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MARKETING: Marketing Trends in 2013
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Internal branding is a relatively new topic. It is a rather complex topic both to define but also to handle well strategically and operationally. 
 
The discipline of Internal Branding is often mixed up with both internal communication and Employer Branding. These three topics are strongly inter-linked but are not the same. Let us start by getting the definitions straight.
 
Internal Branding, Internal Communication and Employer Branding - definitions

Internal Branding in short is branding from the inside out. Internal Branding focuses on communicating the customer brand promise, and the attitudes and behaviours expected from employees to deliver on that promise. It is very important for Internal Branding to be effective that the employees are actually experiencing the brand values in the interaction with the organisation.
 
Internal Communication is merely the discipline of communicating internally in the organisation – with different purposes, and one can be to do internal brand building.
 
Employer Branding defines what the organisation would most like to be associated with as an employer and it will highlight the attributes that differentiate the organisation from other employers and will clarify the ‘give and get’ – meaning what the employees are expected to contribute and what they can expect to get in return.
 
So, the main audience for the Internal Branding messages are ultimately the customers and the employees who are kind of a media to deliver this message; whereas the main audiences for the employer branding messages are the current and potential employees.
 
Internal branding and employer branding are two fairly new disciplines, and therefore the placement within the organisation varies and can be a bit confusing. Sometimes they are placed together in either Marketing or HR, or even in some hybrid Marketing/HR department or in the department of Internal Communication, and sometimes they are separated. Both subjects should have top management focus, since both heavily impact upon the competitive edge of the company, but the optimal placement within the organisation will vary depending on the kind of company, product, and market.
 
Internal Branding, is it really important?

Well, it seems that some companies do not think so. Many companies spend days – even weeks – developing the marketing message, including examining and experimenting with taglines and logos, and then at the same time many of these companies more or less forget about training the staff to understand and reflect that marketing message and the company’s brand essence. These companies lose out on the opportunity of “free” branding. Think about how many people your employees meet in their spare time, and we all almost always end up talking about our jobs. Even more importantly are those of your employees that meet, greet and assist your customers in many different ways. If your employees do not know or believe, then it is difficult to expect that the customers will. So, in both personal and professional situations, the employees are the face of the brand - so to speak. 
 
So yes, it is important. Companies can spend tons of money on campaigns informing about the brand and the company’s values, but if the employees are not able to deliver and realise the brand, it is not worth much.
 
The benefits of having a strong internal brand are numerous. Perhaps most importantly, by delivering fre-quent and consistent messaging to employees, a company can achieve their corporate objectives and sales goals through a collectively functioning workforce. By building up the internal brand, you create a large number of brand ambassadors. In addition, a company with a strong internal brand could also see the following beneficial outcomes:
 
•Provide a sustainable competitive advantage
•Strategically align with company goals
•Enhance customer experience and service
•Raise employee engagement
•Maximise productivity
 
To get started

How can you get your employees to believe in the product or service you are offering? How can you get them to be standing 100% behind you in the mission of your brand? How can you even make them believe in your brand? Well, this is Internal Branding. A way to start the Internal Branding campaign is:
 
•Step 1: Synchronise your brand personality, values and corporate culture

Your marketing team should be working closely with your Human Resources team to ensure that the common values of your company internally and externally are in sync.
 
•Step 2: Get your employees behind your brand
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Align your criteria for recruiting and rewarding employees with the criteria of the brand value. Look for the right skills and attitudes that will represent your brand’s promise effectively. 
 
•Step 3: Reinforce and repeatedly explain brand values and behaviours

Use your internal communication to reinforce and explain the values and behaviours that reflect your brand promise. Continuously do this until they become second nature. 
 
It is very important to engage the staff right from the start and encourage individual input. Use the staff as a focus group - after all who knows the customers better than they do? By doing this you will not only get support from the staff but you will also be given insight and ideas that you otherwise may not have considered. 
 
Internal Branding will often take the employees on a journey. And if successful, the journey will end with a strong commitment by the employee to the company brand. It will often start with some basic and more technical information about the company, the market, the product and the brand. Then eventually it will be more about committing to the specific job in this new understanding of the “surroundings”. Then the employee will be ready to receive brand related information, which is more value based. Finally, it will result in a strong commitment to the brand which is almost priceless for the employer. It can be visualised as such:
 
Internal branding – 8 key principles

The key principles that an organisation must follow in order to create a strong brand through its people can be summarised as follows:
 
1. Emphasise freedom rather than control

It is true that effective brand management requires the organisation to agree to a set of firm principles, but beyond that, the staff members need to be trusted to get things done.
 
2. Decentralise

Organisations that succeed in delivering strong brands tend to roll back the frontiers of head office.

3. Do things differently

Emphasise uniquely owned processes and practices rather than generic best practices.
 
4. Communicate your own brand positioning to your employees before you communicate it to your customers

This entails building a deep intuitive understanding of the brand among organisation’s own employees before communicating the brand promise to consumers.
 
5. Keep it simple

This applies both to the language and the processes the organisation use.
 
6. Operate across functions

Having a department as the custodian for the brand and another one as custodian of the people simply does not fit with world-class brand building. A networked cross-functional strategy is more appropriate.
 
7. Think long term

Great brands are built overtime. Brand building needs to be viewed as a seven to ten year planning cycle.
 
8. Measure

Measure the things that really matter to the brand and one crucial thing about measurement is what happens to the results and the extent to which they are fed back to the front line staff in a way that drives actions.
 
Systematically building an internal brand-centric culture as part of a comprehensive strategy can lead to heightened customer-focused actions and stronger bottom-line results. So maybe it is worth asking yourself (and your employees) what you are doing to develop the relationship between employees and the brand? 
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By Heidi Skovhus 
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