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Align your brand from the inside out

08 Nov 2013

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In 2009, two Domino’s employees filmed themselves adding some “extra” toppings to food they were preparing in one of the pizza chain’s North Carolina kitchens. After the employees posted the film to YouTube, the story spread like wildfire via social media, and, in a matter of days, the video garnered more than 1 million views—putting Domino’s into crisis-containment mode.

“We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre told The New York Times. “Even people who’ve been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Domino’s, and that’s not fair.”

Even four years later, the Domino’s incident serves as a prudent reminder that any employee at any given moment can become a customer-facing ambassador of your brand. Think of the customer service representative who is not properly educated on new product offerings or the store associate unaware of a sale or special promotion. These employees are a direct reflection of your brand responsiveness, efficiency, and customer focus.

When employees fail to deliver on your brand’s promise, it can damage both your reputation and bottom line. Whether located across the office or across the globe, every single employee needs to be on the same page with what the company stands for—its brand promise. Every employee in an organization must understand his role in and responsibility for protecting the brand and increasing its value.

The Importance Of Alignment
Businesses have traditionally viewed external brand communication as a primary focus, forgetting that their internal audiences are just as important. It’s imperative for brands to ensure there are no gaps between how its products, customer service and sales reps, store personnel, and even its advertising match up to actual customer experiences. After all, once a brand makes a promise, the company depends on its front-line employees to deliver on that brand experience.

I believe the best way to guarantee a consistently rewarding experience, and avoid a firestorm like the one Domino’s experienced, is to align the brand totally from the inside out. This means every employee must not only understand the brand promise and his role in keeping it, but also be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to actually deliver on what is expected. The success of any campaign, whether a new marketing initiative or a product launch, depends on it.

Think of this “communications inside out” philosophy as bridging the gap between the left and right brain of an organization–between the doers and the thinkers, the analytical and logical, and the intuitive and emotional storytellers. When one of my clients, a global water and energy resource technology company I’ll call “EnergyTech,” was preparing to launch a new product to provide customers with cost savings in water and energy resource use, it realized the need to align its internal and external communication efforts.

EnergyTech implemented a two-part, inside-out strategy. First, the company connected its employees with the brand, ensuring they understood its full meaning and were invested in protecting and enhancing its value. Second, these employees were outfitted with the proper tools, information, and strategy to enter the field and articulate the brand promise appropriately, engage customers, and inspire them to take action.

Part 1: Internally Aligning All Stakeholders
To bring about internal awareness and empowerment, EnergyTech created a communications program to provide all internal stakeholders with detailed product information, proper training, and ongoing support. The company sought to establish the role of automation in creating and delivering value to its clients.The program included:

  • An interactive storyline presentation to illustrate the corporate vision, the new solution, and rollout plans.
  • A simulated prototype that presented vertical-specific solutions, allowing the sales force to understand all facets of the product as it relates to different customers.
  • Story-based videos and trailers of the new product demonstrating a consultative selling approach.
  • Regular social media updates on the progress of the innovation, including customer feedback on the pilot.

The global sales team underwent formal training—again leveraging our storytelling approach—on the product and consultative selling techniques. We also equipped them with interactive presentation materials, a mobile app for just-in-time training and product support, as well as an online tool to demonstrate the product’s energy and resources savings potential.

To provide continued support beyond the launch, EnergyTech introduced an interactive newsletter for regular global sales team updates on product offerings that included a leaderboard, tips, tactics, FAQs, product updates, and a critical element Interakt recommends building into any communication effort: feedback loops for gathering intelligence and user-generated ideas. The company also initiated a newsletter for executive level sales reporting.

Part 2: Externally Communicating the Value Proposition
EnergyTech also developed an external communications program that was focused on informing potential and existing customers of the new product and its value. The program included:

  • A microsite featuring realistic use cases and “a-day-in-the-life-of” stories to demonstrate the role and value of the product in specific functional areas.
  • A widget for customers to self-identify business pain points, which was integrated into a recommendation engine that proposed a solution and quantified the potential value of the new product.
  • Industry-specific case studies and customer testimonials to illustrate EnergyTech’s commitment to living out its brand promise.
  • An infographic illustrating the product’s core offering and value.

The company also implemented a portal for customers that featured product information, a benchmarking tool, a potential savings calculator, a global water and energy savings ticker, and a place for product use feedback.

After aligning its communication strategy from the inside out, EnergyTech’s launch was a success, providing value through excellent customer service and a consistent experience.

Unifying Your Brand Experience Inside Out
When brand communication and the ensuing brand experience are unified–crystal-clear, potent, consistent, and memorable–the impact can spread like wildfire and inspire others to seek the same. It shrinks the psychic distance between an organization and its audiences and fosters mutually rewarding relationships.

By investing in your internal stakeholders, you empower them to become brand ambassadors, advocates for your product or offering and determined to deliver value. Consistent brand experiences build trust and create enduring, supportable brand-consumer relationships. It is no longer enough to simply tell your brand story–you must live your brand promise inside out….

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