Jeff Smith

The Internal Brand Starts With The External Brand

Your external brand or consumer brand, lives in a competitive environment alongside thousands of other brands. In order to stand out among the competition, brands do their best to differentiate themselves from others while remaining consistent – same logo, same colors, same fonts.

Internal communications departments often use their external branding for emails, the intranet, digital signage, and the like. Internally, your communications aren’t seen in rotation with other brands. Your audience can tire of the same thing over and over because there are no other brands working in the space to break up that experience. Oversaturating your internal communications with your external brand will eventually make your efforts invisible to the workforce.

Leverage your internal brand to create a more engaging experience by developing an internal brand. By expanding and building upon your external brand, a unique branding will emerge that employees already recognize. Not only will a fresh and expansive internal brand renew their desire to be engaged with, but it also acts as a cue for them to know that those communications are meant for them only.

We suggest developing your internal brand by creating the following:

  • Employer brand rallying cry
  • Adding additional colors to the existing brand palette
  • Design motif for backgrounds and other uses
  • Building a library of original employee photography

The internal brand should be authentic, genuine, and support the external brand. A good internal brand can transform your internal communications and create a better experience for your employees.

Need help with an internal brand? Tribe can help.

Jeff Smith

The Second Pancake Theory of Design

Good design is like making pancakes. Most times, the first pancake gets thrown away. It’s burned or gooey, flipped too soon or too late. To get to the pancakes that are golden brown and perfectly fluffy, you’ve got to let the first one or two go.

 It’s another way of saying Fail Fast. We’ve all heard those tired clichés about how if you don’t fail you won’t succeed, and how the best thing for everybody is a good old-fashioned failure. And guess what: that’s absolutely true when it comes to design.

The first idea you have is rarely the best. You start with a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen. And you take for granted that your first several tries will be bad. Or at least not great. And if you want to get to great design, you have to do the bad stuff first.

Let’s say you come up with something brilliant, but the client rejects it. That’s failure, in a sense, but it’s okay. It’s also an opportunity. Getting a fresh look at a project that you’ve already spent hours on is sometimes the best thing that could happen to your work.

 There’s always more than one right answer to a design problem. Even if the creative work rejected by the client was brilliant, there’s another brilliant idea out there just waiting for you to discover.

When you step back and reevaluate, you begin to see other design solutions. And sometimes, you might even like that solution better than the first. More importantly, your client might like it better. Put in the time, trust the process, and let the work speak for itself.

 Interested in better design solutions for your internal communications? Tribe can help.

External and Internal Branding: Should They Match?

Most companies know the importance of having a strong brand. It presents a face to the customer that they can form a relationship with and get to know. Companies that do well in the marketplace typically have a very strong and well-developed brand image.

But what about your internal brand? What kind of face does your company present to employees? This internal branding is just as important and brings up another good question – do your internal and external brands need to match?

For more information on marrying the internal and external brands, check out this blog post with tips on how to make cohesive branding a reality

The Internal Brand Message Must Match the External Brand

Mixed messages cause disconnect between brand perception and reality. Historically, companies have had different messages for their internal team while other messages for their consumers take on a completely different perception of the brand altogether.  We know that brand perception is what people actually believe your brand is and it often doesn’t match what you would like your brand to be.

Consistency is king. Having multiple messages and changing them often can leave consumers and employees confused and left to develop their own reality of your brand.  By keeping a consistent message over a long period of time, you will be able to create the brand reality for both consumers and your employees.

All employees should be brand ambassadors. Employees should be your biggest brand ambassadors.  When employees are given different messages internally than you are promoting externally, they aren’t equipped to be an authentic sales force.  By ensuring your team is educated on the same brand message and aware of new campaigns before consumers, you will make them feel empowered.  In turn, your employees will help make your customer believe in the brand you are trying to convey and grow the business.

What can you do to ensure your internal brand and external brand match? One of the first steps it to conduct a brand audit.  An audit will help unify your organization and your messaging by showcasing disconnects. Next, develop a plan to build a consistent brand message across all entities – employee intranets, publications and all consumer advertising.  Having a core brand message is critical to keeping your communication and advertising teams focused on what and how to communicate with both your employees and consumers.  By knowing your disconnects and having a consistent messaging strategy, you will eliminate any grey areas of what you believe your brand is and what a consumer perceives it to be.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Which Comes First, The Internal Or External Brand?

Someone asked me the other day, “What comes first, the brand or the internal culture?” This was from a high-level person at a large global brand involved in launching a spin-off company separate from the existing brand. From a logistics view, she was really asking where they should start. In other words, should the consumer branding people lead and the internal culture (in this case, the internal communications team), follow? Or vice versa?

The internal and external brand are ideally two parts of the same whole. In the best of companies, the internal culture supports the external brand promise. At the same time, the external brand promise grows directly out of that internal culture.

It helps if the founder or CEO has a clear vision of both. Tribe recently did a review of best practices for a number of internal communications measures and we noticed a couple of great examples of this.

Tony Hsieh. CEO of Zappo’s, once wrote a blog post titled, “Your culture is your brand.” The Zappos brand is based on delivering fantastic customer service, as well as happiness, and Hsieh’s focus is on building and maintaining a culture that will deliver just that. His passion is an important element of fueling that culture, as is his constant reinforcement and communication with employees.

Herb Kellerher, founder and CEO of Southwest, had a strong vision for an egalitarian airline that made flying fun and treated people like people. He wanted an airline that made flying affordable for more people, from small business owners to retired people who finally had the time to travel. His vision resulted in a brand where people board the plane on a first-come-first-serve basis and airline attendants imbed the standard safety announcements with a little stand-up comedy.

The culture is irreverent and fun and downright human. Employees at Southwest cry, hug and say ‘I love you,’ at work. The company is not shy about using the word “love” in business communications. Their NYSE ticker symbol is LUV. The culture is the brand is the customer experience.

And that’s really where the two come together as a whole: The customer experience is the intersection of the internal culture and the external brand.

Look at Recruiting As a Sign of Engagement

You might want to check out your brand’s recruiting program to help you judge the engagement level at your office. I’ve had a number of brands talk with me in the last few months about how they’re either losing good people or not attracting the same caliber of person that they’re used to having apply for jobs.

We’ve been talking with leadership and employees at brands that are having people who they kept on through the recession leave for other opportunities. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” employees are telling leadership. “I’ve worked really hard for you for a long time, and now I want to explore my options.” Leadership is telling us that they expected people to leave, but not these people. “We need to keep the people we have right now,” said one manager. “We’ve got to start engaging them.”

This dynamic is part of the legacy of a recession. Leadership has been focused on the numbers for the last couple of years. Employees have had their noses to the grindstone to execute work handed to them.

In both cases, people are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and making changes accordingly. This means that leadership is turning up the focus on engagement and employees are becoming more discerning about their current work situations. If you’re seeing a trickle in qualified applicants, or people aren’t banging on your door anymore to see if there are jobs, then you might want to explore the issue further to make sure you’re competitively set for the future.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Black Bass Lesson: How Hard is It for Potential Customers to Find You?

images-2Recently, we were invited to a friend’s surprise party at the Black Bass Inn in Pennsylvania, and decided to fly up just for the night. The Black Bass turns out to be a charming inn built several decades before the Revolutionary War, but making a reservation wasn’t easy. In fact, it was so hard to find their phone number, I wondered if maybe they had banned telephones as a nod to historic accuracy.

The invitation instructed us to visit www.blackbassinn.com, which actually takes you to a porn site called the Boob Tube (with a logo composed of two hot pink cartoon breasts). Okay, that’s funny, but not much help. There are plenty of reviews of the the hotel and its restaurants on various travel and dining sites, but they don’t give a phone number.

Then I started noticing mentions online of people asking if anyone else had the inn’s new phone number. Apparently, the old number was assigned to another customer in the interim between the former owner’s death and the new owner’s re-opening of the inn.

Finally, I went the old-fashioned route and called directory assistance. I had been putting that off, because I wasn’t sure if the hotel was in New Hope or Lumberville, or where in Pennsylvania either of those towns might be. But fortunately that didn’t stump AT&T for long, and soon I was on the phone with a lovely woman at the inn who helped me book what sounds like a pretty fantastic room with exposed stone walls and a view of the Delaware River.

I mentioned to her my experience with the website, which was apparently the first she’d heard of that. She actually guffawed when she pulled up www.blackbassinn.com and saw the boobies. Turns out the inn’s real website is at www.blackbasshotel.com. Who knew?

Here’s some advice I took myself: Take a few minutes and pretend you’re a potential customer looking for your company online. Try a few variations on your company name — like the Inn and Hotel example. Hopefully, your website and phone and even address are easy to find. But if not, it would be good to know where those potential customers are ending up. Especially if it’s somewhere as colorful as the BoobTube.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Lauren Luke’s Success Illustrates Five Powerful Trends in Social Media

images-4Lauren Luke, an ordinary person who has become a celebrity expert, is an excellent example of some important trends that many marketing people still resist. You may not have heard of her, but she’s been covered by both the BBC  and  The New York Times, and has 253, 941 subscribers to her YouTube channel, at this writing.

Lauren is a single mom in England who started posting videos demonstrating various makeup products and techniques — that she tries out on herself. On camera. In close-ups. Lauren is charming and attractive, but she’s no supermodel. In addition to a huge following on YouTube, she has recently scored a book deal and her own makeup line at Sephora.

Here are the important trends that Lauren exemplifies:

1. On social media, everyone’s an expert. An expert doesn’t mean a PhD, in this case. It means paying attention to a particular topic and learning enough that you can teach others all about it. That topic may be a very narrow niche that most people couldn’t care less about, but the Internet allows the people who are interested to find you.

2. Vlogging is the new blogging. Plenty of people say, who has time to watch videos? Apparently, a lot of people. Lauren’s videos have had something upwards of 50 million views. Business owners and corporate big shots who haven’t yet mastered a blog should just skip right ahead to shooting their own vlog, because that’s what’s happening now. Pew Internet found that 62% of all web users watch videos online, and some experts report video blogs are already being more widely viewed than written blogs.

3. People trust authentic more than flawless. The cosmetics industry  is known for its million-dollar faces and expensive production. (Think high-end directors, film crews, lighting, retouching and everything that comes with a professional shoot). Although there will always be a place for that aspirational branding, consumers place more trust in homemade videos of regular people sharing their opinions. Lauren shoots her videos herself at home, and airs them unedited (she says she doesn’t know how), so viewers see when she messes up or her dog walks through the scene. She’ll do decidedly unpolished things like hold up a product and tell watchers what brand it is, but follow that with “I think that’s how you pronounce it.” To say Lauren comes off as real is an understatement.

4. People get their information from other consumers. There was a time when consumers learned about brands and products from the brands themselves. Now, thanks to the Internet, people get more information from other consumers than they do the brand. It has created a power shift that many major brands still don’t quite accept. Lauren will review five different mascaras and point out things like “this one is such a weird shape I nearly put my eye out with it.” You would not find that on a Maybeline or Chanel commercial — and women appreciate hearing it.

5. Women use YouTube. The common misconception is that YouTube is all about a bunch of knee-slapping guys laughing at each other’s stupid humor. But women are on YouTube too, especially in the how-to segment. YouTube describes its current users as 48 percent female.

The other trend that Laura illustrates is not related to social media but to women entrepreneurs. Many women start their own businesses because it allows them to flex their work days around their kids’ schedules. Laura was 16 when she had her son, and as a single mother, I’ll bet she finds her current gig much better for her life than a corporate job might be.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Social Media for Old Folks

SocialMeCardsI graduated from college before some of my most accomplished employees were even born. I’m headed back to Chapel Hill this weekend for my 30-year high school reunion. I’ve been noticing that a whole bunch of friends and business acquaintances my age seem to be flummoxed by this whole social media thing.

In the past week, I’ve had two phone calls from friends asking if they could take me to lunch so I could teach them all about social media. They know they ought to get on board, but they can’t figure out where to start or how. It’s kind of like getting on an escalator as a kid, when the steps are moving away from you faster than you can figure out where to hop on.

One of these friends is a serial entrepreneur who recently sold her specialty medical equipment company for several million. Kim’s now launching a change management company specializing in nursing homes. The other is a well-connected fundraiser in the area of world poverty. Carol spent  many years at CARE, and now works with a foundation at Emory University, our alma mater where we met as sorority sisters. (Kappa Kappa Gamma. Secret handshake, anyone?)

Both of these people are naturals for social media. Kim is people person in the extreme. She talks to people wherever she goes, and leaves them laughing, every time. The governor appointed her to the board of public health, so now she hob knobs with everyone down at the capitol, sharing yucks with politicos from all over Georgia. Carol knows every influential person in Atlanta and can work a cocktail party like nobody’s business.

But she’s been reluctant to even fill out a LinkedIn profile. Carol seems a little suspicious of social media, like maybe there’s a big brother factor that kind of gives her the creeps. Or maybe she’s worried she just can’t parse it, despite her astronomically high I.Q.

Coincidentally, these two friends called when I was in the middle of developing a new Starter Cards deck titled “Build Your Brand with Social Media.” Two other titles we halfway seriously considered were “Social Media for People Over 30” and “Blogging for Boomers.” The deck breaks down the basics of social media into 52 manageable steps, one step per card, from joining social networks to promoting your own blog.

As I’ve been writing these cards, I’ve imagined that I’m explaining the process to these two friends. Not Millennials, no spring chickens. But smart, interesting people who could power their success by making connections and sharing their expertise.

Both lunches have had to be rescheduled, thanks to the various scheduling conflicts of busy people. I’m thinking that by the time we actually get together, this deck of Starter Cards SocialMeCardswill be back from the printer and already in their hands. And then we can spend our lunch dates just sharing personal news and telling funny stories. Anything, that is, that we haven’t already shared on Facebook.