When people talk about branding, usually they think about a logo. While a logo is a graphical representation of the brand, a brand involves so much more. The brand summarizes all the experiences that people have had with your organization over time. So when we think of branding, we should not focus on solely the logo. Instead, we should focus on holistic branding.
Holistic branding takes into consideration all the interactions your employees have with customers. Your external marketing messages and your internal employee culture must be seamless. What customers experience in their interactions with your employees must be in alignment with what they see in your marketing messages. If they do not match, then customers will be confused. And confusion kills branding.
There are three important factors involved in holistic branding.
Most companies don’t think through how their marketing and their culture interrelate. It’s easy to allow your external marketing and your internal culture to be relegated to separate silos. But then the external image and the internal reality won’t reinforce each other. And that leads to confusion in the minds of your customers.
It’s imperative for leaders to be intentional about fusing their brand and culture. It won’t just happen. Leaders must expend the strategic mental energy to ensure their brand and culture are in alignment.
Holistic branding requires that you think through what you want your customers to experience in their interactions with you. Ensure that those touchpoints with your employees carry the same messages as your marketing material. It’s essential to identify how you can impart the same narrative through both channels so your customers have consistently positive interactions with your brand.
Not only should you process how your brand is reflected in your interactions with your customers, it’s important to clarify what those messages should be. Everyone has to understand what is expected of them in every customer interaction.
If you want your customers to believe that your products are “excellent quality,” then the customer service that you provide must be “excellent quality.” The idea of “excellent quality” has to baked into your culture and not just in your products and marketing materials.
In addition, you must define what “excellent quality” looks like—in every customer interaction. And your definition must be written down and shared with everyone so that they understand what that it means. If there is confusion in your employees’ minds of what “excellent quality” looks like internally in the company, then there will be confusion in the minds of your customers about it as well.
Not only do your definitions need to be written down, they need to be practiced consistently. This expectation must be communicated, demonstrated, celebrated, and curated for it to fully take hold within your culture. You must be clear and intentional; you also must be consistent.
Holistic branding requires effort to maintain. It won’t just happen. Your culture must be in alignment with your marketing materials. Your marketing and human resource functions must be in alignment. And that requires active leadership.
As the leader, you will need to explain to your employees the importance of consistently connecting your brand and your culture. You can’t just expect Marketing and HR to see what you see. You must continually focus on keeping Marketing and HR aligned, so that your holistic branding will generate loyalty with both your employees and customers.
When the brand-culture relationship is continually reinforced through holistic branding, then you will forge a connection that will be felt by your employees and experienced by your customers. People will want to work for you because you do what you say. And customers will want to buy from you because you practice what you preach.
How integrated are your brand and your culture?
Robert McFarland is the author of the bestsellers, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew. Robert is also President of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies make ideals actionable.