inside job

How a great story can turn your employees into brand ambassadors.

Brands are expressed in many ways: a website, marketing materials, messaging, and in the actions and behavior of your own people. In fact, employees are crucial to the entire brand experience. Inasmuch as a brand is the totality of all your perceptions about a business or company, employee actions and attitudes also have an obvious impact on everything—from product knowledge to social media. Employees don’t just represent the company, they are the company. Strongly branded organization’s people literally “live the brand,” giving them focus, motivation, and a guiding direction.

Great stories have the power to strengthen brands internally. We learned about a powerful story when we created the brand identity for BrainStorm, a software training company. In the “discover” stage of our “Head and Heart” brand design D5 process, more than one employee told us about the 30-hour flight to Scotland. On a Thursday afternoon in 2003, they learned that the product they had shipped to Scotland would not arrive until Monday afternoon—but their client needed it Monday morning. Eric Farr, co-founder and champion of the importance of exceeding customer expectations, boarded a flight for the “milk route” to the northernmost country of the United Kingdom. Meeting their dumbfounded client at the airport Sunday evening, Eric delivered the product, spent an hour visiting with him and then boarded the plane for the return trip. The story continues to resonate internally within the company because it captures the values and identity of the brand, while adding elements of emotion and aspiration.

Communicating, celebrating, and living the values of your brand internally is the highest form of brand management. Making certain that employees understand these values, turns them into brand ambassadors of your company and its products and services. If the brand is clear and well-defined, employees operate from a position that directs the decisions they make in the workplace. The net result is a company that is self-directed and differentiated from competitors.

In a brand launch, it’s easy to get excited about showing off a new website or logo, but the most important touchpoint—and audience—is your company’s employees.