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The Little Brand Launch that Almost Could

Posted on: July 20th, 2006 by: trefoil

In the spirit of Mary’s Wednesday post on employee retention comes this: the need for companies and their agencies to recognize the virtues and limitations of “internal branding.”

Agencies like ours long ago realized the importance of launching a new brand inside the company prior to launching it in the marketplace. You’ll hear agencies and clients alike use terms like “brand ambassador” out of the acknowledgement that any brand lives or dies based on the experience customers have dealing with the company—meaning, principally, with the company’s people.

But what’s missing from many internal branding programs is a sustained narrative that connects the brand back to overall company strategy—along with recurrent communications that deepen employees’ understanding of company strategy over time.

This oversight usually results from the agency focusing too much on brand as creative manifestation of the company’s value proposition and not enough on brand as another vehicle for helping the company perform to its business objectives and strategies.

A better approach? Blend proven internal branding tactics with sustained communications about the company’s broader strategic journey. These proven tactics include:

• Using creative techniques to get employees enthused about the new brand (teaser campaigns, employee events, etc.)
• Deploying communications that help employees understand how you’re positioning the company and their role in securing this position
• Making the new brand’s creative components—logo, tag line, key visuals, etc.—ubiquitous in the workplace

The second part is equally important: sustained internal communications about company strategy. We believe that the internal brand launch must present the brand as a component in the company’s broader strategic journey. Odds are, the executive team has articulated four or five overarching strategic imperatives for the organization. In many companies, though, these key strategies aren’t communicated to employees in a meaningful, sustained fashion.

As such, we typically advise companies to use the internal brand launch as the occasion to simultaneously introduce new, ongoing communications about company strategy. These communications should focus on the aforementioned strategic imperatives, with the brand presented as an imperative on par with the rest. (Our clients’ declared strategic imperatives typically address broad concerns related to operational improvement, financial performance, culture, etc.)

This two-pronged approach to launching the brand helps employees see how acting in accordance with the company’s brand and strategies will produce positive results for all parties. It also lessens the likelihood that a branding initiative will show up for employees as marketing speak, the initiative du jour or a case of the company frivolously spending its precious cash.

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In case you missed it, the Wall Street Journal announced earlier this week it plans to sell ad space on the front page of its main section. I think B to B magazine nailed it in their brief piece from Wednesday: print publications are going where they’d never go before in the name of offsetting ad revenues lost to new media. Given the $75K per ad the WSJ is expected to fetch for its marquis placement, can’t say I blame them.

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