It's no secret that companies from every industry sector are grappling with the challenges of marketing and building a strong brand platform in the digital age. But are their brand promises resonating within their organizations? A new study from the CMO Council, released today, found that engaging employees and shaping a brand culture requires new and different skills.
"There is an enormous amount of time, effort, and money spent on framing, developing, and crystalizing a brand platform," said executive director Donovan Neale-May. "Unfortunately, very little emphasis is placed on ensuring that the value proposition resonates within the organization."
“Making the Workplace a Brand-Defining Space,” conducted in partnership with CultureSphere and Executive Networks Inc., sheds light on the topic. It found that almost 90% of the marketing and HR leaders surveyed view brand persona as essential, very important, or moderately valuable for attracting new hires and building a lasting relationship with customers. However, only 62% of these respondents indicated they having a formal brand platform in place that defines shared values, ethics, and collective buy-in and connects it to a singular value proposition.
The survey, which polled more than 230 senior marketing and HR leaders globally, identifies other key gaps that can impact results. For example, while only 37% of survey participants said they have a well-defined corporate culture that employees can embrace universally, more than half of respondents said they believe their brand personality is fully embodied or very well reflected in their people and workplace.
"Catchy and clever slogans are not enough," Neale-May pointed out. "The workplace and the workforce have changed dramatically. There are now highly connected, socially minded Millennials moving into the mainstream. They have different values and different motivators than previous generations. They love recognition, participation, collaboration, and engagement."
It's not enough to simply toss out catchy slogans and mantras, such as the famous "We Try Harder" campaign from Avis or the "You're in Good Hands with Allstate" campaign, he added. There's a need for total buy-in across the organization and even out to extended business partners. "It has to be reflected across every channel and into every possible touch point," Neale-May said.
The study also examined social media strategies and techniques used by leading consumer brands to recruit and retain Millennial workers, build customer-centric cultures, recognize and reward innovation as well as output, and "gamify" the workplace to boost productivity, performance, and motivation. While most companies surveyed have communication strategies in place--and many interact with workers across different channels--most lag in terms of adoption of transformational digital technologies, such as private social media networks, instant messaging systems, online learning and certification, mobile social branding platforms, and internal TV or video streaming networks.
Only half of survey respondents reported that they would be interested in piloting or learning more about a social media platform for real-time, employee-inspired branding. The study also found that only about half recognize the need to turn employees into active advocates and brand champions; 40% see the need to unify, engage, and activate the organization; 30% acknowledge a need to increase visibility and recognition for employee efforts; and 28% believe that it's necessary to humanize the organization for customers, partners and the world.
Neale-May said that business leaders, including CMOs, must shift their mind-set and tactics. Although creating a shared vision and values has always been a challenge, building processes around private and public social media networks can engage employees and key stakeholders in a way that wasn't possible in the past. This, he said, requires a focus on mobility and media such as video, which serves as a nexus point for younger workers.
But it also extends into an organization's philosophy and actual approach. "Today, great ideas can come from anywhere,” Neale-May. “A more horizontal type of communication model must be in place."
Video is a particularly underused tool, said Danny Gordon, founder and CEO of workforce social media platform CultureSphere, which sponsored the report. "It is 2015, and while video and photos are at the center of the consumer social media experience, they still haven't made it into the professional world or the enterprise. Millennials are constantly adding content to Instagram or sharing media via Snapchat, but there is very little emphasis on sharing great moments or creating narratives at work. Employee-inspired media--whether you have 100 people or 10,000 people--introduces a very different type of experience."
Opportunities are everywhere, Neale-May added. They exist at company gatherings, meetings, shows, and events; new product introductions; at various touch points along the customer care continuum; and at various other places and points in the business.
"Marketing executives must recognize that you can spend tens of millions of dollars on a new ad campaign, but if things aren't in sync--and employees aren't tied in and engaged--the results will be disappointing,” he said. “Today, there's a need to think differently and align the entire organization."