We discussed many times the advantages of properly branding your company and how important it is to involve your employees in the process:
In fact, this is the real key to your long-term success.
Many commented that they understand the need of branding, but they question the need to brand ‘strongly’, as the latter option is much more expensive than the former.
Now ask yourself this:
Why do you happily pay Starbucks US$6.96 for a latte in Zurich, US$6.07 in Cancun or US$4.59 in London (among more outrageous prices around the world, see below, as per a March 2016 study from the UK Daily Mail), while you could have the same for not even a quarter of the price for the same quality beverage, but in a non-strongly branded coffee-shop?
Because there are little chances that you’ll even think of going to that local café:
You know and trust Starbucks and that’s where you will go, no matter of what.
Does that answer the question why it is better to invest in a strong brand than being happy with your locally neighborhood label (regardless of the size of your ‘neighborhood’: your street, your city, your region)?
Your local coffee-shop may be serving better quality latte, a greater selection, a more attentive service, you and most customers won’t care:
You want a brand that you know and that the marketing that surrounds and sustains it make you feel good about and therefore ignore the competition.
That’s the power of a ‘strong brand’.
Therefore, why should you develop a brand that in no way can compete against the big guys – regardless if you’re a coffee shop or not: whichever industry you are in, there is always a Starbucks to crush you down -, while you should be investing the time and resources required to be able to fight back and succeed?
And that’s why Starbucks is successful worldwide and the billions of local non-branded or locally-branded coffee shops around the world are not.
Quality is not all – but to a certain extend is necessary (this is a complex subject we will explore more in detail in the future).
Packaging is all.
Branding makes the difference.
Field employees make a win.
Not only that, but a strong brand has numerous more advantages than being able to charge outrageous prices for a simple coffee with milk (that’s what a latte is, after all!).
It allows you to attract the best talents around, negotiate better deals with suppliers, better cross economic crisis, increase customers’ loyalty, easily and inexpensively attract new clients such as out-of-town visitors, etc.
As we mentioned in a previous article, marketing is important to build your brand and make it strong.
But it is not enough.
You need to engage your employees, from front line to back-office associates, such as accounting and human resources – please refer to our article on human resources to see how damaging to your brand and company’s growth HR can be, and therefore how crucial it is to ‘have them on board’.
According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. 41% of us believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.”
In other words, regardless of how well designed and marketed your brand might be, if your employees don’t think the sky of your company and products, you will eventually fail.
Every member of your workforce must be your brand’s ambassador.
Of course, if your company grows and becomes big enough, you will need institutional ambassadors.
But before that, you must ensure that all your associates believe in your brand’s storytelling and its values:
They are the ones in direct contact with your clients and other stakeholders – much more than you’ll ever be.
Hence, they are the brand, they are the company.
To become brand’s ambassadors, you need to engage them.
‘Employees engagement’ is usually defined as “a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization that profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work.”
The Performance Improvement Council states that “studies by Gallup confirms that engaged employees are more productive, create better customer experiences, and are more likely to remain with their employers. As a result, employers win because they get a more stable and motivated workforce and can, consequently, spend more time strengthening their brand.”
This is confirmed and stressed by the Society for Human Resources Management that explains that “the greater an employee’s engagement, the more likely he or she is to ‘go the extra mile’ and deliver excellent on-the-job performance. In addition, engaged employees may be more likely to commit to staying with their current organization. Software giant Intuit, for example, found that highly engaged employees are 1.3 times more likely to be high performers than less engaged employees. They are also 5 times less likely to voluntarily leave the company.”
This is confirmed by a 2013 Gallup study that found out that “companies with high employee engagement levels have 3.9 times the earnings per share when compared to those in the same industry with lower engagement levels.”
Contrary to what many think, employees’ engagement is not built on pay and benefits – which have a short-life effect -, but on...
What is it in it for me?
According to Cornell’s Administrative Science Quarterly, “to maximize employee satisfaction, new employee socialization should focus on personal, not corporate, identity. … When your employees can be their ‘authentic best selves’ in the workplace, productivity and retention increase.”
This study shows that employees care first about their wellbeing (based on the infamous “what is it in it for me?”).
Employees don’t want to hear about how great the brand and the company are, and how lucky they are to work for such a wonderful corporation!
What they want to hear is how much the firm care for them, trust them and allow them to grow.
If the company keeps talking about its bottom line and the benefits for all if the firm makes profits, you will not engage them – they will expect cash because you talk cask; you will never get their trust and engagement.
On the other hand, if you tell them you care for them and you prove it daily, they will eventually reciprocate once you earned their trust.
Brand education is a must
In a 2012, Gallup surveyed 3,000 employees from a large number of companies from various industries, asking the following question:
“I know what my company stands for, and what makes our brand different from our competitors.”
Only 41% of employees strongly agreed with this statement.
Which means that 59% of the associates interviewed do not really know what the brand they work for stands for – anyway, do they really care?
This issue is very important:
How can you expect your workforce to deliver the brand promise if they are not aware – or incompletely aware, or – even worse – have the wrong understanding of the brand promise?
This is calling for failure.
Happily marrying corporate and associates personal identities
The brand has its identity, and employees have theirs.
If you address the “What is it in it for me?” issue that drives all human beings, you allow employees to express and develop their own identity – their own branding.
Is it corporate identity / branding vs. individual identity / branding?
Internal conflicts are not good for business. Therefore, you cannot oppose corporate to personal identities.
You need to merge them.
The answer to this dilemma is in your company’s culture.
As discussed previously, your corporate culture is part of your success equation.
Both corporate and employees must have the same interest in the brand’s success.
If your associates come to work every day only to earn their paycheck, rest assure that you are failing – sooner or later you will fail; you only need a competitor managed by a team of leaders who know how to engage their employees to crush your company down; it will eventually happen.
On the other hand, once you acknowledge that what you need if consistency between both identities and not compliancy of one to the other, you’re on the road to success – and you’ll eventually be the crasher, not the crashee!
As you see, branding is more than a beautiful logo and a strong marketing department.
Successful branding is a leadership style.
How is your company managing its brand?
Do you see it able to become a market leader thanks its branding leadership style?