These days, an advertiser’s own employees might be the most important (and overlooked) audience of them all.

June 2, 2014

“Our new campaign rocks and so do we!”

I am delighted to report (with a bit of an eye roll) that one of the themes at this year’s B2B marketing conference in Chicago (BMA14), was the supreme value of internal stakeholders and employees when it comes to branding.

I’m happy because the internal audience is likely the most under-appreciated target market of them all. I roll my eyes because I’ve been singing this psalm for almost as long as I’ve been in advertising. Whenever a company produces a piece of marketing, particularly in the realm of branding, it simply must consider its employees. And not just a little. I’d argue first and foremost.

As many of my colleagues will tell you, I have a short list of marketing truths I hold to be self-evident (aka “Steffan-isms”) and my absolute favorite is this idea that a branding campaign is the company’s jersey. Ergo every employee should feel comfortable putting it on. Better yet, the wearer should be fired up, ready to represent the firm. Every morning, when an employee enters the parking lot, he or she should be made proud (at least somewhat) by the company’s colors, theme and logo.

The same way your university has a poetic uniform, your place of business has one too. Or it should. If you agree with me on this point then the key question is do you like your jersey? Are you the Fighting Irish or Stanford Cardinal or are you the Peoria Piss Ants?

Does your brand look like this poor bastard’s uniform?

Answer affirmatively and your brand is probably in a good place or has a reasonable chance at getting to one. If a jersey is meh how can anyone expect the people wearing it to do a good –let alone great job?

I like using the above argument when trying to sell new campaigns to clients because it reframes the branding discussion into one that is more humanly relevant than a marketing funnel or other left brain algebra. It also forces the decision maker(s) to look at his or her brand from an insider point of view.

Granted, this does not always work. Fear of rocking the boat exists inside every company. Hence the old cliché “running it up the flagpole.” Yet, when we exalt the CMO as a quarterback or coach, and relay to him a new and improved uniform (or flag for that matter), it takes particular cowardice for him to demand blandness in the face of a bolder choice. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But I like to give my creative ideas every chance at succeeding. Rallying employees is a powerful way to do it.


4 Responses to “These days, an advertiser’s own employees might be the most important (and overlooked) audience of them all.”

  1. Alex Jones said

    I am director of a company, and for the purposes of branding I use the words stakeholder, thus my company has a relationship with a stakeholder. There are three types of stakeholder in my company: investor; customer; supplier. Where is the employee in this? They are a supplier since they are providing a service or product to my company in exchange for some benefit.

    It is critical that the right type of suppliers are recruited, and then they need to be well looked after so that they will recommend the company. The branding is built into the company processes, so that the employee will express the brand by following the process. If any stakeholder is looked after well whilst expecting them to uphold their side of the deal, they will feel happy enough to recommend a business.

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