Branding from the inside out

One seldom thinks of the human resource function as a base for marketing, but Nader Tavassoli makes a persuasive case for starting your ...

One seldom thinks of the human resource function as a base for marketing, but Nader Tavassoli makes a persuasive case for starting your branding strategy with your own employees.
Branding from the inside outMost managers, when they think of their company’s branding, view it as the image of the company as it faces the marketplace and the general public. Very few think of the importance of branding inside the organization. If brands are to be an integral part of a company’s strategy, they need to have traction internally. The reality, however, is that a majority of people do not know or understand their company’s strategy, of which branding needs to be a critical component. It should thus be no surprise that far too many companies fail to deliver their brand promise to customers.

Fortunately, there are initiatives that can be taken to overcome this issue. These initiatives leverage core skills already in the marketer’s toolbox. Critically, however, marketers need to involve those in human resources (HR) while also seeking the finance director’s blessings. In many companies, this is uncharted, if not hostile, territory for those in marketing.

Stepping out of the silo

A recent study by The Brand Inside ( indicated that, for 60 per cent of sampled organizations, it was unclear who is responsible for building the internal brand in order to support the external promise. HR must take the lead in this process, and it should be a process that involves taking people along the 6-A’s journey: from attention to awareness, acceptance, advocacy, action and adherence. Each stage has different drivers and requires different interventions.

Unfortunately, instead of championing the brand for those inside the company, HR often treats their company’s products and services as if they were commodities, leaving employees with only a broad, fuzzy image of what the company is, at heart, all about. Recruitment ads, thus, are more bland than on-brand. They are largely generic with different logos adorning the same tired copy next to near-identical images of dynamic and diverse young adults.

Job descriptions, key performance indicators, development programmes, incentives and rewards tend to look similar across many of the competitors in any industry. In addition, many people have similar educational and social backgrounds and (often) have already worked for one or more competitors. Currently, there’s a buzz among HR chiefs about “employer branding”; sadly, this trend (if one can call it that) misses the point.

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