Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Why your Employee Brand is just as important as your Customer Brand

Your employees are your brand come to life. They work every day to carry out the mission of your company. They must be always walking and talking the very core brand values upon which your company was founded. If your employees aren’t engaged with your brand, your customers won’t stand a chance.

As we enter the Experience Economy of the 21st century, never has the opportunity to strengthen a brand holistically been more apparent. Consumers are buying based on the experience they have with a product are service, rather than merely the product or service itself. Starbucks, Apple and Southwest Airlines, for example, all provide a service or product. But people do business with them because of the experience they have when interacting with these products or services. And nearly every experience being sold today (and also every service, for that matter) involves the employees of that brand.

Employees are, after all, a company’s direct touch point to customers. So why wouldn’t we spend just as much effort in engaging employees with our brand as we do our customers? Some companies are spending that effort. The companies whose brands are leading the way in the experience economy surely are, and this is a big reason why they stand where they do today. Take Southwest Airlines’ CEO Herb Kelleher for example.

Over the years, whenever reporters would ask Mr. Kelleher the secret to Southwest’s success, he had a consistent response: “You have to treat your employees like customers,” he told Fortune in 2001. He believed in engaging employees, just as you would a consumer. Friends and peers of Kelleher’s would often see his philosophy in action.

“There isn’t any customer satisfaction without employee satisfaction,” said Gordon Bethune, the former chief executive of Continental Airlines and an old friend of Mr. Kelleher’s. “He recognized that good employee relations would affect the bottom line. He knew that having employees who wanted to do a good job would drive revenue and lower costs.”

And we know from Gallup surveys relating to employee engagement that the employees who want to do a good job are the engaged employees. So what are the hallmarks of an engaged employee?

Engaged employees identify with their employer’s values. They see themselves or see who they’d like to become in the core brand values that their employer has set forth. Any employee’s sense of belonging and inclusion in a mission larger than their daily work tasks directly affects the quality of the service they provide to customers. So at every touch point, your employee brand directly affects your consumer-facing brand. One can’t be strong without the other.

The good news is that this is not a difficult goal to accomplish when you create authentic, emotionally engaging employee brand messaging. But what types of messages will resonate?

We must work to tell the stories of the core brand values in action. Every day your employees are bringing them to life. You’ve surely heard stories from the front lines that exemplify the ideals of the company at its best. Do everything you can to tell them and share them with everyone in your organization. And do it in a way that captivates, engages and inspires.

Once an employee sees a colleague whom they respect living the brand values they themselves admire, but have been unsure about how to bring to their day-to-day interactions with customers, they will adopt those same demonstrations of that value in their own work. It’s called model participation. Not only will those employees carry the brand ideas forward, they will find and reconnect with the ways they already live the brand on a daily basis.

And once employees are actively engaged with the brand, they become evangelists for their employer. Every single interaction they have with a customer will remind those customers why they identified with your brand in the first place. The experience your customers have with your brand while in the physical presence of your employees is the single most memorable demonstration of it they will ever have.

Why wouldn’t we always do everything in our power to be certain our employees are carrying forward the right brand values in the best possible manner? In doing so, there will be big rewards in the form of long-term employee loyalty, improved work performance, reduced staff turnover and a pool of top talent keen to work with you because you have a strong employee brand as well as a strong customer brand.

This holistic brand approach means that when your employees win, your customers win.  Which is why we believe your employee brand messages should be given just as much thoughtful care and attention as those your customers receive.

You can begin to build a stronger, more holistic brand today by giving your employee brand the attention it deserves. Doesn’t that sound like something worth building?

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There’s a great article published today by Ad Age about the rise of long form ads. These are short films, music videos and the like that feature brands within the context of a larger story. Rupal Parekh argues that it is the future of brand engagement and that 30 and 60 second spots are no longer where brand love is going to be created (were they ever, really?). And companies are certainly starting to see results to prove that point. Ms. Walnum of Oliver Peoples had this to say about their branded short film series:

“The traffic to our site has doubled each of the last three years and we attribute this in part to the demand for our short films. More importantly to us, the time a potential consumer is spending on the site continues to go up, which we believe leads to a better and deeper brand experience, and of course an increase to our e-commerce sales.”

As we shift to more and more longer form ads or perhaps more appropriately titled ‘branded entertainment,’ one thing will be clear: quality storytelling will become the in-demand method by which to engage customers with your brand.

Read Rupal’s AdAge article here:

http://adage.com/madisonandvine/article?article_id=143603

See an example of one of the Oliver Peoples short films starring Zooey Deschanel here:

“Personal stories make the Ford Story as individual as you are. Read theirs. Submit yours.

Ford has recently launched a new storytelling campaign that is about sharing the stories of those who make Ford trucks part of their everyday lives. And it’s compelling. Just take a look at the OC Fireman profile video at

http://www.thefordstory.com/your-stories/how-we-rely-on-ford-super-duty-trucks-as-fire-fighters/

Sure, you could argue this video portrait is about Ford trucks. But mostly, it isn’t. And that’s the point. It’s about a universal protagonist – firefighters – doing what they do best by selflessly keeping us all safe. And the supporting players that makes it all possible are the Ford trucks they drive to the front lines of fires every day. This is classic story structure at work in a new story-based form of brand building.

A loveable protagonist (Ford’s customers and in this case firefighters) come up against an obstacle: fires that threaten you and me. We’re immediately invested in this protagonist as they are in essence our protectors and well, since 9/11 especially, they are one of the most iconic symbols of goodness in America today. In order to overcome their challenge of keeping the public safe, they need a dependable, strong, sturdy vehicle. Enter Ford trucks. Ford becomes the supporting player that helps the protagonists overcome their challenge and achieve their goal – keeping us safe.

Think for a minute about a story you could tell about a protagonist (your customer) who is overcoming a challenge that affects society at large. How is your product or service helping them achieve their goals? How do their goals help make the world a better place? If you can tell a story that answers these questions, you are one step closer to building your brand through the power of storytelling.

Think of one? Or maybe several? If so, it may be time to discover the best way to share some of your branded stories.

Ladies and gentlemen! Mesdames et messieurs! Signore e signori!

It is my honor to welcome you to a freshly minted brand storytelling insight forum destined to expand the way you view storytelling in company branding – both internally and externally.

Why storytelling?

Well, of the many insights I’ve gained in recent years working as a filmmaker and creative business communicator, one that continually comes to top of mind is this:

In the age of information overload people keep giving and getting more information when what we really want is insight and what we crave is meaning.

Now story, as I define it, is the most meaningful way to communicate information.

Story is how we connect the dots of the facts we are presenting. Without story, they remain merely dots. But once we connect these dots with the lines of emotional context – of protagonist, challenge and success – what we end up with is a  far more meaningful experience indeed.

And so the guiding principles of story and storytelling has guided much of my work as both a filmmaker and creative branding strategist and communicator over the years and I feel it’s high time to both articulate that and celebrate it!

As I prepare to leave my current position at a small creative agency and venture out into many new brand storytelling ventures, I hope to share some of the insights I’ve discovered and will continue to discover along the way.

Enjoy!