Total brand alignment occurs when a company’s brand values are expressed with the same focus and intensity on the inside among its employees as it is on the outside among its customers. Both groups not only believe in the company, but they endorse it and identify themselves as part of the brand.
Internal ambassadors and external advocates. They’re saying it, and they’re living it.
Most marketers have a solid grasp on the strategy behind “say it.” That is, making sure their messaging is on-point and on-strategy, utilizing the right mix of research, creative and tactical execution to spread the word, solve a business problem or take advantage of a business opportunity, ultimately elevating a customer base to advocacy.
But how do you get your employees and customers to understand that brand so deeply they “live it?”
What can we do to ensure our employees understand our brand and culture, and not just “live it” and be excited on day one, but how can they be as excited 90 days from when we launch, a year from when we launch so we’re still doing the right things for our consumers?
Hung Nguyen, VP Human Resources, Waterstone Mortgage
When Core “rebrands” a company – we’re not just coming in and slapping a new coat of paint on the company’s marketing materials. We follow a process that focuses internally as well as externally to lead our clients toward total brand alignment, elevating their brand from an idea to an asset.
For Waterstone Mortgage Corporation it started with a series of truths. About the company. About their mission, vision and brand values. About the types of employees who succeed there, the best target customers and the way they do (and aspire to do) business. We helped them do the research to uncover and understand those truths, and develop their brand platform.
Our clients can expect five steps on the path to activating total brand alignment:
1. Discover – The research phase. Interviewing employees, addressing the competitive landscape, understanding the market and their vision for the future. At the end, our clients receive a brand benchmark report.
2. Define – We then take the research and plot it into your brand platform. Our clients receive a brand compass – the go-to piece for all internal and external messaging for the company moving forward. Clients will understand their voice, values, guiding principles and the very core of why they do what they do.
3. Develop – The writing and creative begins. We use the brand compass to create standards, plans, logos and more … the visual, emotional and intellectual identity of a company’s brand. And the conceptual creative that will bring it to life, internally and externally.
4. Deploy – When we launch a brand, we do it up right. Employees are involved in an internal launch event to ensure the brand – and the role they play in bringing it to life – is understood through every level of the organization. Achieving that gives you an opportunity to inject creativity into your internal communications process, building ownership and pride among employees.
5. Debrief – Measurement and communication. We’ll look at what we accomplished, what we have left to achieve and begin planning for what we’ll do next now we’ve built such a strong core.
The Waterstone Mortgage brand launch, both internally and externally, met such a unified positivity and resonance because employees were, and continue to be, involved every single step of the way. Total brand alignment works when employees live the brand and we needed to ensure the brand reflected the spirit that was alive among the company’s employees.
When we traveled to Las Vegas in January 2013 to Waterstone Mortgage’s annual sales conference, we got some serious work accomplished. Together, we were in the “Develop” stage of our process and Waterstone’s president wanted to be absolutely certain his employees’ voices were alive in the brand. We conducted on-camera interviews, presented our work-in-progress and surveyed them for feedback. We even held a focus group after we returned to test the messaging and tag lines that came out of all of our discovery, definition and development work.
You can see part of our Vegas recap video below – and see just how excited employees were to contribute to and learn about the branding process.
Since they launched, I love to tell Waterstone, “This brand was developed by you.” That’s what makes it so strong. Our videos were not scripted; half of our headlines came out of employee interviews in our discovery stage; when things weren’t right, we put the brakes on and got their input to be sure we changed it. And after we launched, we kept communicating with employees to get it right.
Total Brand Alignment doesn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t magically occur when you’ve finished Step Five in our process. It’s continuous. It involves communication, transparency and trust. It takes vision and requires confidence. Waterstone did a great job of realizing that brand alignment occurred when their truths align. When their words and actions are in sync. And when their employees say it and live it.
Sarah Fracek is a marketing specialist at Core Creative. Follow her on Twitter @sarahfracek.