Building and maintaining a strong brand starts from within. It’s essential to ensure that both your employees and your executive team understand what your brand stands for, and are motivated to act in accordance with this understanding. This is the mark of alignment within an organization—also commonly known as internal brand alignment.
Why is internal brand alignment so important? Because any lack of clarity amongst leadership makes it difficult to clearly define expectations for employees. And when employees don’t understand what is expected of them, it translates into a confusing and diffuse brand experience for your customers. Your employees are literally the face of your brand, after all.
For how important internal alignment is to the success of a brand, it’s surprising to discover just how many organizations are misaligned. A Gallup poll found that out of more than 3,000 randomly selected U.S. workers, only 41% strongly agreed with the statement “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.”
All too often, executives underestimate how much the effectiveness of a brand’s strategy depends on internal alignment. The good news is that because so many brands are misaligned, internal brand alignment represents a huge opportunity for competitive differentiation. So, how do you make sure your organization is aligned with your brand strategy—that is, how do you achieve internal brand alignment? The following 4 ways will help you strengthen your brand from the inside out.
1. Align Your Brand From the Top Down
Internal brand alignment begins with your executive team. You can’t expect employees to be aligned if their leadership is not. The best way to ensure this clarity is to have your executive team play an active role in the development of strategy and positioning. For example, when an executive team is intimately involved in the creation of a brand’s purpose, mission, vision, and values—ideally by way of formal, structured workshops—they not only understand these concepts, they are invested in them. And when a leadership team is invested in a brand’s strategy, they can better inspire their team to behave in ways aligned with that strategy.
2. Standardize Your Hiring and Performance Review Processes
Ensuring that employees are aligned with your brand begins the day you hire them. The best employees aren’t necessarily those with the most impressive résumés. Ideal candidates are those who have the same values as your organization. By making your values part of the hiring criteria, the employees you do hire will already be aligned with your brand. Beyond the hiring process, performance reviews should also center on brand alignment. You can do this by defining on-brand and off-brand behaviors and measure performance accordingly. This will help to maintain internal brand alignment throughout all levels of your organization.
3. Implement Brand Training Programs
Getting your employees to understand your brand starts with providing regular, structured training around it. This is especially important following a rebrand, or for new employees unfamiliar with an existing brand. Training can take the form of a workshop, pre-recorded videos, or brand manuals. It should cover the key components of your brand strategy, identity and core messaging, and illustrate ways for employees to activate the brand internally and externally. The more engaging and compelling your brand training, the more likely it is to be absorbed by employees. The ultimate goal of brand training programs is to help employees understand that they play an integral role in your brand’s story, as well as what that role entails.
4. Reinforce and Reward Your Employees
It’s imperative to regularly reinforce the importance of your employees’ role in the success of your brand. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but it’s important to find ones that are meaningful and memorable. Retreats and company-wide events are great ways to keep your brand’s culture front-of-mind with your employees. Brand Guidelines demonstrating precisely how the brand is expressed across customer touchpoints should be readily available for all employees. Rewarding employees that exhibit on-brand behavior is also an effective way to reinforce internal brand alignment.
From executives to frontline staff, your company’s internal stakeholders are the most important and immediate expression of your brand. Ensuring these stakeholders are equipped with a deep understanding of your brand is the first measure of success for any company. Internal brand alignment should never be taken for granted. It is an ongoing process requiring maintenance and reinforcement. But the returns are certainly worth the effort. Only when a brand is aligned internally can it hope to foster meaningful and long-term relationships with its customers.