Can branding (understood as visual identification) serve as an internal tool? This approach is used to assess the situation from a practical perspective.
We often hear about brands and branding, especially in the context of sales tools and image building. However, I would now like to consider the impact of branding on internal needs and preferences of employees. In other words, we will focus on how consistent, thoughtful, and carefully designed branding materials can indeed impact the quality of affairs in an organization.
We will consider what is effective and what is inspiring, what works and what is attractive.
It is worth remembering that the first point of contact with visual identity is the employee, and it is he who builds the relationship with the brand. Given that he uses these materials every day, we can assume that their approach to a brand or organization will be determined by the efficiency of these materials, as well as by consistency – both internally and externally. So, why should one care about accessibility – and when I use the word, I mean its full context – easy to reach, accessible and simple to apply company materials?
Why is it worth it?
(Employer) Branding – effective internal branding builds unity and identity among employees. Branding is a filter through which we convey the company’s values, mission, and vision. An employer branding campaign is just one of the integral elements of the entire brand image.
Internal branding also contributes unique benefits to the organization. One of the key aspects is to increase the effectiveness of communication. Consistent visual identity makes it easier to convey information in a clear and comprehensive manner. Employees identify more easily with the brand and know how to represent it in their work.
Consistent branding builds trust both inside and outside the organization. Above all, effective planning of internal communication, with particular emphasis on tools such as office supplies, helps reduce frustration. Oh, and most importantly. The approach to branding being first and foremost an internal tool, and only then an external one, allows us to do something completely amazing – to make sure that the branding process will be successful. Why? Because the organization will happily engage in the process and will not be forced to do so. In practice, a new identity is often implemented against the will of employees and is perceived as another burden rather than a solution to existing problems.
Why do I insist on emphasizing that this is an internal tool? After all, every material issued by an organization is first devised by the company’s employees. So, where lies the difference? Many organizations focus their brand consistency on their online presence, such as consolidated image used in social media, on the website, etc. However, they neglect the aspect of brand consistency in everyday documents and in external communication, not realizing how much potential it can waste and what damage it can cause.
The lack of coherent materials results from both tool problems (lack of functional templates), communication problems (maybe they exist, but where?) and competence problems (the organization lacks knowledge of how to use them or does not have time for it). All this means that simple processes take more time, generate frustration and a sense of meaninglessness at work, which may lead to faltering motivation. Some employees simply give up and create their own materials as they see fit. These materials take on a life of their own, and as a result, we lose brand consistency.
Not every organization can hire a brand consistency specialist. And finally, what’s the point of all this? A coherently designed brand was supposed to save the company’s resources and not generate additional costs.
Okay, we already realize how serious this matter is. Now let’s consider the process of creating branding materials as an internal tool.
Understanding Your Employees’ Actual Needs
The first step is to understand what your employees need. We are not talking only about marketing departments, but about all people in the organization who work on company materials – whether by creating them from scratch or using templates. Such departments may include:
- Legal departments, both internal and external
- HR, both in the context of external communication and team activities
- Sales, both in contact with the marketing department and in logistics
- Departments related to new customer development or pricing areas
- Marketing, both external and internal
- GDPR-related staff
- IT Department
Of course, the number of departments may vary depending on the organization, and some competencies may overlap. The first step, which can be time-consuming and tedious, involves examining all the materials used by employees in each department. It is also worth analyzing the ways these departments communicate with each other. It often turns out that existing communication channels are ineffective, which results in the creation of informal, “wild” solutions. Determining priorities – diagnosis of “empty flows”.
Once these materials are collected, it is necessary to carefully analyze them. What works? What does not? What are the actual processes for overwriting files? Where are the materials stored? What are the naming standards? What is the source of frustration in the materials? Which materials are used more willingly, and which are considered burdensome? Also, are all employees equally aware of the available materials? In other words, does everyone know what materials they can use and how they learn about new ones? What are their habits in this regard?
Next, you need to assess your skills in using the tools and available materials. It’s worth spending more time observing how employees use these materials. This is not only about assessing their skills in using programs, but above all about understanding their daily habits and the scope for automating processes or training employees in the effective use of available tools.
Materials are only effective if employees know how to use them. Therefore, the key element is implementation, and for this you need One Magic Place (OMP) – one specific access path where all the latest, up-to-date materials are located along with a description and, if necessary, educational materials, such as short instructional videos. Anyone who has ever looked for a file on the Intranet will appreciate this solution. A simple method is to create a separate brand area with access for employees and a basic password for partners. Such micro-portals, or single-page websites, can be part of the branding implementation process. At Leniva Studio, we offer this as part of our service, as well as a separate onboarding page for new employees, where we store all materials related to their workplace.
Another important element is an on-going audit of materials. We design it, submit for testing, and collect reviews. The aim is to avoid situations where materials fail to perform their function due to inappropriate use. Every three months, it is worth collecting employees’ opinions and cooperating with them in adapting materials or training. It is also worth allocating a separate budget for such maintenance activities. By doing so we ensure that we are always up to date.
When I read my own words, I realize that this version of branding tends to be less exciting than what we usually get from brands like Apple, Nike, Coca Cola, or Patagonia, especially when it comes to those brands that are value-driven and concerned about the well-being of society. There’s nothing wrong with that though. At the end of the day, it’s about branding working every day in the organization, not just being part of a portfolio.
At Leniva Studio, we have developed a framework for working with branding as an internal tool, which we call “Brand Coherence Guidelines”. Let’s remember that these are only the foundations on which we can build, and how we develop them depends on us 🙂