I often talk to marketers and non-marketers on the topic of branding, and I’m often amazed by the misunderstanding even though I shouldn’t be.
For most, a brand is distilled down to a logo and maybe a tagline, causing the most significant confusion because while you do rely on those two elements to communicate your brand, your brand is SO much more.
You have to think of your brand like an iceberg. On the surface are all the manifestations of your brand – things like your colors, your logo, your tagline, and your commercials. However, when you dive below the surface of that iceberg, there is so much more happening. These things are the foundation of your brand, and indeed they ARE your brand…things like human, financial and emotional capital.
Together, all of these things make up what we call “brand equity.”
Today I want to talk about the human capital portion of your brand equity – the things usually in the human resources wheelhouse – things like company culture, recruitment programs, staff motivation and back of house environments.
The Culture of Your Brand
I want to talk about culture first because I feel It is what will make or break you.
Denise Lee Yohn doesn’t know this, but the brand strategist and author is a bit of a hero of mine. I learn from her every day. I read her books and silently say “YES” to almost everything.
In her book Fusion, she talks about the lack of brand culture alignment described in a Korn Ferry report. She calls it a chicken-or-the-egg problem.
“If business leaders don’t see how culture impacts business performance, then they don’t operationalize — that is, put into action and use — their core values throughout the business and, therefore, they don’t see any definitive results from them.”
She says that when culture and brand are completely in sync, their alignment is manifested visibly in four primary areas: purpose and values integration, integration of the employee experience/guest experience, internal brand alignment and employee brand engagement.
I think she makes a pretty strong argument for fusing your culture ideals with your brand. I mean, if they’re not in lock-step, then isn’t your brand just an empty promise?
When your brand is your culture and your culture is the brand, then you’re not a just tagline. You are SO much more, and your efforts will benefit exponentially.
But, let’s also step back and take a look at something that can create or change your culture easily if it isn’t a focus – your recruitment.
Marketing and HR are usually seen on different ends of the business. Sure, they might work together on a recruitment ad or some flyers for events, but if you take the time to partner with HR, you’ll find a different sort of employee coming in to apply.
Take the time to make sure your recruiters have a deep understanding of the brand and that you’re both on the same page as to exactly what the brand stands for and that it’s a promise to customers and employees. Together you can craft a view of the ideal employee that will not only be a great representative and do a good job, but they will also advance the brand with every step they take.
Branded Back of House
The last thing I want to touch upon today is your back of house.
You know that place where you post your EEOC posters and all those other things no one is paying attention to even though they should?
If you listened to Episode 5 – and I hope you did – you might remember I said that to engage employees in the brand, you have to give the back of house communications as much care and quality of the work and message as you do to the front. Maybe even more. We use the letters BOH as shorthand for back of house, but if you think of those letters as “begin over here,” you’ll suddenly start looking at your time clock and hallways a little differently.
Moreover, because this area is undoubtedly the one that most, if not all, your employees are walking through or hang out in, you have to see it as a perfect way to encourage brand behaviors. Think of it this way. If you could control what a guest sees in every single commercial or ad they encounter…EVERY one – every Facebook post, every commercial during their can’t miss show, every email – wouldn’t you want to continue sending the message you think will make them come through your door or click on your website? So, now, think of your employees. You can influence every bit of communication they encounter while at work. So, why isn’t the brand message a part of that communication?
By the way, if you haven’t heard that episode, I hope you’ll go back and listen to it. We talked about the success your brand can see when you have employee engagement.
I think you can start to see the impact of human resources activities on your brand. I hope this will spark a great partnership with you and your HR team.