Internal Branding: Internal Touchpoints Count, Too

Internal Branding: Internal Touchpoints Count, Too

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is failing to embrace an inside-out approach to brand-building. Many companies are too focused on the product brand strategy, not realizing that part of the secret to authenticity is building a strong internal brand culture.

Authentic brands are inside-out brands: The corporate culture aligns with the brand identity and projects out into the world. Authenticity is about more than a snazzy icon, catchy taglines and expensive ad campaigns—the external stuff. It is an embedded cultural approach to branding that guides communications to all stakeholders–from customer promotional materials to personnel policies, management development programs, and fund-raising and other socially responsible initiatives. In the new economy, sustainability requires companies to become more accountable to all constituencies, which includes, for starters, both employees and customers.

It is true that outside-in approaches can create high visibility and some tangible sizzle, but they tend to produce only short-term results. The sizzle can fizzle once the applause subsides.

Inside-out branding helps organizations overcome internal resistance to branding efforts and extend the brand beyond traditional measures to true innovation and authenticity. When marketers develop brand strategies that are not supported across all the internal touchpoints (e.g., customer service reps), employees end up feeling betrayed and frustrated, as do customers. Ultimately, the brand reputation suffers, and the branding initiative becomes a scapegoat for the company’s larger problems; for example, if brand value takes a dive and long-term equity is eroding faster than a Malibu mudslide.

Sometimes brand executers feel pressured to execute a brand strategy in a short time-frame. They are marching to the ticking of a clock, knocking off those external touchpoints, one by one—the mark, the ads, the taglines—completely ignoring the crucial internal branding process. Marketers have been trained, after all, to focus on external targets, i.e. customers. And often, they do not take time to engage employees in the brand-building process.

Sometimes it is just a simple matter of communication. Many companies have a “departmental mentality”—a silo culture—instead of a holistic, whole-brain culture. Most employees assume they will be excluded from the branding process and do not try to engage.

This problem is so easy to fix! Establish an internal communication system that fosters meaningful dialogue about the brand identity. The core essence of every brand depends on how well the company clarifies the behavior it needs from employees in order to deliver on the brand promise. In addition to how well the company builds a culture of involvement. When employees are engaged in the brand building process and believe that the company values their input, they take ownership and the brand gains valuable brand champions.