Brandful Approach Gains Momentum

Last week, I spoke to a fantastic group of Long Island human resource professionals who understood the value the workforce can bring to the brand.

While I do give a lot of presentations, I enjoy customizing my message and content for each unique audience. When deciding what to include for this group, I carefully reviewed my materials including videos, stories, and company examples. I decided to feature one of my favorite videos from Clear Vision Optical, a small Long Island-based company of 250 employees, that designs and distributes eyewear for all ages. The video offers a quick peak of what can happen when an organization has a brandful workforce. While companies can spend thousands of dollars on a single video (or even millions for a series of videos), brandful employees have the genuine desire to create their own videos that come across as more authentic than corporate-produced versions.

As I passionately spoke about how to build a brandful workforce, up popped the Clear Vision video. Immediately, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the excitement from two women about eight rows back in the middle and I heard them whisper loudly so as not to interrupt the presentation: “Hey, that’s us!” They got out their cameras and began to take pictures. Later I found out that they had emailed their co-workers saying that Clear Vision was on stage. The pride they exhibited only confirmed their brandful workplace.

Following my presentation, we chatted and someone snapped the picture below of me with Jennifer and Ann Marie from Clear Vision:

Clear Vision

The Brandful approach is gaining momentum. And it’s not just from audiences such as this.   I see more and more the need and desire to merge the external brand perceived by customers, with the internal culture of the employees. Customers and employees have direct relationships that are real. Well, on second thought, sometimes they aren’t real, but those aren’t the strong relationships. Companies that truly understand this bond have the potential to succeed, but only if they can build an action-based strategy around the brandful approach, which is based upon employee involvement in the evolving brand.

A company like Rolls-Royce is part of this new trend which is encouraging employees to become part of the living brand. For example, one of the employees was inspired with a wild idea to gain more exposure for the changes going on at Rolls-Royce. She thought it would be cool if the company could build a jet engine out of legos.  This would highlight the focus on jet engines, as well as the fresh innovative spirit at the company. When she conveyed her idea to Jeff Lackey, a leader in Global Sourcing, he immediately supported it. Yes, there would be investment – Who knew a lego project could cost as much as €20,000? However, it ended up paying off. The project, which took eight weeks for four people to assemble, ended up generating about one million euros worth of brand advertisement given the response it generated on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. As well, it drew notable attention at the Farnborough Air Show. Check out the video.

While many companies haven’t even attempted to involve their employees in shaping the brand, many are starting to test the waters. They aren’t accustomed to giving up control or empowering employees in this manner. They may be averse to risk or change or what damage such actions might do. But this attitude will ultimately stunt growth.  Other companies like IBM and General Electric are at the forefront, investing in employee ideas.

Investing in employees as brand innovators and brand ambassadors is not just about employee engagement, or employee motivation to be productive on the job, which usually relates to liking their boss and/or peers. Being brandful is about employee participation in the ongoing creation of the brand, the products and services that they help deliver.  Isn’t that what a workforce comes together for anyway?

Share what your company is doing to become brandful. I’m always on the lookout for new examples and ways to encourage others to be brandful.

Check out my previous posts and don’t forget to share this one with your colleagues and friends.

 

 

 

Top Brandful Organizations in 2013

Welcome to my final blog post for 2013. The following companies make the list of of top brandful organizations this year: Trader Joe’s, Netflix, Zappos, Starbucks, IBM, L’Occitane, Patagonia, Nick’s Pizza & Pub, Viking Cruises, Ikea, The Container Store, Wegmans, Rackspace, and Tesla. What sets these companies apart from others? It’s quite simple: the employees genuinely believe in the products and services they help deliver… so much so that they actually help promote them, voluntarily. Employees at these organizations are critical to current and future success of the business.

While many experts are now posting their recommendations for 2014, I believe one of the most strategic actions any company can make in the new year will be to connect employees meaningfully and authentically with the brand. For example, at Trader Joe’s, some of the employees spend most of their paychecks on purchasing groceries in the store. And most employees there can tell you their favorite products, if you ask.  Or employees at Rackspace may spend more time than necessary online interacting with each other and customers about optimizing the services they provide because they are just that passionate about them.  Brandful employees help to evolve the success of the business.

The organizations mentioned above do not necessarily depend on employee engagement programs or internal marketing campaigns or even employer branding initiatives, to create a brandful workforce. They rely primarily on the strength of their products and services and how they run their business from a people perspective. These are the principles of the brandful approach.

In 2014, more organizations will understand the potential of the workforce. And it will be great timing as we will embark on a project to design a measurement tool so organizations can understand the level at which their employees are truly behind the products and services they deliver every day. Once they receive their results, they can take necessary action to move the needle on building a more brandful workforce. Please stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the last few days of the year!

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WestJetters’ Christmas Miracle Goes Viral

At the Canadian airline, WestJet, the employees call themselves “WestJetters.” It’s usually a sign that a company has a brandful workforce when the employees come up with a more endearing name for themselves than employee. At IBM, they are called “IBM’rs” and my favorite is still Wegmans who employ “Wegmaniacs.” (Please send me your examples as I like compiling them for future reference.)

Back to the WestJetters. About 150 of them recently volunteered to participate in a recent Christmas miracle for the passengers flying from Toronto to Calgary. Imagine the following travel experience: You are with your family at airport check-in. You notice a large screen in the check-in area with a live streaming video of Santa Claus interacting with you and asking you what you want for Christmas. So you tell him with a chuckle what you want. You board your flight and spend about five hours before landing in Calgary and wait for your bags to arrive at baggage claim. But before your bags arrive, you start to see individually wrapped gifts coming off the conveyer belt. You start to notice other passengers finding gifts with their names. Then you see a gift with your name on it! You grab it and open it and find that it’s exactly what you told Santa a few hours back at the check-in. This blog post cannot do justice to watching the 5-minute video synopsis.

Now, imagine you are a WestJetter. How would you feel to have participated in or simply been employed at a company that produced such an event? Would you want to spread the news about your employer and promote the brand? I would be thrilled to reach out to everyone I knew to brag about such a true story. If you have a holiday story about a brandful employee or a brandful workforce, please share it with me.

For other brandful examples or to share this one, click here or purchase my book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand.

Happy Holidays!

Failing Provides Insight

We held our third executive roundtable at the end of April, hosted by IBM in Manhattan. We had a fantastic, intimate group of folks from different industries and organizations (pharmaceutical, social media, financial, business services, pharmaceutical, publishing, and healthcare), and all came with a similar goal: to share their experiences on specifically how they are creating and sustaining a workforce that truly believes in the products and services they help deliver.

I’m not going to give you a “blow-by-blow” of the discussion, which continued to be just as engaging as the first two sessions, but I will provide some key points that struck me. One is that folks were just as interested, if not even more interested, in what wasn’t working. Due to the confidential nature of the discussion, participants were able to openly and comfortably share their struggles. One executive revealed that some of the work they did over the course of two years – just plain didn’t work. He said: “You can’t just add water and get an instant culture.” Some consultants lead you to believe that they can do the work for you, however, he feels that you have to do the hard work yourself, so it will stick.  While it may be easier to get someone to come into the organization, introduce employees to a set of behaviors or values, or organize your performance management system so that it rewards the right behaviors – this may not be creating the meaningful and real connections needed for brand sustenance and authenticity.

Another participant shared that her organization spent a lot of money “blasting” communications at employees aimed at informing them about the brand. She confided in the group that while this method did get the point across, it was not motivational nor did it inspire employees to want to be a part of the brand. It was more of a “one-way street” approach rather than a way to build a meaningful relationship.

While many of us learn the hard way, by failing and trying again, some of us can learn from others’ mistakes. And that’s what our forum is really about. Once we realized some of the big mistakes, it helped us focus on what seemed to be most important – how to meaningfully involve employees so they can have a direct impact on the brand. Some suggestions that were working within organizations were to involve employees in solving business problems, outside of their day-to-day job. Encourage them to speak up when something’s not working and praise them for doing so. Have direct employee voices be the norm, not necessarily “official” corporate communications.

These were just a few tidbits from our day together. There were many more insightful exchanges. Our next gathering is being planned for September in California. Let me know if you’d like to join.