Forget brand engagement. Make your brand engaging

A column in this week's Marketing by Helen Edwards suggests some tips on making "internal brand engagement" more effective. The advice makes sense on paper: segment the audience to identify key opinion formers, have a programme of communication and rewards to "make the brand a reality" and take time to win over cynics.

However, there is a much more effective way to engage people inside your business, as shown in quantitative research by Interbrand. And it has nothing to do with internal communications programmes like the ones Helen describes. The answer? Simply make great products and services that people are proud of. You guessed it. Its all about the sausage. Again.  

Interbrand's research looks at what drives pride in the organisation where people work. Organsational pride is important, as it in turn drives a range of positive effects such as motivation, employee retention and recommending the company to friends and family. The researchers looked at a range of measures we usally associate with engaged employees, including pay, the type of boss you have and the company's contribution to the community. But the most important driver of pride was "making products and services people are proud of". In other words, instead of running an internal brand engagement program, make your brand more engaging.

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I have seen this again and again at first hand. The companies where people are highly engaged are ones where everyone is proud of the stuff they sell and actually use it themselves. This is the case at Nike, Apple, innocent, Lush, Gu, Dyson and many other I've posted on. People in these places don't need an internal communication programme to make them feel engaged. Often, they actively sought to join the company as they bought into what they were doing.

Even when it does come to internal communication, leadership from the top is much more important than any internal communication program. This is captured in the quote "People will doubt what you say, but believe what you do". How a leader behaves and acts is the most effective form of communication. I've posted on the role of the "brand ceo" several times, including posts on Mont Blanc and Starbucks. On the other hand, leaders' actions which conflict with the brand message wil undermine all your internal communication efforts. Like the CEO urging his people deliver on-time service for customers who is always late for meetings. Or the leader proclaiming at a big conference how everyone in the team needs to pull together as one, only to turns left as he enters the plane home, whilst his team turn right and head for economy class.

In conclusion, forget about fancy internal brand engagement programs. Focus your time and money on improving your product or service. And ensure that you lead not with presentations and talking, but by example.