Launching Top Brandful Companies

Future Brand Winners Are Brandful

Top Brandful Companies Coming Summer 2015

Leaders work long and hard to build winning brands. The challenge is to constantly and meaningfully engage customers and employees as their interests change quickly. Is your corporate success going to last? Some of the top brands of today may not be around tomorrow. But brandful brands just might be.

Since launching the Brandful Workforce – a roadmap for getting employees behind the brand, not against it – we began to see that brandful also has incredible value for others. Not just employees, but customers, vendors, contractors, investors and others can get actively behind the brand. And that’s what a brandful company is all about. The concept is simple: Every organization wants folks to love and promote what they’re all about.  If you agree with that, then you agree that every organization should be brandful.

Some companies that have been named in focus groups as brandful include: Apple, Google, Costco, Tesla, Patagonia, Zappos and smaller brands like the optical company, Warby Parker or Union Square Hospital Group (founders of Union Square Café and Shake Shack, which just had a successful IPO.). But are they really brandful? What value does this bring? Who else could be added to this list? Look out for our upcoming social media research that is reviewing hundreds of brands to score and rank them according to the level of overall brand advocacy. We will be reporting the top scores and reporting what makes these companies brandful and how the measures can introduce unique insights into current and future business success.

Some believe that companies that make the Top Brandful Companies list may be the same names on other lists. But that won’t be the case. The differentiator here is that brandful companies are not just about engaging the customer or employee, but they involve everyone connecting meaningfully with the brand. This is not only about being a top place to work, or having the best customer service or most engaged audience – it’s a combination of all of it. When a company is brandful- there is a contagious passion for what the company offers and what the company stands for. Brandful companies have both employee and customer brand fans actively spreading positive messages.

Yes, it’s a high hurdle, but hey- it’s 2015. It means you have to get everything right. Not just your external branding, advertising positioning, but your internal operations, leadership and culture. It’s a holistic approach that is timely because our millennial generation is already onboard with it. They want more transparency, authenticity and meaning as both consumers and employees. Brandful companies provide that. They also drive real content. http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/top-brandful-companies/You don’t have to make up the advertising stories, when you can use the real ones. When I worked in the airline industry, we used to joke that television drama was nothing compared to real life.

Launching Top Brandful Companies

Top Brandful Companies will be live this summer. After the launch, our proprietary tool can be used to score almost any kind of organization at any point in time.  The insights from the results can help identify barriers as well as actions to becoming brandful.

Want to know if your company is brandful? Read more.

2014 Most Brandful Moment

Only a few more hours until 2015.  Quick: What was your most memorable moment of 2014?

Mine was a brandful moment: Rolling out brandful to a new audience.

Looking back on 2014, one of my favorite projects was working with DeVry Institute to provide some brandful resources to their community of students and alumni.  Prior to the engagement, I had an idea of what DeVry was all about but after getting a deeper inside view of this educational organization, with over 90 campuses, nation-wide, I now understand more fully the value of the DeVry brand.  They have a sweet spot for mid-career folks who are working and want to make a change for the better. I believe this population is growing, especially as the average job tenure is only about three years. Top that with longer average life spans, working retirees, a growing trend for multiple changing careers, and DeVry’s business model, which includes affordable education, and you can see that they are well-positioned for success.

DeVry was excited about introducing their students and alumni to the concept of brandful as a new career trend. Instead of just looking for any old job, the idea is to look for an organization that you believe in, first.  So just as employers want to find the right brandful employees, job-seekers also should proactively look for their own match that aligns with their personal brand.

I spoke to faculty, students, alumni and administrators about their views on a brandful career path, its importance and relevance to career success and how they could go about becoming brandful. The conversations were enlightening and thought-provoking. I started out by asking each person to talk about their current job, their field of study and career. It was a typical conversation. Then came the curve question:

“What are some of your personal favorite brands?”

That’s when their eyes would light up and the smile would come on. Hmmmm. They would think with grins. Then they would start naming companies, both big and small, whatever came to mind.  Just as they would get on a roll with the list, I came with the punch:

“Have you ever considered working at any of these companies?”

The grin turned to a look of wonder and then fireworks. Why has nobody really thought of a career in this way? Most answered: “I don’t know, but they should!”

Some of the folks with whom I spoke, left with an enthusiasm for a renewed career approach and ideas on where they can bring value beyond the specific job. I also left with greater drive for the future of brandful. http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/most-brandful-moment/Witnessing the personal lightbulb moments was quite powerful. I look forward to many more of these in 2015.

Stay tuned for upcoming 2015 launches including Top Brandful Companies List and the New York City Brandful Tour.  Have a Brandful New Year!

San Jose PayPals are Not Brandful

Soon after writing my last blog post, PayPal’s President, David Marcus, did exactly what I had advised not to do. He threatened his employees to use PayPal products or leave the company.  While that is one way to transform your workforce into a brandful one, it is not what I recommend.

I commend Marcus for being on the forefront of understanding the value that his workforce brings to the success of his company. Most CEOs do not rely enough on their employees to build the brand. In an email to his “San Jose PayPals” he asserts: “everyone at PayPal should use our products where available. That’s the only way we can make them better, and better.” This kind of executive mindset is exactly what’s needed in any organization that wants to build or sustain a brandful workforce. However, how you do it, needs to be effective and genuine.

Let’s not forget, people are not only rational, but emotional human beings. While it may seem simple: “Just tell them what you want them to do,” it doesn’t work that way. Last year, I wrote about the emergence and growing importance of the field of organizational psychology to the corporation. It brings something to the table that the traditional MBA approach misses: feelings. And yes, we all have them.

What PayPal needs to do is better understand why the employees in San Jose are not as brandful as those in other locations. Marcus says they don’t use PayPal or refer business nearly as much as the rest of the employees, who are so passionate about PayPal that they even hack into vending machines to make them accept PayPal. Trying to change behavior without understanding it does not make sense. Hey, I get that businesses need to move quickly, but consider the consequences of doing it the wrong way.

I tried reaching out to Marcus to see if I could help. http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/ http://brandfulworkforce.com/jose-paypals-brandful/Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can read an article and the full email he sent out.

Check out more Brandful Workforce blog posts or download the book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, on your kindle app.

Brandful – Quick and Simple

Every employee matters, especially when running a small business. A single employee could be responsible for bringing enormous success to your business. Or one employee could bring you down. Why not motivate your employees to work FOR your brand, rather than against it, by cultivating a brandful workforce.

How It All Began

The brandful workforce approach was developed as a practical guide to help business leaders better engage employees with the products and services they help deliver every day. It was informed through my own career journey, working for both small and large organizations, private, public and non-profit.

Most recently, I was in charge of employee engagement at JetBlue Airways. My colleagues at other companies used to ask me: “How do you get your employees to be such fantastic brand ambassadors?”

It wasn’t something that JetBlue purposefully set out to do. It was the result of a successful business. Yet there wasn’t a recipe that others could easily follow. So I took it upon myself to figure it out!

Let’s look at how you can create brandful employees for your business.

Building a Brandful Workforce

Start with your product or service. After all, who will want to promote something that they don’t personally believe in?

One common mistake small business owners make with employees is not defining and communicating the consistent delivery of the business. What does it look like? If you don’t know, then how will your employees? Help them understand the details of your business, your brand and especially your customer promise.

When your employees understand your business, the customer promise and their role in it, they can get to work promoting your brand. In fact, they may even exceed your expectations!

Create Brandful Communication Channels

The next step in creating employee brand ambassadors is giving them the means to go out and promote your brand. I call these brandful channels.

These include tools and resources such as social media, swag, celebratory events, and community volunteer efforts that spread awareness of your business.

Remember: not everyone is going to want to engage in social media, so it’s helpful to offer your staff some other options.

For example, you may have an employee who enjoys the backstage planning of an event.  Or another employee may be athletic and can represent your business in a marathon. The brandful channels approach provides opportunities for everyone to participate in amplifying your brand in a genuine and authentic way.

Recruit Brand Ambassadors

. Some small businesses find it hard to compete for talent with larger organizations.  Yet, as a small business, there are a few areas where you can favorably recruit top talent by accentuating your unique brand:

  • Offer a “jack-of-all-trades” employee experience. Employees can learn and be involved in many aspects of the business, rather than be narrowly focused on a specified role within a larger organization.
  • Provide a family feel and local culture as opposed to a larger, bureaucratic environment.
  •  Give employees the opportunity to make a direct, meaningful impact on business success

Keep in mind that brandful candidates care less about salary (as long as it’s within a reasonable range) than the quality or purpose of the job. If you have to negotiate hard to get someone to accept, it may not be the right fit for your business.

Here’s a quick checklist to help determine if your job candidate is brandful-minded:

  • Do they love or use your products or services?
  • Do they know how to talk about your products or services?
  • Do they have fresh ideas about how to expand or improve your business? (Do they act like “owners,” or do they simply want a paycheck?)
  • Do they give you honest – and helpful — feedback?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you’re well on your way to leveraging the talent you’ll need to create a brandful workforce of your own!

Holiday Parties Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

This is the time of year to focus on amplifying the fourth brandful channel: Celebration. What better time of year for employees to get behind your brand, than the holidays? It’s the perfect opportunity for your internal brand ambassadors to spread the love for your products and services to their friends and family as they gather together.  Is there a heart-warming story about one of your products or services that can be re-told across your organization as an example of your powerful brand? What accomplishments have the employees made during the year that can be celebrated as part of the holidays? By shining a spotlight on your workforce as an important part of your brand’s success, holiday parties can be transformed into truly engaging events that build a more brandful workforce.

Comment below if you attended a holiday party that made you more jazzed about the brand.  Did you share your enthusiasm on your social network? Did you donate anything on behalf of your organization to help others? How did your actions impact the brand? I’d love to include it among my brandful examples.

To read more about how celebrations can be an effective way for employees to advocate for your brand, please see my book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand. For previous blog posts or to share this post, click here.

 

The Dangers of Employee Advocacy

Before I get into the dangers, let’s first understand what employee advocacy is. It’s getting employees involved in amplifying your organization’s brand message through their own personal and social networks. They can share company news, success stories and promotions. Many companies have a social media program to engage consumers such as initiatives that drive the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers. Taking it even further, they can track their most engaged fans and followers and get them involved in their promotions. Now, companies are realizing that the employees, beyond the marketing team, can also bring value to their social marketing strategy.

It sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want their employees out there advocating for the brand? Well, I don’t want to name anybody, but think for a moment about a company that you absolutely hate, or a place you would never want to work. Now, picture yourself working there as an employee and being told that you now need to participate in an employee advocacy program to promote the products or services. Just think about it. Now, I know this is an extreme example, but I hope it illustrates my point: Not every organization is ready for an employee advocacy program. If they build one prematurely, it may backfire. There are also dangers even if the organization is ready for such a program. For example, it may not genuinely connect with how employees want to promote the brand or what they want to promote. Each employee is different and can uniquely contribute to the advocacy program.  In my book, The Brandful Workforce – How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, I address these issues and much more. I describe six channels through employees can help the brand; it’s not just about employee advocacy but the entire organization and setting the right business foundation and internal culture that will naturally be excited about an advocacy program.

Does your company have a successful employee advocacy program? I’d love to hear about it. For previous posts on The Brandful Workforce, click here.

I Quit!

A long time ago, it was rare for someone to quit. People stayed in the same job for years and years, and even more years, until retirement or death, whichever came first. Today, the opposite is true. Change is so rapid that it’s hard to predict the future of any organization, let alone job or role.  So when I stumbled across this video, I thought: “Ah, a new way to say ‘Adios’ to your boss.” Quite creative, especially given the fact that the employer was a video production company…not surprising that the employee’s video of her quitting, went viral immediately. Maybe her boss was  happy that she finally produced a viral video, however maybe he or she wasn’t anticipating it would be her goodbye video that would get the most number of views.

But not everybody quits. Some leave unwillingly. Like the employee who was fired by the AOL Chief during a recorded staff meeting. She was taping the internal conversation, a big “no-no” if you listen to the recording, which shouldn’t have been recorded in the first place. What a way to go, publicly in front of the entire company and then later publicized to the world.

Some folks quit, but go about it in the wrong way, like the JetBlue flight attendant, who illegally deployed a slide. At the end of his flight, he simply slid down the slide and attempted to leave…for good.

Some folks do it the right way. Well at least, it is well-intended, like the Goodwill employee who was just trying to help folks pay for the merchandise by reducing the prices. The teenage employee was only wanting to help and do “good” as suggested by the name of his employer. But Goodwill didn’t see it that way, fired him and pressed charges, according to the news story.

How does this relate to our topic of The Brandful Workforce- which is a workforce that promotes the brand of the organization? In all of the cases above and in most employee departures, it is critical to keep in mind that the brand of the organization, that the employee leaves behind, continues. And it continues with or without that employee. It is incumbent upon every organization to ensure that every departure can reflect the brand integrity – and if it doesn’t, the organization should take a good look at itself. For more about brandful, read my other posts.

Canadian Brandful Workforce

Having spent part of my summer in Canada, I have to include one of my favorite Canadian brands in this week’s post: Tristan, a men’s and women’s apparel company. I first discovered Tristan in about 1998 when I was working in Times Square in New York City. They had a location on Avenue of the Americas and 49th Street, that I would frequent in between meetings. And then one day, it was gone. This summer, while I was in Toronto having dinner at The Pickle Barrel across from The Eaton Center, my waitress started talking about her second job as an assistant manager at Tristan. I asked her why they closed the New York store and she explained: “We realized much of our customer base, not only loved our line of clothes, but were dedicated to buying Canadian. This didn’t necessarily work in New York.” I thought about Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and all the major clothing stores, and could understand the difficulties that may have hit Tristan.

But it wasn’t just the branding toward consumers that could have been tough. I wondered if it would have been possible for any non-Canadian employee -like an American – to be equally as passionate and proud. I could tell how passionate my waitress was about Tristan, and how proud she was that it was Canadian. She told us all about the new technology that Tristan was putting in its stores whereby customers could virtually try on different combinations of clothing to see how it would look instead of going in the dressing room. And she told us about the expansion of the company and her face lit up with excitement as she spoke. Could that have been the reason for the failure of the Tristan store in New York? That the employees were not as good brand ambassadors as those from Canada? Or was it that the competition of other international apparel brands was too fierce?

I guess I’ll never know for sure. But judging from the Tristan employee I met in Toronto, the company is alive and well – with a Canadian brandful workforce.

Companies Should Be Clear On What They Are Not

When was the last time you had an interview or heard about an interview in which the employer highlighted what they are NOT? The usual pitch is what they offer in terms of benefits, pay, perks and all the great enticing things you would expect when a company is trying to whoo you over. How would you react in an interview in which the recruiter or hiring manager told you specifically what you should NOT expect?  Would you be more inclined or less inclined to be interested in the position? Maybe it would depend on the details. At any rate, I believe it would help employers and employees make the right employment decision, whichever side of the table you are on.

Sometimes, companies forget that hiring the wrong folks can be more damaging than not hiring any folks at all.  One way to prevent this, especially when we are talking about the brand (internal and external), is to be completely open about who you are, as well as who you are not. I recently saw that Ikea communicates in their recruitment efforts: “leave your ego at the door.” They specify that they don’t have tolerance for anyone with a big ego, as teamwork and humility is part of their success. Think about your organization and what you can relay to potential candidates that would help you prevent hiring the wrong employees. Send me a note and let me know or post your comments here.

Don’t Tell Me A Story – Do It!

A colleague of mine who is a brand strategist, launched a book this week about story-doing – as opposed to story-telling. What’s the difference you may ask? Story-telling seems to be more about what a company wants to be, rather than what it actually is – which is what you get with story-doing. The company’s story gets defined by actions, not words. I like Ty Montague’s inner message which is about authenticity, which connects to my approach, The Brandful Workforce.  For a company to be good at story-doing, they would necessarily need to have their employees onboard as part of those who are actioning the story.

I agree with Ty when he says: Instead of building a business around a product or message, you have to think about building your business around people, and what they want to share with their friends. And I would define “people” as both consumers and employees. In many cases, employees are consumers and I would argue that some companies can aim to have all employees as consumers (provided it’s the right industry like retail or hospitality). When both employees and consumers are equally passionate about sharing information about a product or service with a friend – this action – repeated many times over – is quite powerful because it’s authentic.