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BRANDE : Branding

April 5, 2017

Activate Your Brand Internally

You’ve done it. You have a stellar consumer brand. Your career website tells the story you need to—about your culture, the talent you are seeking and the opportunities you have for those that are more than a culture fit, and are a “culture add.” You’re getting resumes from the right candidates for the right jobs. Things couldn’t be better. But aren’t you forgetting something?

Once your exciting new candidates are new employees, is your talent brand holding up internally? And just as importantly, do your existing employees feel like they are a part of the story?

Now’s the time to take the principles of your talent brand and make sure it applies internally across all your communications touch points from your intranet to your training programs. Here are some tips on where to begin.

Create Internal Awareness of Your Talent Brand
As you developed the brand architecture for your talent brand, you likely shared it with and sought input from your senior leaders, key HR stakeholders, your communications teams, and hopefully some influential hiring managers. Now it is time to go further. Consider creating an eye-catching, one-page overview of your talent brand and what it is trying to achieve related to your culture and working at the company. Share it with all your people managers and give them key points to share with their employees—an appropriate time to launch might be in conjunction with a milestone of your performance management cycle, merit increases or bonus payouts, or when the company releases its yearly goals or strategy.

Once you have communicated your talent to employees, get them involved. And I don’t mean just in your employee referral program. Consider tactics such as employees creating personal statements (with photos) like “I’m proud to work for my company because…” or “I enjoy coming to work every day because…” and having them share on your intranet or internal social media channels, such as Yammer. Consider partnering with your external communications teams to share the best ones on your corporate social media channels to furthering our your corporate reputation and employment brand.

Take Stock of Internal Touch Points
Are various touch points across the employee life cycle telling the same story as your talent brand? Is your talent brand coming through in your internal communications?

Take the time to look at some of your internal processes to ensure that they are reinforcing your talent brand and that your new hires and existing employees hear the story that is being told externally living up on the inside.

Some key areas to look at that may need updating or refreshing to match your talent brand include:

• New hiring onboarding and orientation

• Learning and development programs/training (especially training for new people managers, inclusion and diversity          seminars, rollouts of the code of conduct, etc.)

• Performance management process (Did you promise ongoing feedback during the hiring process and are you living up to it?  Are your people managers equipped to do it?)

• Talent management and succession planning (Are you honoring the tenants of your talent brand as you evaluate the future  talent plans of the organization?)

Review all your internal materials from top to bottom—from new hire paperwork to benefits brochures, to your intranet platform, to signage around the office. Does everything support the talent you want to keep today and the talent you want to inspire tomorrow? Each piece of your internal communications should support the story you want to tell about who you are as an employer—from attracting new talent to keep your best talent. Now may be the time to embark on that communications audit you’ve been avoiding.

Need help reinforcing your talent brand internally? Let us help.

December 2, 2016

What Is Brand Research? (And Why Should You Do It?)

So you’ve read my post “Four Signs You’re Ready to Rebrand” and answered “yes” to one or more of the questions. Time to design a new logo, right?

 

Wrong. The first step in the process, and the most important, is conducting brand research. 

What Is Brand Research (And Why Should You Do It?)

Before you can embark on the exciting and sometimes painful process of re-branding, you need to go beyond theory and acquire actionable knowledge- game-changing insights that can steal market share and drive sustainable business results. That requires brand research. 

It’s safe to assume that in your personal or professional life, you don’t make important decisions without doing  due diligence, so why should your brand deserve anything less?

Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Don’t rely on a one-rat lab study. Put together a solid plan incorporating some of these tried and true techniques:

 

1. Qualitative Research (aka “Qual”)

Bring in a small sampling of the “right” types of people and do a focus group, or in-depth interview, online or as a telephone campaign. The questions are open-ended and the answers are subjective. A trained moderator (like me) will probe for deeper perceptions, opinions, and feelings about your topic. Emotional drivers, not rational ones, are what we’re zeroing in on since branding is all about creating emotional connections. We recommend 360 branding that involves both external (consumer) and internal (employee) elements, so you’ll want groups of consumers, vendors, employees, and senior leadership in the mix.
 

2. Quantitative Research (aka “Quant”)

This is most effective when used to validate the findings of your qualitative study. It’s much more objective because well-crafted questions deliver unbiased answers. You can conduct some quantitative research surveys through online tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. But the trick is getting the right analysis from the data. Make sure that you get a good sample pool by surveying across geography, age, incomes, and skill sets (for employee research).

3. Ideation Workshops

These are useful in creating corporate mission and purpose statements, launching new products or product extensions, or simply taking research findings to the next stage of development. It provides a structured forum for collective brainstorming (where there are no bad ideas!) and can be augmented with trend-panels and outside thought-leaders. Invite 10-20 of your closest multidisciplinary stakeholders for an off-site retreat and let the brand games begin. 

Don’t Try This Yourself

I recommend bringing in an outside party to conduct any type of research. For qualitative, it helps to have an outsider who isn’t afraid of the truth, and who can turn negative discussions into positive opportunities without feeling personally attacked. For quantitative, it helps reassure both internal and external participants that the results are anonymous. Conducting the research off-site also helps persuade subjects to be completely honest instead of just reciting the party line.


Evaluating It All

Since it’s more art than science, analysis is where real branding experts really shine. (There are three sides to every story.) Agencies like Brandemix use the latest tools and technology to analyze the data to create unique messaging and marketing plans that resonate with fragmented groups. It takes experience, insight, and creativity to turn research into tangible business results.
 

Goals

• The first goal is to simply get to truth. How do people really feel about your brand?

• The next goal is align the findings with your company’s mission, vision, and values. If it’s an employer brand, you want to align it with your consumer brand.

 • The third goal is to find your niche, your “white space,” where you can deliver something that no one else can. Again, this applies to both internal and external branding.

 • Another goal is to look at your “As-Is,” your current situation, and to find what opportunities are available to you. Also, what can you learn from your “wannabe’s”? If you “wannabe” like Starbucks, in what ways can you emulate their successes?

In Conclusion

Brand research professionals have more tools available now than ever before. There is no best way to craft the perfect research plan. It’s through careful consideration of objectives, timeline, and budget that a sensible plan emerges. The answers can be painful, and every answer can lead to two more questions, but every question can lead to new opportunities to capture market share in ways never before considered. 

That’s why we do it! Let us do it for you.

September 1, 2016

Branding in the Age of Cynicism

One of the key components of successful branding is the art of building trusted relationships with your audience, yet it becomes harder and harder to do. Storytellers are Spin Masters. Celebrities are Paid Endorsers. And Politicians are Pivoters as this recent article in the Washington Post so clearly points out. Every product review is suspect, and even Science is suspicious as eggs became good, milk became bad and the benefits of flossing are unsubstantiated. As brands seek to foster trust, the smart phone puts information at our fingertips, making it easier than ever to validate data and reward skepticism.

It’s no wonder that according to a recent Roper study, 60% of Americans listed word-of-mouth as their best source of information. That is because we trust the people we trust to help us navigate this maze of messages, misinformation and multitudes of choices we have each day as a voter, consumer, patient or job candidate. Sometime next week I will be speaking more on this topic in a video interview with Todd Raphael of ERE Media but today I will look at 3 key ways you can build trusted relationships and influence others through their willingness to be influenced by you.

  1. Be Great at What You Do.

content.rolexEarlier this year Rolex became the world’s most reputable company, according to the annual survey launched by Reputation Institute. From the Forbes article “The area where Rolex scored highest among respondents (a score of 82.2) was in products and services, proving that the general population has high regard for the company’s wares and its willingness to stand behind its product.”

2. Be Dependable. 

Reliable, faithful, loyal. The traits associated most often with Labradors can be applied to luxury brands as well. The ability to walk the walk, and talk the talk is an essential pillar in building trust.Further, the ability to consistently deliver in the same consistent manner anywhere in the world creates stronger affinity with a product or service. We put our trust in Fedex to deliver, and their ability to do so has made them one of the most valuable brands in the world.

3. Care.  

As a consumer and brand strategist, this is the attribute I hold dearest, for just like in personal relationships, higher levels of trust are built on mutuality, compassion and sincerity. Care about your employees and their families, care about your customers and vendor/partners and care about the world at large.

The karmic payback is evidenced by the success of big brands known for great service such as Toms, American Express, Nordstrom and Chubb Insurance (now Ace.) A random caller from GoDaddy told me he had analyzed my account and could make recommendations to save me money. My Delta customer service person sounded truly sad when I told her about my lost luggage.  They connected with me.

Even former Vice President Al Gore became much more significant to me when he changed his focused from politics to environmentalist and released his book and widely acclaimed Academy Award winning documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth.” He represented someone with vision, leadership and ideas I could get behind. I thought Al and I could change the world.

That is, until I checked the facts.

#Alwaysbebranding

July 7, 2016

Prunes Just Weren’t Cool: How Rebranding can Increase Market Success

how-to-dry-plumsSometimes re-branding is about a name change. In 2002,  the fruit-growers board persuaded the FDA to change the name prunes to “dried plums.” It’s the same treat but now it has more cachet, and costs a bit more. Changing the name brought about a change in public perception and market acceptance, particularly by a younger demographic. And that is a plum example (pardon the pun) of a successful rebranding initiative.

Another example is the brand Logitech, best known as a manufacturer of computer mice. Mice are less prevalent in the age of tap and swipe, and they didn’t want to be associated with an antiquated product. The firm, founded in 1981, was also a leader in other product categories, like speakers for smartphones. These are some of the inspirations for the change when they became simply Logi last year.  Logi sounds trendier, like a true lifestyle brand. Furthermore, the word tech was no longer deemed necessary since “Tech is everywhere… as prevalent as clothes” according to one of their branding executives.

Rebranding can also be about market/sales demographics and whose brand loyalty you really want to earn. Take Burberry for example.  Many of their early customers could come right out of the movie/play Driving Miss Daisy. Nearly dismissed as frumpy and over-extended, the brand went through an overhaul.

Burberry’s iconic trench coats and plaids, once sported by oldsters and gangsters, started showing up on top models like Kate Moss and celebrities like Emma Watson (of the Harry Potter franchise. ) Sales rose 25% their first year and kept climbing and  50 new stores were built in 2010, some in China. The hardest part of the branding mission: adapting current styles while embracing history, according to a Business Insider post from 2011.

It might be time to do some analysis related to your brand. Are there gaps between who you’re reaching and who you hope to onboard? Are your messages perceived honestly?  Might a rebrand be in order? We at Brandemix are eager to help with both the analytics and creative work involved.

 

June 2, 2016

How Important is Employer Branding to an Effective Corporate Marketing Strategy?

Critically important. Here’s why.  

Every company has a brand. Every brand has value.  Millions of marketing dollars are spent each year on establishing brand awareness in the minds of consumers.  But it’s employees who have the greatest power to make or break a brand. Employees shift the message from a concept to a positive or negative customer experience. Employees generate the energy and ideas that produce business outcomes.  The service profit chain from the Harvard Business review demonstrates that employee satisfaction are directly correlated to business growth. https://hbr.org/2008/07/putting-the-service-profit-chain-to-work .. Employer Branding is the process of hiring and engaging the right talent that’s aligned with and delivers to the business strategies.

Savvy CMOs/marketing leaders are starting to pay attention to this. The campaign dollars they spend are setting up the Brand Promise- an expectation that the consumer has of the type of experience they will receive. This is called the customer experience.  Think Disney, Think SouthWest Airlines. In some cases, it’s woven into their marketing campaign. “Shop here because our knowledgable team  of professionals will simplify the process of buying your car, your vitamins, or appliances for your new home.” Companies like Zappos have a harder task of trying to create an exceptional experience virtually.  But in each of these examples, the success or failure lies in the hands of how well employees perform. And it begins with HR/Talent Acquisition hiring the right people.

 What roles/s can the head of HR play in furthering marketing goals?

The first step is in HR understanding how the marketing efforts are furthering the business goals of the company. The next step is in understanding the brand drivers and how they it intersect with employee actions, either customer facing employees, or internal teams that are supporting the business. (Think customer service, billing etc.) The next step is making sure that employees know what is expected of them in terms of on-brand behavior and making sure they know they can personally make a difference.

In high performing companies there is a partnership between HR and the CMO. When we work with these types of clients, representatives of both functions attend the meetings. But in other companies, they view the CMO or marketing team as a group that’s typically too busy to assist with their needs, and is only called in to approve logos/colors/and fonts. 

CMOs of large retail organizations understand that employees represent their largest customer population (think employee discounts) and they are instrumental in bringing the brand to life. Often, there’s a great desire to ask HR for input on the effort in advance of a new campaign launch through organizing focus groups to understand the customer through the lens of the employees. But I don’t think that it’s a 2-way street. Marketing budgets are far greater than Recruiting budgets and if there was more unity, there would be a tremendous opportunity to assist in the efforts to find and keep talent aligned with the core brand. The new GE commercials are proof that great companies recognize that a pipeline of talent is critical to their future. 

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/getting-hired-ge-impresses-absolutely-no-one-companys-amusing-new-ads-166760

The processes between HR and Marketing are more similar than either group might imagine. The steps in building consumer loyalty – awareness, preference, consideration, commitment, engagement  are the same as the building employee loyalty. As unemployment percentages drop, recruiting employees is becoming much more like marketing. It would be great if marketing would assist in sharing some of their expertise and dollars into forming a relationship and truly building a brand fortress.