The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.
Back in the day, branding was utilized to tell the difference in cattle ownership between farmers and ranchers, using a distinctive symbol burned into the cattle’s fur and skin. This was the beginning point, and now all modern day companies brand themselves in basically the same way. They choose a Brand (or Logo) to label everything they own. However, branding has grown mightily from a simple symbol marked on a cow’s backside.
Large corporations(i.e. Coca Cola, McDonalds) rely heavily on their brand awareness and brand loyalty, built up through years of marketing and advertising. Having a strong product/service is obviously a key factor, along with many other factors that go into your business and marketing strategy. But without a brand, these large companies would be unknown. This is an important lesson for startups and smaller businesses. Branding can often be overshadowed by other large steps in creating a successful business, such as product development or funding. This is a huge mistake, branding is just as important as any other early stage business process.
In short, your company’s brand is your face to the world, and in turn, how the world (your customers/users) perceive you/your brand. Your brand’s logo, slogan, color scheme, packaging, etc. are the tangible parts of the brand, but the connections and values that customers associate with your company are the intangible elements that are the most important.
Most of what I have discussed relates to external branding, or branding to you customers. Which makes sense right? In order to sell your product or service you need to convince your customers to buy into your brand’s message and actually want/need your product. Wrong! Your company’s external perception is only half of the battle, and it can only flourish when you have successfully branded to your company internally.
“Branding internally, huh?” You Say.
“Yes sir!” I reply.
Think about it… How are you ever going to be able to influence customers to buy your product or service, when you haven’t trained, informed, and influenced your own employees to believe in your brand. If your organization’s employees don’t believe in their purpose or what they do, how are you going to convince the billions of consumers in the world to become brand loyal, or even purchase your product at all?
By definition, employees are Stakeholders of an organization, just as customers and stockholders are. They can affect or be affected by the organization’s actions, objectives and policies. Meaning they should be treated with just as much importance and respect as any other stakeholder.
The issue is, many businesses assume that their employees know who you are, what you do, and why you do it. If this was never understood by your employees, and they aren’t consistently reminded of it, they will never truly believe in your Brand. Branding internally helps create clarity and focus for your business from the inside out. If it doesn’t start on the inside, how is your brand ever going to reach the outside market properly, or with full force?
Your internal brand, is in essence, the “Life” of your brand. The “Life” is born with belief and behavior from within the organization, which will eventually grow up and reach the marketplace of your target audience. If you raised it right.
A clear internal brand strategy will help you and your employees stick to your company’s mission and vision, allowing for smart, strategic decision making which will save you time and money or marketing your brand externally. Having a strong internal brand will provide motivation and direction to your staff by showing them how to act, how to be successful, and ultimately: they will enjoy working your brand(and for you).
In conclusion, once brand values are understood, accepted and acted upon by every employee in the organization, the brand’s external success in the marketplace will automatically follow suit. Your entire company is all on the same page, working efficiently for the same goals. This increased congruence adds value to your company and in turn, increases overall energy level. You must Brand your company internally before you can have any hopes of successfully branding your company to the world.