“Everybody needs to own this, from the CFO to the mail clerk; we have invested too much for this to go wrong.” This is the kind of statement that strikes fear in the hearts of CMOs and marketing directors if you have ever worked to jumpstart or revitalize a brand for your company. When my CEO made a similar statement to me, I asked myself, how in the heck do I motivate engineers and scientists to own our brand? Why is it so important anyway?
“Employees have the power to either reinforce or break a brand’s promise every time they interact with a consumer, shareholder or even another employee. Because of that, you can’t build and sustain a strong brand externally if you don’t start with your employee,” as Morgan Daloisio states in her article for brandchannel.com. Building a brand culture that is relevant to your organization takes one part strategy, one part human capital, and one part guts.
Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch
One person or department can’t be responsible for creating the culture of an organization. This has to be cultivated from the top down and the bottom up. “Culture is a balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions and beliefs,” says Shawn Parr in a recent Fast Company.com article.
As an organization rolls out a new initiative, everyone always asks “What’s in it for me?” Too often organizations expect their employees to gobble a brand mantra highlighting a few key talking points a brand promise and the features and benefits of the product or service and then spit this back out on demand without explaining why this is meaningful for them individually.
“Many companies don’t differentiate their employee populations. A sheep dip approach to internal branding does not acknowledge the different needs of internal employee demographics,” says Larry Oakner, in a white paper entitled Managing Your Brand Through Your Employees. Not only do employees need to know what is going on with your company’s brand initiatives before a launch goes live, they need to be informed in many ways and on many levels in order to ensure any kind of ownership.
Enter Human Resources. Why not team up with HR, the internal culture cultivator in your organization, to help you meets these demographic demands? This approach will increase your resources, a welcome change, and inform HR so that they too can support the brand through staffing and corporate policies. Together you can customize the message to every department’s needs resulting in a better understanding of how each unit contributes to the brand and why it is so important to their personal / departmental success. Win win.
In the past these kinds of activities have been difficult to measure and seen as “soft” data. Your CFO or VP of Marketing is not going to stand for that. Yet, success can be quantified:
- Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” stock prices appreciated 50% over peers after instituting employee motivation and alignment efforts.
- Satisfied employees are on average 30% less likely to leave, saving 1 to 1.5 times annual salary per employee turnover.
- Employees with a high level of engagement are 38% more likely to have above average productivity.
The challenge of internal brand alignment is ensuring that your employees deliver on the promises your brand makes to the market. This sounds complicated, but what if you turned this process into a game? With rewards?
Games Should be Hard Not Easy
One of the most popular seminars at the 7th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference held this year in Miami Florida was entitled “Utilizing Gamification and Social Collaboration Principals to Communicate and Enhance Employee Motivations.” We have come a long way from tossing water balloons at the annual corporate picnic.
Employees are also consumers, right? They are using social media and gaming, professionally and personally, on a daily basis. “Gamification makes the social media marketing process into a discussion – actively driving users to advocate and engage with their peers, discovering products and services while achieving mastery. It’s a much deeper, richer and more authentically satisfying experience,” as stated in What’s Behind Gamification’s Spectacular Growth by Gabe Zichermann CEO and founder of Gamification.com.
According to gaming guru Jane McGonigal, game research director of the Institute for the Future, “Gamification should make tasks challenging, so that the sense of achievement upon completing them is greater,” and stickier too. She believes that gamification is capable of big changes not just in a corporate office but in the real world. Her latest TED Talk walks you through her vision. Before we change the world let’s start with Tim in the mail room. (Sorry Tim no offense)
Employing gamification for the purposes of building brand culture and brand ownership within an organization can lead to enterprise-wide engagement, better brand understanding and disperse messages in a much more meaningful way. And you can track the top “players” / most engaged employees and reward their behavior. These individuals become your internal brand ambassadors and they do it by choice not force. It’s not that far-fetched and can achieve big goals.
According to Zichermann, a major trend he is predicting for 2013 is the growth of strategic gamification. “In this shift, we will start to see an increased number of major organizations with explicit gamification strategies emanating from the c-suite, gamification on the core strategic roadmap and mid-to-top level executives with gamification in their functional responsibilities.”
My response to the CEO would be very different today than it was when he made that original statement for brand ownership. I want to know what you think; is this reality or fantasy? Would partnering with Human Resources or implementing Brand Games help you overcome your culture woes? Leave a comment or start a dialogue. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.