Guest Column - September/October 2015

Creating a Unified Brand Experience

By Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP

Every day, the digital world shines a spotlight on brand inconsistencies.

Employees and potential candidates might get one impression, customers and partners may have another experience, while investors and influencers might see an altogether different picture. The result is brand confusion—or worse, brand conflict.

Customers expect much more from brands now—they increasingly require a holistic and authentic experience across all the ways they interact with an organization. The most effective way brands can engage millennials is to have an authentic purpose, and other customers also expect to engage more actively in a two-way dialogue with brands.

Employees Have Become Brand Ambassadors

Employees have become an essential component of branding, and brand experiences are now largely shaped by the workers on the front lines who interact daily with customers and must meet their ever-rising expectations.

Successful brand management requires fuller and more consistent engagement among the people inside and outside your company—both those who experience the brand and those who represent it.

Unfortunately, companies too often focus on only one or two aspects of their brand image. Many ignore the opportunity of positioning employees as brand advocates, or else narrowly relegate marketing communications for employees and recruits to the HR department and assume a strong product or corporate brand alone will attract candidates and customers.

The era of unified branding is dawning, and employer, corporate and product branding will only grow more closely integrated.

Organizations must elevate employer branding to its rightful place among the other major pillars of corporate, product and service brand management.

At the same time, companies must create consistency among customer experiences with the product, the company and its employees. Integrated alignment of all the aspects of brand management ensures brands leverage their most significant assets—employees—to create more powerful and relevant brands.

Only the harmonization of corporate, product and employer branding ensures that everyone involved contributes to a unified brand experience, together raising the brand's value. Behind this success lies strong employer branding—and companies having strong employer brands tend to outperform those that don't.

Not every company must be a leader in all three brand-management disciplines, but they must achieve a basic command of each, as they discover how to differentiate themselves in the areas important to their business. Only then will they achieve more integrated and consistent brand experiences.

The Power of Employer Branding

Even though it's become central to how a brand is experienced, employer branding is frequently the missing ingredient in achieving the promise of a unified brand image. It represents a company's promise to the people who work there, the people who want to work there and the people the company wants to recruit.

To succeed in delivering a unified experience across all the brand dimensions important to future success—especially through its employees—every company needs to define its unique advantages for employer branding and then work hard to cultivate these differentiating factors more effectively.