I can safely say that my team would rather have their teeth ripped from their mouths with a rusty knife much sooner than they would allow me to sit them in grey cubicles wearing stiff corporate attire on crazy deadlines with a strict no-laughing policy.
Actually, I think they’d probably think I’d finally lost it entirely and ship me off to the funny farm.
The thing is, I’ve built this Smack Bang dream on a strong foundation of love, loyalty, and lols. Our brand reflects our values and our personality — a totally strategic decision that has been the top of my list and front of my mind since day one of opening this biz. I place a huge emphasis on using our branding to not only sing our song to customers, but also to our employees because I believe that what starts within, spreads throughout.
When a kick-ass brand gains alignment, both externally and internally, it’s like a campfire at one of those awkward personal development camps. It brings everyone together to unify and get on the same page to better understand one another and the greater vision they are working towards. By investing in your branding early on, you allow your people (both internally and externally) to fully understand the ins and outs of your business, the overarching vision and rally together to achieve the mission. By enabling everyone to ride the same wave from day dot, every person who connects with your company and its products will have the same understanding of who you are and what your business stands for.
Of course, ironing out your processes, fine-tuning your customer journey, pitching to those investors, purchasing that new software, negotiating a better deal with your suppliers and all those ‘elbow grease’ tasks are important. But unfortunately, they don’t set the tone for your employees or your customers. Elbow grease simply isn’t enough. Elbow grease doesn’t tug at the heartstrings, create a gut feeling or brand loyalty. Elbow grease is necessary, but it doesn’t rouse emotion or stir action.
Branding, on the other hand, does all of the above.
Strong internal branding is the magical key to growing brand superstars from within, keeping your best peeps on side, by keeping them in the loop of firstly, what your values are, and secondly, how to deliver excellent service to your external audience.
The talk among my 15 caffeine-high crazies is generally a younger, more jacked-up version of the cast of Friends at Central Perk. They are a young, energetic, change-minded bunch and they totally get what I set out to achieve. As a team, we’ve infused our company values into all aspects of our company culture, and as one delectably delicious result, my employees have become true representatives of the Smack Bang brand. And I can safely say that it is by far my greatest achievement.
The thing is, you can’t really think about your customers unless you also think about your people. Branding starts from the inside. Your team must understand: your values, your place in the world, and your ‘why’. They have to get what you stand for, who you stand with, and why you’re flipping standing for anything at all. This will then seamlessly be carried on to the audience.
Even the most creative business leaders I know recognise that success is not just about coming up with more flashy product enhancements, more eye-catching ads, more aggressive use of Insta Stories, or more dreamy-eyed models wearing your dreamy products. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, about giving a damn. Giving a damn about your customers, your employees, and about how the company conducts itself among many who are willing to settle for mediocre and not put their customers at the tippy-top.
So how do you go about setting the structures of your internal branding walls?
The goal is to give your employees the tools they need to live the brand. Make it clear and easy to digest. Comprendo? Here’s the 411:
- KEEP YOUR PEEPS IN THE LOOP
Your team is your greatest asset, so fill them in on all aspects of your brand. Creating excitement and buzz around a central theme or goal will help them, in turn, to be informed, engaged, and ultimately, persuasive when they evangelise to others (ie. your audience). Make sure that your team fully comprehends the vision that you are building, and make it fun enough that they connect the best damn memories to learning what it is you’re losing so much hair over. In order to reach for the stars, they’ll need to know which stars to chase.
- MAKE SURE YOU’RE PREACHING THE SAME THING
Employees need to hear the same messages that you send out to the marketplace. If you’re preaching honestly to your customers, but not following that through to your employees, you risk threatening employees’ perceptions of the company’s integrity: being told one thing by management but observing a different message being sent to the public. Major bummer, dude.
- EVOLVE, DEVELOP, RINSE, WASH, REPEAT
Every month or so my team and I do an activity that reinforces who are we and where we want to be. Successful branding is a journey, not a one-and-done activity. It’s important to keep revisiting this as your business grows and evolves. The more consistently you develop your internal brand, the sooner it will cement employee commitment to the company and ensure alignment.When your team’s values, actions and behaviour is in alignment with the greater brand, it helps with recruitment, retention and relationships at every customer touchpoint. Of course, advertising for us is important, of course, the design of our website is important, but if our clients have a positive experience every time they come into our studio for a meeting and see bright, bubbly, happy faces, that’s what builds our reputation.Your team are your secret weapon when it comes to brand evangelism. If they dig you, they’ll run at 110km/hr to give this thing wings. Conversely, if they see blatant hypocrisy or incongruence between internal and external messaging, they’ll still run at 110km/hr, but in a different direction. A strong internal brand is the nuts and bolts of your baby that will directly impact the effectiveness of your external efforts, bringing your brand values to life and giving them legs to run off into the sunshine and do all the things that pairs of legs can do! Make your employees brand ambassadors, and the battle is half won.