Building Brand Champions
Creating passionate brand advocacy from the top down.
By Meghan Cassens, Account Manager, Strum
Many financial clients have made the leap to undergo a name and brand transformation. However, the biggest concern we see over and over again is, “What if we spend all this money to revamp our brand and we can’t live up to the hype?” A youthful, exciting brand with a beautiful new website and a mobile app with all the latest bells and whistles is all for not if your frontline staff doesn’t live up to the brand experience.
Imagine someone from the call center answering the phone or a potential customer walking into a branch expecting to get the same passion and energy that comes across in the brand, but the experience instead falls flat. What happens—the brand begins to deteriorate and the customer begins to write a new, unintended narrative.
There is a long list of reasons this can happen from lack of brand and culture training, low staff buy-in and support, poor communication of expectations and simply hiring the wrong fit for the brand. All of the time, energy and investment poured into a rebranding initiative will greatly diminish when the staff doesn’t live out the brand through their day-to-day actions.
It is imperative before an organization steps into the world with a fresh face and attitude, that they get their house in order first. With the proper commitment and training, passion will build and energy will ignite for all employees to live and breathe the brand every day.
Below are a few ways to ensure your rebranding efforts are a success and championed by all.
1. Core values — live by them and hire to them
Can your employees recite your core values? Many times, just one or two, but they often go uncited and forgotten. An organization's core values should be a strong part of the foundation on which it is built. They should be integrated into high-level organizational planning, day-to-day operations and culture, all of which shape the brand. Core values must be fully embraced from the highest levels of leadership and consistently used so they don’t end up being stylized words hung up in the board room. These values define what the organization believes and operates within. Employees need to fully embrace these values in order to deliver a consistent brand experience each and every day. This begins during the hiring process with core values front and center when interviewing candidates. If they check all the boxes, they’re likely to fit the culture you’re aiming towards. On the flipside, believing in core values means they must also be protected. Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos, said “We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them.” Hiring the right candidates from the start will save you headaches, costs and will protect your brand.
2. Know your "why" – It’s more than just deposits and loans
Why does your business exist? This is more important than what you sell. In an industry of commoditized goods, it can feel dull and uninspired if you let it. However, many financial institutions at their core started for a deeper purpose than to simply provide banking products. Whether it’s to promote clean energy, support underprivileged communities or champion financial education, the "why" is what pushes everyone to be their very best and empowered to make a difference in every interaction they encounter. There is a great proverb that sheds light on just how important leading with a purpose can be and it goes like this, “Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish". Every level of the organization needs to understand and embrace your purpose. Only then will there be a single driving force and voice for the brand.
3. Communication and collaboration — paving the way to brand advocacy
Mixed messages and a lack of internal communication can lead to breakages in brand messaging and ultimately staff morale and brand experiences. Brand messages need to be ingrained in the minds of the entire organization through consistent and reinforced inter- and cross-departmental communication. A lack of collaboration leads to department silos that are utterly detrimental to your brand and will begin to show in the gaps between brand messages you put out in the market and staff actions. Strong communication needs to start with the leadership team. They set the tone for how their staff learns, listens and behaves. In order to gain their buy-in and get everyone moving in the same direction, staff needs clarity surrounding the brand and the importance of their role in living up to the brand promise. This drives greater job satisfaction and defined purpose. When employees believe in the organization they will go to great lengths to deliver the best service they can—whether they are internal or customer facing.
4. Build Brand Advocacy — integrating the brand in our everyday language and actions
Train. Every employee has an opportunity to spread the brand message with every interaction. Employees have the power to dictate how customers and others they interact with will perceive the brand—meaning that employees MUST be trained to represent the culture and brand of the company with every interaction. It’s critical to invest in staff so they have the right training and feel confident about representing the brand with their own unique personality, even if it’s simply the way they say hello to a member.
Demonstrate. The brand messages that marketing is promoting should be lived and breathed by every employee, beginning with the C-Suite, transcending through the back office and frontline employees.
Commitment. Strong and enduring brands commit to integrating the brand throughout all of their business practices. The brand is owned by every employee in every department and it helps inform and guide strategic decisions from product development, expansion, target audiences, branch design, employee hiring and evaluations—and this is just the beginning.
Maximizing the potential and strength of your brand will be built upon the focus and commitment from 100% of employees to support and protect the brand. Marketing cannot own and nurture the brand on their own, it must be understood, embraced and supported by everyone to make a difference in your organization’s growth and performance.
Making your brand a priority at every level of the organization will make a huge difference towards achieving brand advocacy and ensuring it stands the test of time.