When Interbrand worked with Sky New Zealand on their brand overhaul they needed to do something difficult: reposition the Sky brand around the country. After a long process of rebranding (getting it right after starting from scratch on the second go-round) they strategized how to launch this in a way the public would embrace. Through that process they realized they needed to first market the new brand internally. They needed employees to understand their new direction. They needed them to feel inspired and positive about the brand. They wanted them to become ambassadors; to talk to their family and friends, who were of course part of the public that Sky wanted to aim toward.
So the agency formulated a plan. One evening the employees were brought together and walked through a tunnel of darkness. Once they came out the other end they found themselves in a carpark where a pumping video had been projected onto the wall and began broadcasting to them. A video created specifically for them.
Throughout the next few weeks they discovered all other manner of updates. Their carparks had been rebranded. Their offices. Their buildings. Their process manuals and guide books.
Sky understood the value of bringing their own people onboard. They sold their new brand to their staff first.
(all images credited to Interbrand)
You may have noticed online that more and more of the major SAAS companies and new-tech brands have specific and well designed career & employee pages and websites. This isn’t by accident or because the design team got a little obsessed (well, maybe a little). They even pair them with Instagram & Twitter accounts dedicated purely to a specific department (often ones that are rarely public facing) to attract ideal workers and create a passionate, involved and engaged public community around their brand. They have blogs dedicated to the tech nerds (a la AirBnB) and more. They engage architects to create offices for their staff that most of their customers will never see. They exist for more than just profit – or they at least know that to make more of it long term, they require a good standing and that requires dedicated, happy, clever employees.
Companies at the top who understand the future want (need) to hire the best people.
They want to create ambassadors of their brand. They need new thinking, skills and strategy. They want to create cultures rather than institutions. And they intrinsically recognize this all also helps their public persona.
All the while more and more research is telling us we’re looking at far more than income from the companies we work for. Increasingly, we would forego tens of thousands in salary to work with brands more aligned to our values and beliefs, businesses that provide us flexibility and a place that truly feels like it actually cares about its people (beyond the interview bullshitting stage).
Most corporate companies and enterprises rarely recognize this to it’s full extent. You see glimmers of understanding it when they call for Town Hall meetings or floor meetings or send out a new company brand vibe document but what they get wrong is that they make it all about them. They actually forget about their employees. Or more cynically, they believe their employees to be easily dispensable and never account for the difficult-to-measure and intangible costs of training, ambassadorship and company knowledge of people, processes & culture. They don’t involve them in the process. They don’t bring them on board.
Time and time again I’ve witnessed new company branding, culture slideshows and meetings go out that have a net impact of zero. After each email or get-together, the managers high up the hierarchy pat themselves on the back and feel good for doing something (the easy bit), without ever executing (the hard part).
The same goes for ESATs (employee satisfaction surveys), open idea sessions and improvement requests by staff; all of which are rarely acted upon by management in a material way.
Internal marketing is selling your brand, your story, your values & showing you care to your people, knowing it has an impact on all your metrics and externalities.
We are all selling all the time anyway. Businesses are constantly engaged in selling to clients and customers. We sell our ideas, we persuade people on our thoughts, we try to move people to our side of the decision or problem.
Physicians sell patients on a remedy. Lawyers sell juries on a verdict. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. Entrepreneurs woo funders, writers sweet-talk producers, coaches cajole players. Whatever our profession, we deliver presentations to fellow employees and make pitches to new clients. We try to convince the boss to loosen up a few dollars from the budget or the human resources department to add more vacation days.
– Dan Pink
Marketing has an enormous value externally that’s easy to control & quantify but it’s getting lost inside businesses creating disillusioned employees and a lack of structure, motivation & productivity, deep caring or fulfillment. Rather than shy away from doing it internally we need to critically assess how we’ve managed it previously and then face it head on.
If of course you want a company that stays around and has the value and culture you imagine it to have. Perhaps it’s time to sell that idea instead.