Successful branding strategies incorporated with your human resources policies can have profound effects on your company’s competitiveness. In the late 1980s, the now defunct Eastern Airlines promoted the idea that they worked to “Earn its Wings Everyday.” Unfortunately, during this time, the company was undergoing significant labor union issues, and many of the employees were disgruntled. Rather than providing the superior customer service that the brand claimed, the airline lost luggage, cancelled flights and served some of the worst food in the airline industry.
By contrast, Southwest Airlines has grown and prospered over the years without compromising its brand position, due in large part to the culture, attitudes and behaviors embraced by its employees. From booking to ground staff, luggage handlers, pilots and attendants, everyone seems to understand their role as brand ambassadors, fulfilling an important promise to customers.
One of the lessons that Southwest’s success and Eastern’s demise teaches is that a branding strategy must connect to and be reinforced by staff education, internal support and company culture.
A successful company should focus on converting promises into behaviors.
Human Resources directors are the front line in hiring quality employees companywide, and should therefore be involved in major rebranding or marketing strategy decisions. If employees are not educated about and inspired by the company’s branding strategy, corporate identity and company values, they are less likely to deliver on the promise of the brand. Employees who understand, and are motivated by company objectives are more likely to promote the brand and contribute effectively to the overall corporate identity.
Employees are what bring customers back.
IKEA has built their business philosophy around providing a superior customer experience, offering service that is customer-oriented and personal. This in combination with attractive, inexpensive furniture, has made the company a consumer favorite, It is no secret that customers are more likely to keep coming back if their experience is positive. In Ikea’s case that experience begins with the in-store visit, which is made unique through a combination of innovative product, engaging displays, and helpful people. To achieve better customer loyalty, it is essential for Human Resources to recruit and train employees who are or who become advocates for your brand, and who also understand how their actions reinforce the company’s corporate identity.
Human Resources can provide internal and external alignment
By focusing on internal audiences as key stakeholders in any branding strategy, your company will promote an environment of loyalty to the brand that can help set you apart. Externally, perceptions of products, services and brands are often a direct result of employee attitudes; if those who make and sell a product, or create and provide a service believe in the branding strategy, the customer is more likely to as well. Harley-Davidson can boast an impressive 45 percent loyalty rate among current owners, and many of them say their loyalty is directly related to the connection they have with the employees at their local Harley dealer. Even among non-motorcycle owners, Harley-Davidson has a high level of loyalty – a significant percentage of revenue comes from the sale of clothing and other branded items. This type of aspirational following is a hallmark of success for any brand.
Your company brand is only as good as your people; they should be willing to live your brand, whether it is newly formed or part of a rebranding effort. For more information on what we can contribute to your branding strategy, please contact us.