While businesses devote billions of dollars in advertising, promotions and marketing resources to the external marketplace, many are ignoring critical internal audiences—their own employees.
This omission is surprising when you consider what's at stake. The authenticity of any brand—its perception as genuine, legitimate and trustworthy—is directly dependent on the willingness of the company's employees to act and deliver in a manner that is consistent with the expectations shaped by marketing.
When marketing is done well, consumers begin not only to believe in and identify withthe brand, but to associate a personality with it as well. They may see it as dependable, intelligent, friendly or trustworthy—all human terms. That's why the foundation of any brand lies in its reputation—earned through every prospect/customer interaction. It's a product of first and last impressions of the brand formed through all the experiences in between.
While marketing generally focuses on the four P's—product, place, price and promotion—your efforts should expand to include two more: promise and people. And, with the authenticity of a brand's reputation so dependent on employee behavior, strategies and programs should be developed that address the effect of both on the brand's authenticity.
Since brand promise rests on employee attitudes and behaviors, aligning the organization's goals with individual action is not only the first step to gaining a competitive advantage, it is the most important.
Just as external communications and offerings capture the attention of customers, HR teams can support marketing by developing and distributing internal communications and incentives designed to engage the company's employees. The most effective programs translate brand attributes into behaviors and actions that individual employees can understand and relate to. The feedback and award mechanisms celebrate and support value-building behaviors, motivate employees, and help reinforce positive brand attributes and behaviors across the entire organization.
In developing a brand's identity, marketing works hard to create both awareness and association. And how well the brand lives up to those promises—across every employee interaction—impacts its reputation. Through targeted recognition communications, award mechanisms, and reporting and diagnostic tools, HR can help marketing build brands by motivating the employees who make it come alive.
Mike Ryan is senior vice president of marketing and strategy at Madison Performance Group.