When launching a new brand, it is natural to think about external audiences, carefully planning the road map and sequencing of channels and touchpoints to the various external segments. However, more and more companies by now have realized that internal audiences should be audience #1, and that a successful launch needs to happen inside first, before it can have any chance of being rolled out successfully outside the organization.
According to Gallup, less than half of employees in any industry feel strongly connected to their company’s mission or brand purpose. Not paying attention to your own people can lead to brand disintegration. What do we mean by that? Brand disintegration occurs when employees are out of sync with what your marketing promises, resulting in a customer experience that doesn’t match expectations.
So how do you successfully launch a new brand inside first…and keep it alive well beyond the launch? Below are the five guiding principles we follow and advise our clients on when launching new brands.
Make it inclusive
Experience shows that bottom-up efforts are always more successful than initiatives perceived to be imposed from the top down. Involving mid-level managers and informal influencers is especially critical to a successful brand launch. Ensure you let your employees know early on what the organization is up to and why, give them a voice, and make them part of the process — whether through an employee survey, internal roundtables, interviews, and/or workshops. Include them in defining what makes the brand unique, the values that drive the organization, and how these values translate into behaviors. And don’t be shy about asking their thoughts on the best ways to roll it out internally — they know the culture, realize what will fly and what won’t, and can bring creative ideas to the table. Once they’re part of the process, they will take pride in leading the rollout process with their co-workers and in continuing to be brand ambassadors post launch.
Make it real
Clever marketing language and taglines may be hard for employees to get and relate to. Give deeper meaning to the soundbites by explaining what’s behind the words and how employees play a part in it. Get specific about what it looks like for them in their role, what expectations are, and how behaviors manifest themselves through real examples they can use to guide their daily actions.
Make it cohesive
Integrate your brand and behaviors with your existing vision, mission, and values if they are already in place and not changing, and explain how they work together and why they matter. Whether you are launching a new brand purpose, launching new values and new behaviors at the same time, or launching a new brand within an existing framework of values and behaviors, make sure you connect the dots so they don’t seem like unrelated soundbites that reduce the new brand to being perceived as “the flavor of the day.”
Make it impactful
Having a town hall meeting, brand essence video, “living the brand” book, and branded giveaway is important, but not enough. A launch should be a well-orchestrated process of alignment and buy-in pre-launch, with leadership buy-in, mid-management and influencer enrollment and training, as well as a thoughtful launch event (or series of events for geographically distributed organizations) that is emotional and experiential — celebrating your people for all that they are, and inspiring them to take the brand to a whole new level. Beyond the launch “event,” we encourage you to think about a “launch period” where extra effort is put on “enculturating” your people in the new brand and practicing the new brand behaviors. And, of course, the key is to build ongoing mechanisms to keep it all alive well beyond the launch.
Make it count
Hold people accountable beyond the launch for living the brand. Build your evaluation, recognition, and reward systems around your brand purpose, values, and behaviors, embedding them into your employment life cycle — from your Employer Value Proposition and recruitment messaging to your onboarding experience for new employees to ongoing employee engagement programs. Give brand ambassadors the tools to capture and share meaningful stories of employees who embody the brand through their actions in order to reinforce desirable behaviors, and build ongoing recognition and reward mechanisms so the brand becomes an intrinsic part of how people think and behave.