Internal branding is the unsung hero of some of the world’s most successful brands. When we talk about branding as a whole, it’s easy to reduce it to just a logo. And even once you cross the threshold and see branding in a more holistic light, internal branding is often forgotten.
It shouldn’t be.
Branding or rebranding is a massive project, so missing something during the process is not uncommon. However, with all the focus on your customers, it’s easy to forget the people that determine the success of your business in the first place: your employees.
Internal branding allows you to be a strong positive force for your employees, not just your customers. Employees at companies with strong internal brands are powerfully productive, creative, intentional advocates for your brand in ways your customers can’t be.
Like external branding, internal branding is a project you must take seriously. Unfortunately, even companies that understand the benefits of branding don’t see the value of internal branding. They end up half-heartedly putting something together.
They make sure the logo is sprinkled throughout the building. Employees get branded e-signatures or business cards. The company values are on the wall somewhere. Maybe they host a yearly Christmas party or throw a ping-pong table in the break room and call it good.
But none of it is done intentionally or strategically. They end up with a lot of parts that don’t form a cohesive whole.
So how do you create a cohesive internal brand? Let’s discuss our top tips for successfully crafting your company brand.
Internal branding: 6 tips to set yourself up for success
When your internal brand is an afterthought, your employees won’t be engaged or passionate about your brand. They won’t go out of their way to talk about your company to their friends and family, won’t post about it on social media, and probably won’t be too thrilled to come to work.
The key to successful internal branding is understanding that your employees are every bit as important as your customers. (Maybe even more so.) They’re the engine of your car, and you need to fuel them. If you don’t, you won’t get far. If you do, you’ll be astonished at how far they’ll take you.
Here are the best ways to achieve successful internal branding:
1. Listen to your employees
Step one of internal branding perfectly matches step one of external branding: research. Instead of researching your customers, however, you need to research your employees.
What do your employees think about your brand?
Why did they come to work for you in the first place? Why did they stay?
Do they believe your company solves an important problem?
Do they feel their work is meaningful?
These questions are only the beginning. Before you can create a strong internal brand, you need to know how your employees currently see your brand.
Sometimes, your employees already have a good sense of the brand, but they don’t feel engaged by it day to day. They may like the idea of your brand but not see how it applies to them.
In other cases, your employees may not have a great sense of who you are as a company at all.
Understanding where your employees are coming from allows you to see where your internal branding is strongest and where it’s weakest. Most importantly, it allows you to look for branding agency services that can turn your weaknesses into strengths.
2. Build excitement
Once you know what your employees need, it’s time to build excitement. You need to know when to rebrand for the biggest impact, and you need to guide people through the change.
Internal branding is especially hands-on. You won’t be launching your brand out into the world. You’ll be creating a shift in the way your employees think about the people they spend so much time with.
No one likes massive change. So when you change your internal brand, tell your employees – in no uncertain terms – exactly why you’re making this change.
What problems are you trying to solve?
What benefits will they see in their everyday lives?
Why does this rebrand matter to them?
Building excitement for an internal rebrand isn’t just about getting people fired up. It also gets people ready to put in the effort required to change the entire flow of the workplace. Without this step, your internal rebrand can fizzle out before it really begins.
3. Take your values off the wall
Don’t worry; if you have a painting or poster with your values on it, that can stay. But it shouldn’t be the only way your employees experience those values. When your employees see a visual representation of your values, it should reinforce their experiences, not introduce new information.
If you value honesty, create space within the company for people to give their unfiltered thoughts. Build time into meetings for candid discussions around the pros and cons of decisions. Give people a chance to really be honest.
If you value sustainability, create a company-wide reward system for sustainable actions like recycling. Allow employees to volunteer with green initiatives on company time. Make sustainability show up front and center in the daily operations of your company.
These are just starting points for creating tangible values. In today’s increasingly aware culture, customers and employees are starting to demand that companies put their money where their mouth is. They don’t want to hear that you care about sustainability, diversity, or honesty. They want to see it.
4. Hire (and retain) in alignment with your brand
What does your application and hiring process look like right now to an outsider? Does your brand shine through every step?
For most companies, the answer is no. The job listings are perfect clones of listings for any other company. There’s no vivacity, no personality, no reason to work for that company other than a paycheck.
Don’t let your hiring process be like that!
Your hiring process should reflect what it’s like to work with you. What do you expect your employees to do day-to-day? How do you expect them to interact with their co-workers, team leads, and executives? What kind of person are you hoping to hire?
Internal branding allows you to reach candidates that don’t just have the right qualifications, but the right mindset.
And when you have a strong internal brand, retention does an interesting thing. At first, you might notice a sudden exodus of employees that are no longer a good fit. But once the people who don’t align with your brand are gone, hiring and retention get easier than ever.
5. Create culture
Creating company culture is a complex topic on its own. Cultures develop at a macro and micro level, from your overall company culture to the cultures of specific departments and teams. Internal branding should guide all of them.
Using your internal brand to create culture is similar to taking your values off the wall. It’s all about creating day-to-day experiences that allow your employees to experience your brand – and each other.
Is your brand bright and playful? Consider hosting a happy hour or mini-golf tournament to give your employees the chance to get to know each other off the clock.
Is your brand scientific and determined? Host workshops or guest speakers to foster a deeper understanding of the problem your company solves.
Is your brand out-of-the-box and innovative? Escape rooms can appeal to the problem-solvers your teams are made of and give them a chance to work together in a more relaxed environment.
Knowing and liking their co-workers colors your employees’ perspectives on your brand. They don’t see your company as a faceless monolith. They see it as a real community – something they’re excited to be a part of.
6. Make yourself memorable
In the age of social media, being “shareable” is more important than ever. Your packaging or social media presence might be shareable to your customers, but what about your employees? Are you doing and saying things they want to share?
Company newsletters rarely get read, but there are other ways you can share your brand identity with your employees.
A social intranet platform is a great place to post shareable graphics, quotes, and benefit announcements that your employees can’t wait to share with the world.
Branded merch, and other “swag” give your employees a way to bring up your brand in casual “off-the-clock” conversations.
Reaping the benefits of internal branding
Internal branding is a big project. Creating consistency within an organization is difficult, but the payoff is incredible.
Imagine what would happen if every one of your employees was as dedicated to your brand as your customers are. What would customer service look like? Would there be more innovation at your company? What would your turnover rates look like?
There’s a reason people love to work at start-ups, and it’s not money or status. Start-ups often have strong internal branding. They sell their employees on the brand hook, line, and sinker.
Here’s the thing: Any company can do that. All you need is a powerful internal brand. And working with a brand identity agency can help you create (and meaningfully launch) your brand to transform the way your employees see you.
If you’d like to discuss how to create a successful internal brand with our brand identity experts in Los Angeles, reach out to our team today.