The short answer is yes. Having style guidelines for the internal brand — differentiated by visual cues such as a color palette that’s distinct from the external brand palette and possibly an additional font or two — can help make communications more efficient.
It provides a visual shorthand for employees to recognize communications that are in the family, as opposed to those meant for the wider world. Employees are flooded with communications during their workday, and anything we can do to help them differentiate those messages is helpful.
That being said, the internal brand still must relate to the external brand. They are two parts of the same whole, not two completely different animals. The internal brand colors will usually overlap with the external palette, but also include additional colors that may be less formal. The fonts might be a little friendlier. The tone of voice will often be more conversational, more human. Overall, the internal brand standards will generally be more casual than the external ones.
We’ve developed a number of internal brand identities for clients, although many already have well-established internal brands. UPS, Target and Intercontinental Hotels Group, for instance, have highly developed internal style guidelines. This becomes particularly important for companies using numerous outside sources for internal projects, so that regardless of the agency doing the work, all internal communications look and feel the same.
In many of these comprehensive internal brands, individual departments or functions are assigned their own visual cues. Target, for instance, uses blue for health, green for pay, yellow for perks. For Coca-Cola Enterprises, everything we did had to be Coke red, but we developed icons for their human resources department: a Monopoly-like money bag for paychecks, a tissue box for sick days, an electrical plug for engagement, a speedometer for performance.
Occasionally Tribe has been asked to develop a brand identity for a specific department, which becomes sort of a brand within a brand. When the Coca-Cola Company acquired Coca-Cola Enterprises, their largest global bottler, we worked with CCE’s IT department to brand them in a way that would help them break through to their internal clients. The project resulted in a visual identity, but we didn’t get to that identity until we’d done the underlying strategic work to support this new brand. That strategic work led us to new principles for the IT department (We anticipate; we champion; we sustain) that supported the larger business objectives of the company.
That underlying strategic work is important to give the brand identity meaning. When we can go beyond just the brand identity to build an internal brand, we’re able to articulate vision, values and other cultural constructs. That helps employees identify with the company. It builds community. It helps employees feel part of something bigger.
That something bigger is the company purpose. When employees are engaged with the company’s vision, with what it offers to the world, it increases their sense of doing meaningful work. It also builds alignment towards achieving those overall business objectives.