Feature Article - March/April 2014

Boost Your Brand

Internal Brand Engagement Requires Planning, Review of Brand Promise

By Deborah L. Vence

Giving a boost to your brand takes more than just relying on your marketing efforts or your relationships with customers. It requires a steadfast commitment to employee engagement—ensuring that your workforce is fully connected to your company's brand promise.

"I've discovered that more and more leaders around the world are starting to understand what a powerful business tool engagement can be—for their employees, their customers, and the longevity and strength of their brands," said Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP, vice president of business development at O. C. Tanner. "Research has been very influential in this transition since there is so much data linking employee and customer engagement to brand loyalty—and the financial benefits it creates—that leaders can't ignore it.

"Interestingly, I've found that CEOs may have been earlier adopters of this strategy than many of their marketing leaders. It's been challenging to get the message to CEOs, but once they heard it, they quickly understood the enormous power and potential of the strategy," she added. "The recession crystallized the importance of retaining brand loyalty, and CEOs appreciate the efficiency and effectiveness of building their business and their brand by building engagement levels in their workforce. And, I've discovered that they are often grateful for an integrated strategic approach that transcends organizational silos. It's the best kind of win-win-win."

And, much research exists proving that internal brand engagement is effective.

A study of the organizations on the World's Most Admired Companies (WMAC) list analyzed the connection between employee engagement and a company's business development and consumer relationship. Results showed that a whopping 94 percent of respondents from the WMAC believe employee engagement creates a competitive advantage in the marketplace and leads to better relationships with customers. In addition, 71 percent of respondents believe their company is successful at linking employee engagement to customer satisfaction.

"A wealth of other research also supports the evidence that employees are the key to value delivery and brand success, frequently determining positive or negative consumer experiences, and, ultimately, influencing a customer's decision to remain loyal or not," Smith said. "I contend that employees not only represent the brand—to the customer they become the brand."