Branding From the Inside Out

by Melanie Long
McDaniels Marketing

An effective internal marketing program empowers employees to deliver on brand promise.

Do you ever wonder how some companies are able to deliver on their brand almost seamlessly? These organizations communicate the value of their product or service, and their customers are not disappointed when they purchase. This results from consistently making—and keeping—promises. What’s more, their employees take ownership of brand delivery. Patrons and consumers alike find that problems are resolved swiftly, without question. Expectations are met and exceeded. Successful companies achieve branding from the inside out, delivering an external brand message effectively and ensuring employees are living the values of the organization.

Companies That Do It Right
Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappos are known for their exceptional service and customer-centric values. A common theme for both: employees love their jobs! The workforce embraces teamwork, functioning as multiple dimensions of a unified environment.

Southwest’s key to success seems to be a unique blend: a clearly defined simple purpose, the right business model, and consistently demonstrated core values and behaviors. How did it do it? From its inception, Southwest has placed employee and customer relationships as its highest priority, with the motto: “If employees are happy, satisfied, dedicated and energetic, they’ll take real good care of the customers. When the customers are happy, they come back and that makes shareholders happy.” Seriously, are there any other contenders who can compete with being recognized for more than 18 continuous years of customer service excellence?

Tony Hsieh, the renowned cofounder of, sums up organizational success for Zappos in two words: “Deliver happiness.” And every employee is empowered to do just that. Keeping it simple, Zappos has 10 core values that focus on that organizational mission, while creating a fun, collaborative culture that literally drives passion and delivery of the mission.

Empowering Employees is Key
Both of these organizations empower their employees to deliver the brand promise—to do whatever it takes. Empowerment is not a means to an end, but an end result of something much larger. There must be a culture of trust with strong principles and guidelines that promote healthy decision making. This is accomplished by establishing direction and setting expectations with a strong mission statement, a compelling vision, well-aligned guiding principles and values, and goals that support the business purpose and model.

Subsequently, the organization’s most important asset—its people—must understand and share the reasons for the business and their roles within it. When employees are told to deliver without the appropriate resources or are not empowered to make decisions quickly and effectively, the culture will reflect frustration and apathy. Businesses with the intention of growth will explore the definition of empowerment and employ its principles.

Most research seems to agree that empowerment is a multifaceted social process. The process of proactive self-empowerment (in lieu of waiting for a manager to bestow empowerment) helps to result in actions and decisions that improve service and performance. Companies that excel are those that provide an interchange of skills, resources, authority, opportunity and motivation while holding employees responsible and accountable for outcomes.

Strength Through Internal Marketing
One proven solution that can strengthen an organization’s core is an effective internal marketing program, one that goes beyond marketing slogans and clever visuals. Successful internal marketing seeks first to understand the culture of the organization, and then creates human resource strategies that will intrinsically motivate employees toward achieving goals and objectives. Internal marketing follows a four-step process:

  • Hiring the right people. At face value, hiring the right people seems obvious, but it can be quite a challenge. Recruiting is a two-way street: deciding the type of people you want to attract, and helping the candidate to determine whether the organization is a good fit. Competing for the best people requires a strategy to identify target employees, as well as job design and advertising. Internal recruitment, whenever possible, always promotes morale.
  • Creating a service culture. The next step is providing education to develop behaviors and promote teamwork. This is where empowerment is vital to the overall effectiveness of the entire internal marketing program. Give employees the tools to solve problems and achieve the highest standard of service and performance. Employing a peer recognition program, establishing a reward platform based on team accomplishments, and allowing a “whatever-it-takes” paradigm for service excellence are some examples for creating a service culture.
  • Providing adequate support systems. If the system is flawed (not enough internal support), it will be difficult to deliver the highest quality service. Research indicates serving effectively depends on the quality of internal processes, resources and recognition. Examples could include purchasing needed technology or equipment, developing service-oriented internal processes, and avoiding those which create resistance. The best employees will not want to remain if they are unable to achieve their goals.
  • Retaining the best. A critical step in maintaining a great work environment is to create excitement by rewarding behavior that exemplifies excellent outcomes. Considering employees as internal customers through development, motivation, quality recruitment and making an attractive place to work increases retention. Reward programs must be directly related to the organization’s mission, vision and goals. Management must provide consistent and fair incentives at all levels for service quality and productivity rewards.

A sharp focus on hiring for and creating a service culture, while tightening processes, recognizing the right behaviors and rewarding for going beyond expectations will result in a service culture that builds momentum. Initiating an effective internal marketing program empowers employees to deliver the brand promise, impacting customer satisfaction and delivering brand consistency from the inside out. iBi

Melanie Long, MSMHR, is a marketing and organizational development consultant for PowerInternal, a division of McDaniels Marketing, and a board member of the American Society of Training and Development, Heart of Illinois Chapter. Read her blog at