Sunday, November 6, 2011

Advocacy through Human Hoardings

The IBMer is the primary way people experience the brand around the world. We spend a significant amount of time enabling our employees: everything from our values to previews of campaigns and key announcements before these hit the marketplace. While most desi CMOs are focused on promotion to external audiences, many are starting to see their employees are important brand evangelists and ambassadors.
In essence, employees are a reflection of the corporate character - "the sum of everything the management and employees say or do - the beliefs they hold, values they profess and the way they behave" and in an increasingly competitive world, products don't differentiate company, corporate character does. Most CMOs I have met agree that they need to spend as much time educating employees about what the brand stands for and the corporate character, as they do on designing and managing external communications.

Unfortunately, few have done this well. In many companies employees, especially front line sales teams, are seen as a secondary audience ( we will handle internal letter, lets get it out the market fast). Or we consider it a check in the box - we sent our an email blast to all distribution lists and hope the employees have read the information. We also see Indian companies plagued by bad press and complaints about their employees, which we all agree is very damaging to the brand the bottom line. So what are some of the ways indian companies are using the engage employees effectively to convert them into brand advocates? How do marketing and HR work together to drive this?


  1. Without giving the internal systems (employees, key associates, etc) a chance to see the marketing campaigns or debate its findings, its sad that some marketeers go ahead with campaign.
    First things first - give the internal system "pride".. pride of owning the marketing / brand campaign... let them see it before the world-at-large knows about it...

    And personalise!!! If you want better results, personalise!! No one likes mass-blasts!!

    Every employee / associate is a brand spokesperson. How they behave with external world counts!

    In short, marketing owns the "consumer" space but everyone in the company has the brand-ambassador-at-large tag!

  2. Brands are not created by brand managers….

    Brands are nurtured by brand managers while the entire organisation creates the brand together & in parts, over time.

    I cringe to see brand managers who boast of their (marketing) spends (don’t we all hate “yours is larger than mine” tone) rather than saying that they know their consumers well.

    It is imperative that all marketing communication is full understood by the internal stakeholders (employees, agencies, vendors, associates, the board); only then the communication campaign should be unveiled to the world-at-large…. After all, the employees are the brand-ambassadors-at-large!!

    The key word here is “Pride”… ask any HR guru worth their salt-or-sugar… “Pride” of being associated with an organisation is a key motivator & increases productivity, efficiency & reduces attrition.

    So if marketeers can do their bit to increase “pride” factor by sharing all the key marketing communication internally first, then half the battle for market supremacy is met.

    Go Go CMOs!!! Engage with your H.R!!

  3. In India, HR by far has mostly remained a functional practice of coping with headcount. Advocacy, in its true sense can only be driven by individuals. It is when individuals in multitude carry forward the values and vision of a brand within their peer community, that a brand creates advocacy of its own. No one can build interpersonal relations with a brand or a logo.For that we need people who embody what that logo stands for.

    But for that HR ( especially in India) needs to go beyond headcount.

  4. While marketing is the caretaker of the brand, the "owner" of the brand.. which therefore means that every individual in the company is a critical component of the brand. While every CEO / CMO has been stating this for the last few decades, the advent of social media means that this interaction with employees becomes all the more critical. Therefore "employee inclusive" communications would be the way to go and that is where the marketing teams starts to play the role to seamlessly integrate the communications.

  5. Thanks for your comments! Interesting point on the fact that CEO/CMOs have been stating this for several decades but many companies have not necessarily created an environment which encourages people to talk about the brand proactively. There seems to be a lot more communication guidelines than "enablers", which can send a strong signal to the employees.