Topic: Internal Branding

Author(s), Title and Publication

Maclaverty, N., McQuillan, P., & Oddie. H. (2007). Internal Branding Best Practices Study. Toronto: Canadian Marketing Association.

Summary

This study defines internal branding as a set of strategic processes that align and empower employees to deliver appropriate customer experience. To better understand internal branding, challenges to it, and current internal branding practices, the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) surveyed 475 marketers across industries in 2005. In 2006, the CMA interviewed 11 senior marketers who are responsible for internal branding within their organizations.

Results showed that internal branding is a relatively new approach for leading Canadian companies, and many of those companies lacked clearly defined responsibilities for internal branding. The development of internal branding strategies tended to be shared by the marketing group and executive team; 77% of those surveyed said internal branding was a marketing responsibility, and 72% said the executive team holds some responsibility. Nearly 28% of respondents reported that the public relations department was in charge of internal branding. The five top challenges to effective internal branding practices were: ineffective communication, inconsistencies, getting employee buy-in, obtaining senior executive commitment, and availability of time. Based on the interviews, the researchers identified six categories of internal branding techniques: internal communication, training support, leadership practices, reward and recognition, recruitment practices, and sustainability factors. Regarding internal branding effectiveness, only 28% of respondents involved in internal branding actually measured the effectiveness of their work. Most said that measuring a brand’s impact on consumers was the easiest measurement approach, e.g., customer feedback/complaints and customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys. This study might have been enriched with more depth interviews with senior marketers or communicators.

Implications for Practice

One best practice for internal branding is that responsibility for strategic development and implementation should be vested clearly with one senior level individual or group who has wide reach and access across functions. In addition, practitioners should help align employees’ values with company values through effective communication, training programs, and appropriate leadership behaviors.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: http://www.odditie.com/pdf/InternalBranding.pdf

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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2 thoughts on “Internal Branding Best Practices Study

  1. Very thoughtful comments, Rita. The idea of an “integrative system” is crucial…and exceptionally difficult to create and, even more, to sustain in a world of change that leads to constant changes in organizations, too. Pete Smudde recently focused on this topic on this site, too, and expressed interest in more thoroughly examining related measures of success. In a larger sense, perhaps when we are talking about an integrated system we are talking about organizational culture. Maybe one aspect of theory discussions could be to focus on what an ideal culture looks like and feels like. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. Recently I’ve been working on a study about how leadership and communication factors interact to influence organizations’ internal reputation, and found this article particularly interesting and helpful!

    Both internal reputation management and internal branding take an approach of “from the inside out,” recognizing the remarkable power of employees in shaping external public perceptions of the organization. The difference, however, (in my opinion) lies in the fact that internal reputation pertains to how employees assess and evaluate the organization in general, while internal brand is more about how corporate values are promoted, aligned, assimilated among employees, and transformed into uniformed behaviors. In other words, internal reputation answers the question of “how good we (our organization) are in the eyes of employees.” Internal brand deals with the question of “what we are, how we are unique, and what the meanings are associated with us.” More importantly, as “brand” is a customer experience based concept, internal branding thus aims to “empower and align employees to deliver customer experience “in a consistent fashion that reflects the company’s unique characteristics, culture, values, and personality. I believe the concept of internal reputation and brand are intertwined to some extent, but one may argue that a favorable corporate reputation in the eyes of internal publics starts from a clearly communicated and unique internal brand. So, the next question would be, how to brand the company internally?

    This article offers great insights on the best practices of internal branding based on a large-scale quantitative survey. Clearly, it is a collaborative effort of PR, marketing, management, human resources, and even operations. Internal communication may play a more crucial role defining a clear corporate identity, communicating shared corporate values, and presenting unique corporate brand characters through all means of messaging. However, translating the brand meanings or personalities into employees’ day-to-day practice and to delivered customer experiences requires a more integrative system, where the roles of leadership, recruitment, training support, rewards and reinforcement, evaluation, etc. should be taken into full consideration (see discussion in the article).

    Then, how to overcome these functional silos in the internal branding efforts? How to cross the boundaries between divisions fluidly (the No. 1 challenge of internal branding as identified in the article)? I guess this isn’t a new question for public relations scholars and professionals considering the inherent interdisciplinary nature of our practice. The article didn’t really offer solutions to this problem. But I would say having someone who plays such roles of liaisons or mediators, coordinating and bridging these functions should be helpful. Further, a flexible organizational structure that supports cross-functional tasking, a participative organizational culture that promotes collaboration, and having open-minded leaders who consciously and actively encourage joint internal branding efforts all count.

    Indeed, there is no simple answer to the question of what factors play into the internal branding process. This article inspired me to further think about this problem. While more and more of us recognize the important role of employees as the production force, free ambassadors, and living faces of the organization, the dynamic process of “from inside out” demands more in-depth theoretical deliberation.

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