By Gina Dollen, GMK Markenberatung.
The “strength through branding” approach has already taken many businesses to the next level. But even the strongest brand, best brand strategy and most exceptional brand relaunch can only be fully successful if preceded by a focus on marketing the brand within the company. Why is that? The answer is simple: because that’s where a brand’s inner strength is created, acting as a driving force that carries it through to external implementation. When all employees understand the brand, embrace its values and – ideally – are excited about it, they will automatically carry that enthusiasm into conversations with clients, their everyday work, and even their personal lives. However, internal brand implementation is not a short-term project. Rather, it is a continuously developing process that is progressed with every new team member and every new evolution of the brand.
Every internal brand implementation is unique
There are various tools and approaches for achieving successful internal brand implementation. What they all have in common is the overarching goal of making the brand come alive for employees and turning workers into brand ambassadors. The various different implementation approaches can even create the feeling of a positive and emotional commitment to the brand.
Using tools such as employee surveys to measure existing levels of identification with the brand within the company can be a good first step in defining a plan of action. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for success in internal marketing. Every company has a different starting point, and every team reacts and behaves differently – so an approach that has been successful in one company might miss the mark in another. The first thing to do, therefore, is to figure out which approach – and research indicates there are over 65 of them – is most suitable.
Brand implementation instruments
In an interview with the Deutsches Institut für Marketing, brand expert Dr Karsten Kilian divides brand implementation instruments into five categories: influencers, activities, media, environments and rules. Influencers are particularly important to embedding the brand, and act as catalysts within the company. One of the most effective methods in this category starts with education and training sessions. In these lessons, selected employees are educated on the brand, brand values, and brand design parameters in order to pass this information on to their teams as brand ambassadors. Managers and team leaders are often chosen for these roles, as they are able to reach a large number of employees. Over time, the brand is disseminated throughout the entire organisation and becomes a constant presence within the company – which can then be projected externally with equal conviction.
Brand training at Merck
Merck is an example of a company that chose this route. Following a comprehensive realignment of its brand, the company – which was previously seen as a relatively traditional player in the chemical and pharmaceutical markets – repositioned itself as an exciting and dynamic global science-and-technology business. Right from the start, Merck recognised the importance of including internal marketing in its brand realignment. This made it possible to devise a unique, modular training programme that allowed for courses of different lengths – in addition to the various activation measures aimed at all employees. On top of that, there were “train the trainer” sessions for people who would go on to instruct other employees after completing their own training. These trainers also received training materials and a training pack that included exercises and gadgets featuring the new Merck designs.
Merck also recently carried out training on the company’s brand narrative, which had previously not been fully implemented within the company. The narrative describes what makes Merck special and what the company stands for. An e-training format was developed to instruct employees in the narrative and teach them how to convey it to the outside world in line with the brand identity. Here, too, attention was paid to personalising the training in a way that allowed it to be adapted to both employees who are closely involved in brand communications and other workers. This allowed the first group to be provided with in-depth instruction on specific topics while the second group concentrated on the basics. For example, employees were advised on how and with what wording to explain to their friends what Merck stands in casual settings.
The digital space for the e-training was also set up in the same brand-compliant way it would be for face-to-face training sessions. Instead of display stands, posters and branded folders, the online training space included animations, short videos and Merck backgrounds.
From workshops to brand museums
“Activities” – Dr Kilian’s second category of internal marketing instruments – can include traditional workshops, presentations and brand events. These activities increase interaction with the brand values, bringing them to life and making them easier to understand. Examples of other such instruments are anniversary celebrations for specific brands or attending a brand summit to launch a new product or brand identity. This can even be taken a step further, as the BMW Brand Academy demonstrates: this instrument, developed by BMW, unites brand activities and a physical space focused on the brand.
The media category includes very traditional and well-known instruments. They include branding guides, flyers, posters and company magazines, as well as company intranets. These resources are easily accessible and are a straightforward way of helping people understand the brand. It’s no surprise, therefore, that these are among the most frequently used instruments.
The instruments in the environments category are a bit more wide-ranging. Whether it’s an office designed in line with the company’s branding, notepads and gadgets featuring the company logo or even a brand museum, these instruments tailor spaces to incorporate the brand and create unique brand experiences. And as the domestic technology company Oventrop’s branding boxes demonstrate, it can even be done on a small scale.
Teasing a relaunch with branding boxes
As part of a brand relaunch, the boxes were set up in company offices even before the relaunch had officially started. They were positioned in locations that workers passed every day and where – if time allowed it – they could sneak a peek at what was coming through a viewing pane. The contents of the boxes were regularly changed, allowing a clear picture of the new, redeveloped Oventrop brand to become apparent over time. This way, the internal marketing both announced the brand relaunch and perfectly prepared employees to embrace it both internally and externally.
Creating certainty through rules
Companies that want to make absolutely sure that the brand’s values are adhered to within the organisation can make use of instruments in the final rules category. These could be rules of conduct, defined dress codes and language guidelines or even standardised ways of proceeding during meetings with clients.
Fostering identity with unique names
Calling things by their (special) name can help foster greater brand identification among employees when carrying out an internal brand implementation. For example, it helps not to simply refer to workers as employees, but to give them a unique identity. The employees at Oventrop, for example, are known as “Oventropers” and the GMK Markenberatung brand consultancy calls their employees “brand guides”. Tailored building names can also help teams identify with their working environment. Companies can get really creative and carry over their naming conventions to all areas of the business – one company, for example, has swapped “brainstorming” for “loony conferences”; another calls their receptionist the “director of first impressions”.
Unusual circumstances: digitising brand implementation during the pandemic
Digitisation has accelerated as a result of the pandemic, creating new challenges for many companies. Internal marketing is one of the practices that now needs to be rethought. For the most part, traditional approaches, such as in-person training, academies and events, are now no longer an option. The instruments of internal marketing need to be transferred to digital spaces.
At Oventrop, too, digital trainings have been developed to meet this challenge. Here, the brand ambassador trainings – originally planned as in-person events – took place online. “It definitely seems easier to get people excited about brands live and in person. Spaces designed in line with the brand and face-to-face interactions make it possible to really convey emotions. Creating that atmosphere digitally was the biggest challenge,” says Franziska Stobbe, consultant at GMK Markenberatung, the brand consultancy that Oventrop worked with to implement the relaunch. In order to prevent the OV brand boot camp from becoming a long, draining session in front of a computer screen, the event was split up. What would have taken one day as an in-person training was instead spread over two days.
In order to keep it interactive, the participants received a small homework assignment to complete between the two sessions, enabling them to start engaging with the brand outside of the training context. The Oventrop training sessions followed the “train the trainer” method described above, meaning that the brand ambassadors – most of whom held managerial or other key roles – were trained to pass on their new knowledge to their teams. The brand ambassadors were instructed in two different forms of training that they could tailor to their teams.
Bosch Power Tools started down the path of digitisation even before the pandemic. From the start, the company attached a great importance to extensive internal brand implementation at all levels – meaning that the digital side was always part of the strategy. As such, it was in place when the company’s new communication design was implemented and Bosch employees needed to become brand ambassadors. Digital training was carried out on two levels: “basic” and “advanced”. By including a quiz at the end, the Bosch Power Tools web-based trainings provided tailored digital interaction and gave participants another opportunity to test their knowledge. Additionally, the training not only conveyed the brand identity of Bosch Power Tools, but also a more general understanding of the importance of brands.
Whether it’s done digitally, as part of daily working life, on paper or as dedicated training sessions, every brand needs to consider and implement their internal marketing strategy right from the start. After all, it’s only when employees fully embrace a brand that it comes to life.
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