company we work with.
In other words, successful internal branding involves aligning your internal branding with your vision, mission and values so that you are able to deliver a strong and consistent brand throughout. And we help you accomplish this through our process, which also involves our proprietary Brand Pillars Framework™.
Although it may seem like it sometimes, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to internal branding. Every brand, every company, and every industry has different needs – which is why Tangible believes in working with you to create data-driven, tailored strategies for a powerful and cohesive brand that yields results, internally and externally.
In a nutshell, when it comes to internal branding, it goes beyond having a brand that speaks for itself; it’s equally important to pay attention to what your people are saying about you.
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