Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: The Toughest Audience

Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: The Toughest Audience

Article excerpt

Marketers who are adept at engaging with consumers can struggle to communicate with colleagues.

You know what's really hard about internal brand engagement? Everything Even experienced marketers - toughened in battles with rivals, wise to the capricious ways of consumers, scarred from encounters with powerful retailers - get a shock the first time they take the game to the people on the inside.

What makes the employee audience such a tough one? A range of factors. It is usually less homogenous than the consumer audience the brand is aimed at. An energy company that targets domestic users, for example, may have an employee population that spans nuclear scientists and meter readers.

While consumers freely choose their brands, and may develop some kind of emotional relationship with them, employees are often where they are for more humdrum reasons of location or pay. If they are already overworked, delivering a new brand positioning will be an unwelcome addition to their task list. Initiative fatigue could be a factor. Departmental rivalries don't help.

Marketers, meanwhile, may conclude that employee apathy will be the biggest issue, and devise big launch events to overcome it, only to discover that the real mood is closer to open hostility, as employees use the spotlight of engagement to unveil a litany of gripes.

Internal brand engagement has come onto the scene relatively late in the history of marketing, so there are still many marketers who will be doing it for the first time.

Everyone has become aware that it is vital though, sensitised by stories such as the debacle of British Gas launching its 'Doing the right thing' campaign without informing its own people first. Even in non-service categories differentiation is increasingly achieved by what employees can bring to the party. So what are the 'rules of engagement'? Here are five tips to think about.

First, prioritise. It is amazing how marketers who love segmentation for consumers abandon it for the employee message. Yet, not all employees will have an equally direct influence on the brand. In an organisation of, say, 10,000 people, it makes sense to focus on the ones who can disproportionately affect customers, or who have a particularly strong influence inside.

Second, think of it as a process, not an event. The inspiring big-day launch is a key component, but it should be flanked by months of structured activity on either side. Before the event, it will be about understanding employees better and involving them; afterwards, it will be about being clear on what each person can do to make the brand a reality, coupled with a programme of rewards and reminders. …

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