Branding is a complex initiative that involves two primary components – external branding and internal branding. External branding is the more well-known element and generally involves a company’s external image, reputation, logos and the like. Internal branding is often the overlooked side of branding but is essentially the most important. It involves a company’s culture and core values. It influences how employees perceive the organization, how they treat their customers or members and how they treat each other. Internal branding is the guts of the organization, and without it, the external brand will eventually fail.
Internal branding serves many purposes. When done correctly, an internal brand campaign increases employee morale and helps them feel like they have a stake in the organization’s success. When that happens, employees are committed and will change their behaviors to align with the brand and its values. A successful internal branding campaign transitions your staff from employees to brand ambassadors. They don’t just work for your financial institution anymore. They live the brand and model what it represents.
Launching an Internal brand campaign should always happen in conjunction with your external brand launch, but that’s not the only time an internal brand campaign benefits your organization. Sometimes the external brand is strong, but employee morale is declining.
An internal brand campaign helps employees renew their commitment to your financial institution and its brand. This is especially true if you never did internal branding when you launched your external brand. An internal brand campaign is also effective when a new CEO takes the reigns. Toyota launched an internal brand campaign recently as part of its efforts to consolidate its four North American locations onto one large campus in Texas. The purpose of the campaign was to unify the company.
Here are some tips for launching a successful internal branding campaign:
Align your internal and external brands
Your financial institution should only have one brand. The difference between internal and external is the audience and how you market to them. If your employees have one perception of your financial institution and consumers have a different perception, your brand fails. Your mission, core values and overall culture have to be the same inside and out.
Engage all employees
This is the key to branding from the inside out. You have to get employee buy-in, and the only way to do this is to engage them in the branding process. Hold employee focus groups (a third party facilitator is best in this situation) or have them fill out a survey which gathers their thoughts on your financial institution’s mission, vision, core values and value proposition. Ask them what sets your financial institution apart from the others and craft your brand around that feedback. It may even be a good idea to establish a brand council comprised of employees at all levels who essentially create your brand identity.
Train, communicate, repeat
Branding is not a promotion. It’s an identity and a culture. Training and communication must be ongoing so you continue to reinforce the brand and so your employees understand their role in making it successful. Give them brand training so they understand what a brand is and they understand what your brand is. After the initial training, communicate to every single employee how their jobs align with your brand and contribute to your financial institution’s success. Be sure they understand this is a way of life for everyone who works at your financial institution. Continue to reinforce the importance of every employee living the brand.
Recognize and reward
Positive reinforcement is one of the best tools for maintaining a healthy level of employee morale. Encourage staff members to recognize colleagues “caught” living the brand. Send e-mails to their supervisors or even the senior leadership team. Have certificates printed that supervisors can present to employees at team meetings or other company events. Budget money for “treasure box” gifts. This can be something as small as a $5 gift card, tokens they can collect and eventually cash in for a free day off or something else that is small, yet meaningful. When you survey your employees, ask them what rewards they prefer.
Host a company-wide event for your initial launch
Some financial institutions use a typical banking holiday (a day when they are already closed) to host large company events – sort of like an internal annual meeting. This is a great time to launch your internal brand and establish new traditions like recognizing an employee of the year and other employees who exemplify your brand promise. If you do logo wear, introduce the year’s new style and issue one to every employee at this event. Make this a mandatory work day of fun.
Internal branding is the real meat of your organization. It sets the standard for the way your employees sell your financial institution to consumers. If your financial institution doesn’t have a strong internal brand, your external brand will eventually crumble.