Google, Starbucks and Southwest Airlines: three of the world’s most successful brands. Also three of the highest-ranked places to work. Why? Because they’ve mastered the art of aligning their internal and external brands, and have built a thriving marketing and HR partnership in the process.
Achieving this level of alignment is no small feat, so how do you get there? While there is no silver bullet, there are some fundamental principles to keep in mind when aligning your internal and external brands.
Make it meaningful
Today’s top-performing brands stand for something bigger than any functional benefits their products and services provide. They have a purpose: an ambitious and broad articulation of what the company strives to achieve for its customers and why employees show up every day. Airbnb, for example, wants to make people around the world feel like they 'belong anywhere'. Starbucks goes beyond coffee, aspiring to create moments of connection.
The purpose is not just a marketing message that lives on the walls of your workplace or the pages of your website. It should be meaningful and motivating, serving as the filter through which every decision is made. It should be equally rooted in a company’s internal culture as it is in customer needs and competitive forces.
Ask yourself: is your purpose a big, emotional idea? Is it worded so no explanation is required, and can it serve as a rallying cry for all employees – including leadership?
Make it tangible
Purposes alone, however, run the risk of becoming an empty promise if not felt throughout the company. It’s one thing to say a company is 'innovative', 'human' or 'all about solutions,' but it’s another to actually embed these promises into the daily workings of the business. The brand and its purpose must guide real actions, behaviours, ways of working and ways of being.
One way to do this is by developing commitments. Commitments state what the company and its employees must do to fulfil the brand purpose; they make up the doctrine for how the organisation thinks and acts.
Make it stick
Developing your brand promise and bringing it to life across the organisation can often feel like a project with a beginning and an end. Once everyone has aligned on the brand messaging and visual system everyone moves on. The partnership between marketing and HR becomes temporary and breaks back apart.
Perhaps the most crucial element for long-term brand success is regular interaction between HR and marketing teams to ensure it remains one brand. Success will be achieved through consistency.
Executives may get bored of the core idea quickly, wanting to change it or pivot in another direction. But marketing and HR need to stick with it. Yes keeping it fresh and finding new ways to tell the story will always be necessary. The brand will evolve, needing constant tending and shaping. But the inherent idea of the brand shouldn’t change. At least not for a long time.
Both departments may view challenges through different lenses. The most important thing to remember is that these lenses are complementary – not contradictory. After all, both teams are creating a movement that people want to belong to: marketing is trying to create a connection with current and prospective customers, and HR is trying to create it with current and prospective employees. The goal? For these efforts to create a harmonious cycle that inspires employees and enhances the brand’s reputation, ultimately boosting business results in the process.
Heather Stern is chief marketing and talent officer at creative consultancy Lippincott