This recent account of Korn/Ferry’s rebranding efforts – which seem to be thoughtful and totally integrated across internal and external audiences – raises the question of why something so fundamental and logical as internal branding campaigns seem such a tough sell in many companies. Indeed, while many executives embrace the marketing principles behind the idea of promoting and celebrating a distinctive brand identity to customers, they often balk at applying the same logic with their own workforce. Why do we need to talk about our brand with employees? Don’t they already know who we are? Does this really help drive the business? Isn’t this just empty cheerleading? And what is the ROI of any internal brand campaign?

These are all appropriate questions, but they ignore the reality that ensuring employees understand, accept and deliver the brand promise is critical to a company’s success. And this is true whether the company sells directly to consumers or is more of a B2B operation. At the basic level, employees need to know what they must to do to deliver on the brand promise. Even better if they actually want to do their jobs well. On a higher level – perhaps harder to articulate and quantify – employees need to “live” the values and personality inherent in the brand. Ultimately, they have to be advocates of the brand across both personal and professional situations. None of this happens through osmosis or simply reheating marketing materials intended for customers.

All makes sense, right? So why is it so difficult to secure the funds for internal campaigns designed to educate employees about the brand and corporate identity, illustrate the brand attributes through examples or best practices or even celebrate the brand to generate enthusiasm and discretionary effort? It may be that executives are looking at all activities that fall under the umbrella of marketing and advertising – whether internal or external – with a more skeptical and cautious perspective these days. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given the dubious track record and flawed logic of many marketing mantras (e.g. Super Bowl commercials are worth the cost.) Or it may be that in difficult economic times anything beyond basic communication about the nuts and bolts of the business seems superfluous.

Whatever the reasons, executives who ignore the internal profile and resonance of their brand do so at their own peril. Employees want to know who they work for and what their company stands for – not just how to do their job. And most employees want to feel proud about their company’s distinctive heritage, achievements and/or identity.   

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