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‘We have a great brand. An inspirational mission and strong values. But the market doesn’t seem to recognize this. Answer: we must need a marketing campaign. Right?’

Wrong (or at least, often not the whole story).

Whilst brand and marketing campaigns (from here on just called ‘marketing’ campaigns) certainly have a strong role to play in driving perceptions, they are not the sole contributors. Brand perceptions are even more strongly influenced by interactions – the engagements the market has with your products, services, and people. This is particularly true in B2B, where individual relationships and interactions tend to hold significant sway.

The purpose of this blog though isn’t to tell you that ‘relationships matter in B2B’ (you can get that from any clichéd 20th century B2B marketing book), but rather to emphasize that your people have the power to make or break any marketing campaign (and any brand). An enthused workforce shouting common virtues from the rooftops can rescue the most mediocre of marketing activity; whilst a disillusioned workforce can consign branding genius to an early grave.

In delivering a brand promise to the market, we, therefore, encounter two common failure points:

  1. Marketing failing to communicate the brand promise
  2. Employees not believing in the brand promise

A great marketing campaign can only go so far. If your people don’t believe what your marketing is claiming, a ‘honeymoon’ perceptual bump in the market will be short lived and quickly fizzle away to disillusionment and anger at the reality. Employees are the living testimony to the brand promise.

It is essential therefore to not only measure what the market thinks of your brand, but also how your employees feel about your brand, and then compare and contrast the two. To illustrate this, consider four brand performance scenarios:

  1. Both the employees and the market believe in the brand. Great job! Keep it up
  2. Employees believe in the brand but the market doesn’t. A marketing campaign is required (tick this time!)
  3. The market believes in the brand but employees don’t. You’re probably enjoying a ‘honeymoon’ period. Marketing activities have given you a ‘bump’ but you have limited time left to inspire employees before the bottom falls out from underneath you
  4. Neither employees nor the market believes in the brand. An internal ‘employee inspiration’ programme is required first, then a marketing campaign (once employees are on-board)

Too often brand research jumps straight to suggesting a marketing campaign simply because of a failure to recognize and understand employees, and the important role they play in communicating the brand promise.

Constraining employee research to only cover ‘job satisfaction and the working environment’ (typical elements of an employee study) fails to recognize and leverage the impact employees have on building sustainable brands. Don’t just ask them what they think about the new hot-desking situation or benefits package… ask them what they think your brand stands for, why a customer should choose your company, and their pride in being part of the business. Ask them the same brand perception questions you’d ask the market, and in doing so you’ll understand what you really need to do to improve your brand performance.

The next time you look to understand your brand, be sure to include your employees.