Brand Alignment – A Call for Organisation-Wide Change?

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Are you one of the many leaders who has had to deal with internal company issues and communication making it out into the wider world? Are you concerned about the lack of alignment between the different stakeholders of your organisation? You know your company’s purpose, values, goals and competitive strengths, but do you notice that there are many around you who are not so clear? You are certainly not alone!

Lack of brand alignment across a company’s many brand faces is quite prevalent. For instance, a study by Weber Shandwick revealed 40% of consumers stop purchasing the product when there is a disconnect between the product brand and the parent brand.

This lack of brand alignment among different audiences of a company when the lines between the internal and external are getting blurred can only be countered with a strong, clear strategy that recognises the transformational power of the brand. But what is a brand? It’s not a tangible thing that can be touched or even seen; it’s an idea, a perception in people’s minds. Positively shaping that perception, both internally and externally, to create alignment across touchpoints can yield rich results. A study by LinkedIn shows a 36% improvement in cumulative shareholder returns over five years when talent and consumer brands are aligned. This is not small and it will only grow as the technological and social forces at play get stronger.

Without brand alignment across internal and external audiences, you can end up with mixed messages, disengaged employees and customers, and even falling margins due to a lack of perceived value in your offering. So, what can companies do to overcome this shortfall? Does it substantiate an organisation-wide change? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean spending millions and calling in the change management experts. By taking a brand led approach across both internal and external touch points, the problem of misalignment can be addressed.

Alignment first starts at home

I’m a big believer in trying to get it right first on the inside of an organisation- if it’s clear on the inside, it can potentially lead to synergy of messaging on the outside as well. Your company’s offering is totally based on your employees – if they are aligned and engaged, it can lead to a significant improvement in performance outcomes.

“Loyal employees in any company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders” – Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

But in today’s world, there’s another reason employees are critical- it’s because amplified word-of-mouth (I am referring to social media and real time news) matters.

The brands that can best harness widespread employee advocacy are the brands that stand to benefit the most from ‘earned’ media– Simon Kemp, We Are Social

But it’s not just employee advocacy, it’s also credibility.

Edelman Trust Barometer report, “Employees are the most credible voices on multiple topics, including the company’s work environment, integrity, innovation and business practices.”

Employees not only have the power to attract and retain customers, but also the best talent – employee rating site is the fastest-growing jobs site, according to Comscore. Based in Mill Valley, CA, it has more than 11 million employee reviews for a half million companies, up from 340,000 companies a year prior. It gets 30 million unique visitors a month. (A $70 million investment by Google Capital in January 2015 valued the company at $1 billion.)

Do your team know why they come in to work?

While the awareness for brand alignment is increasing, companies can do a better job of ensuring team members are clearer about what the company brand stands for. Research shows that those who know why they come into work can be upto 8 times more effective (Damian Hughes, Liquid Leadership). A survey conducted by Gallup found that 60% of executives strongly agreed with the statement “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors,” but only 46% of managers and 37% of all other employees strong agreed.

Source: Gallup

Marketing and HR are not separate

It is true that marketing teams often focus on the external communications and HR teams the reverse – however, as a leader it’s important to ensure that the messaging by both is synergistic. The entire brand experience both for customers, potential talent and current employees requires a common lens. This is where marketing and HR could work together to show how the internal and external brand interplay to impact business success.

Aligning the internal, customer and employer brands

Source: Bricoleur Consulting

I am convinced that brand alignment plays a critical role in the success or failure of a business. In fact, the figures speak for themselves. Gallup research reveals that when consumers are aligned with a brand, they give it twice as much share of wallet as those who are not aligned with that same brand.

Source: Gallup

Recent research has found that companies with stronger financial performance and better customer experience have employees who are considerably more engaged than their peers. I’d be interested to hear about your experiences and challenges with brand alignment. If you are looking for more in-depth insights, my new book, Brand Alignment in the Age of a Questioning Workforce (and World), provides insights for CEOs and business leaders into building a culture and strategy to drive internal and external alignment for long-term success.