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StrategiCom's Journal of Brand Strategy

Brand communications:
Inside Out;
Through Your People
By Sharon Lim, Research Analyst, StrategiCom

BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue


BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Brand communications:
Inside Out; Through Your People
By Sharon Lim, Research Analyst, StrategiCom
July 2010

Introduction
The reality that all business owners must competing product offerings becoming
face is harsh. In today’s competitive markets increasingly similar2. Quality and functional
where a rising number of industries is benefits have become the minimum criteria
rapidly maturing to a state of saturation1, in the survival of a business. Instead, the roles
the success of a business no longer lies in of branding and marketing have emerged
distinguishing products or services based as twin contributing factors in enabling
on quality and functional benefits alone1. customers to effectively differentiate
Technological advances have resulted in between competing products3.

Branding, Marketing and Communications


A brand is an idea in the minds of its thought exist. The first is “all about having
customer4; thus branding is construed as the right strategy” as Trout6 posits because
formulating a strategy to create this singular “strategy sets the competitive direction,
differentiating idea in order to promote a strategy dictates product planning, strategy
product or service5 in order to establish a tells you how to communicate internally
significant and differentiated presence in and externally, strategy tells you on what
the market. However, marketing is defined to focus.” The second is “the missing link
as “the process or technique of promoting, between aspirations and results” as Charan
selling, and distributing a product or service”5 argues that the biggest obstacle to success is
by communicating this differentiating the absence of execution.7
idea. Here, communication constitutes
the imparting or interchange of thoughts, Giving credence to both and for the purpose
opinions, or information5 by means of of this article, it would suffice to establish that
symbols or mediums such as newspapers, branding and marketing are to the success
emails, telephones, television, and radio. of a business i.e. what fuel and oxygen are to
a burning flame – reduce one and the flame
In the debate to determine if the role flickers; remove one entirely and the flame
of branding – strategy formulation, or is extinguished. Logically, branding should
marketing – execution via communications, come before marketing since formulated
is more important in contributing to the strategy determines and guides the execution
success of a business, two schools of plan.8

1
Whelan S. and Wohfeil M. (2006) “Communicating Brands Through Engagement With ‘Lived’ Experiences”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 13, No. 4/5,
pp. 313-329.
2
De Chernatony, L. (2001), “A Model For Strategically Building Brands”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 32-44.11 Berthon, P., Ewing, M & Li,
L.H. (2005). Captivating company: dimensions of attractiveness in employer branding. International Journal of Advertising, 24(2), pp. 152
3
Andersson, M. and Weslau, A. (2000) “Organising For Event Marketing In Order To Change Brand Image And Increase Sales”, International Management
Master Thesis No. 2000:44, Graduate Business School, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
4
Tai, J. and Chew, W. (2008) Transforming Your Business Into A Brand: The 10 Rules Of Branding, Marshall Cavendish.
5
(2009) Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster.
6
Trout, J. (2004) Trout On Strategy: Capturing Mindshare, Conquering Markets, McGraw-Hill.
7
Charan, R. and Bossidy, L. (2002) Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, Crown Business.
8
Kenneth R. Andrews. (1998) Resources, Firms and Strategies: A Reader In The Resource-based Perspective, Oxford University Press, USA, pp. 52-59.

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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

The remaining sections of this article explicate the role of marketing in the form of brand
communications.

Brand Communications for the B2B Company


Building on the definition of There are several significant distinctions in
“communication”,“brand communications” the nature of business between a business-
refers to the imparting of information to-business (B2B) company and a business-
specifically pertaining to the brand to-customer (B2C) company. It is important
values internally to employees and to outline these differences (refer to Table 1)
externally to customers9. The impartation to better understand why and how brand
of brand values is done through communications strategies of each differ.
brand messages; discussed later.

Table 1. Differences between a B2B company and a B2C company

B2B Company B2B Company


• Small, focused target market 10
• Large target market10
• Transactions are in large volumes • Transactions are in smaller volumes
• Product pricing can involve negotiation 11
• Product pricing is usually fixed11
• Average order size is $75,000 12
• Average order size is $7512
• Dominant medium of communication is • Dominant medium of communication is
personal contact13 through the salespeople14 press and media relations: television and radio15

Before we discuss the development of an point that in the B2B context, the dominant
effective B2B brand communications strategy medium of communication is personal
(refer to Figure 1), we draw attention to the contact13 through sales people.14

9
Harris F. and de Chernatony L. (2001) “Corporate Branding And Corporate Brand Performance”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35, No. 3/4, pp. 441-
456.
10
http://vista-consulting.com/marketing-b2b-vs-b2c. Sourced on 2010, May 30.
11
Efendi, J., Kinney, M.R., Smith, K.T. and Smith, L.M. (2010) “Using B2B Buy-Side E-Commerce Systems In The Supply Chain: Does It Affect Financial
Performance?”, Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Association of Collegiate Marketing Educators, pp. 61-93.
12
Phillips, C. and M. Meeker. (2000) Morgan Stanley Dean Witter: The B2B Internet Report, Collaborative Commerce, pp. 1-55.
13
Baumgarth G. (2010) “Living The Brand”: Brand Orientation In The Business-to-business Sector”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 44, No. 5, pp. 653-
671.
14
Lynch J. and de Chernatony L. (2004) “The Power Of Emotion: Brand Communication In Business-to-business Markets”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol.
11, No. 5, pp. 403-419.
15
Ansgar Zerfass. (2007) “Trends In Communication Management And Public Relations – Results And Findings”, European Communication Monitor 2007, pp.
60.

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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Employees are inherently heterogeneous. As such, employees fall under the category
Individual employees’ attitudes and of dynamic channels in the context of brand
behaviours vary from one another and need communications strategy, where “dynamic”
to be orchestrated by the firm16 to ensure that is “marked by usually continuous change”.5
they are aligned with the company’s brand This is unlike static brand communications
values. Over time, employees join and channels such as the company website,
leave the company and this mandates that brochures and print advertisements that
the alignment of employees’ attitudes and require little or no change5 once they have
behaviours must be an on-going process. been developed.

Figure 1. Steps to Develop an Effective B2B Brand Communications Strategy

Define Stakeholder Groups


Identify:
• Who the stakeholders groups are
• Why are they important
• To what extent are they important

Determine Communications Channels

• Static channels
• Dynamic channels

Develop Brand Messages

• Brand messages must be customised for each


stakeholder group

Align & Reinforce External & Internal Brand Communications

• Employees must be trained to deliver consistent


brand messages

Conduct Brand Track Audits


Objectives:

• Measure how well the brand communications has been done internally & externally
• Measure if there has been improvements in stakeholders’ perception of the brand

On this note, the rest of this article aims to expound on the dynamic channels in B2B brand
communications.

16
Punjaisri K. and Wilson A. (2007) “The Role Of Internal Branding In The Delivery Of Employee Brand Promise”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 15, No.
1, pp. 57-70.
5
(2009) Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster.

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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Communicating Your Brand Inside-Out; Through Your People


With reference to Figure 2, in discussing communication – clarity, consistency and
brand communications through dynamic constancy.21 “Clarity” dictates that a strong
channels, the presence of two types of people brand message is clear and authentic
is absolutely essential – a brand champion, about what the brand is and what it is not.
and an army of brand ambassadors. To achieve “consistency”, the content of
the brand communications should ideally
A brand champion is someone within the be developed once, then tailored slightly
organisation who is responsible for the for each medium. Finally, “constancy”
protection and promotion of a particular is about constantly reiterating the same
brand.17 This person is typically the Chief brand messages so as to ensure that these
Executive Officer (CEO) or founder of the messages are not only heard, but more
company.18 It is pivotal for this individual importantly, remembered.22 In the absence
to be seen as having the authority that is of these qualities, it is nearly impossible
required to communicate frequently and for the brand communications strategy to
persuasively to all levels within the company. succeed14 because each ambassador will be
Contrarily, brand ambassadors are people telling a different “story”.
within the organisation who are walking
embodiments of the brand19.Operating It is also the responsibility of the brand
as key customer touch points20 and as the champion to align and reinforce all external
interface between a company’s internal and and internal brand communications23. The
external environment, employees need to be brand champion acts as an ‘evangelist’
recognised as brand ambassadors.9 who takes charge of cascading the brand
messages down to each level within the
The roles that the brand champion and organisation22 and transform employees
brand ambassadors play are different but into an army of well-trained brand
complementary. The brand champion is ambassadors24. It is the ambassadors
the “chief storyteller” who develops a “good who make the brand “come alive” in their
story” carefully angled to target each of commitment to demonstrate the brand
the identified stakeholder groups. A “good values each time a customer interacts with
story” embodies three essential Cs of brand them.22

9
Harris F. and de Chernatony L. (2001) “Corporate Branding And Corporate Brand Performance”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35, No. 3/4, pp. 441-456.
17
Farquhar P. H. (2005) “Brand Alignment Across Organisational Boundaries”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 96-100
18
Khan, B. M. (2009) “Internal Branding: Aligning human capital strategy with brand strategy”, The Icfai University Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 6, No.
2, pp. 31-32.
19
Chong M. (2007) “The Role Of Internal Communication And Training In Infusing Corporate Values And Delivering Brand Promise: Singapore Airlines’
Experience“, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 10, pp. 201-212.
20
Nandan S. (2005) “An Exploration Of The Brand Identity–Brand Image Linkage: A Communications Perspective”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 12, No.
4, pp. 264-278.
21
(2010) “When Branding Gets Personal: Big Names That Stamp Identity On Their Companies”, Strategic Direction, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 28-31.
22
Arruda W. (2009) “Brand Communication: The Three Cs”, Thunderbird International Business Review, Vol. 51, No. 5, pp. 409-416.
23
Yaniv, E. and F. Farkas. (2005) “The Impact Of Person-Organization Fit On The Corporate Brand Perception Of Employees And Of Customers”, Journal of
Change Management, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 457.
24
Thomson, K., de Chernatony, L., Arganbright, L. and Khan, S. (1999) “The Buy-in Benchmark: How Staff Understanding And Commitment Impact Brand And
Business Performance”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 15, No. 8, pp. 819-835.

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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Figure 2. Dynamic Channels in B2B Brand Communications

Brand Communications

Dynamic Channels Static Channels

Brand Champion Army of Brand


Ambassadors

External Role: Internal Role: External Role:


Internal Role:
Developing brand Training an army of Communicating brand
Training new
messages Brand Ambassadors messages to external
employees
stakeholders

Within this, internal branding has emerged as a key management process to align
the attitudes and behaviours of employees with the brand values25,26 and this can be
accomplished via three methods:

1. Training every single brand ambassador personally


2. Training key employees and empowering them to train the rest of the “army”
3. Engaging a third party consulting company to train the “army”

Realistically, it is neither plausible nor of internal branding28 as it allows the


feasible for a brand champion to train brand champion to focus his/her attention
every single brand ambassador in person on training key employees29. The third
unless the number of employees within method involves the engagement of a
the company is very small. This leads consulting company to train the company’s
us to the second method which is aptly army of brand ambassadors. However, the
termed “management communication” brand champion should have a developed
– training only the key employees and brand communications strategy and its
placing upon them the responsibility of brand messages before engaging such
cascading the brand message to the rest of a consulting company to conduct the
the employees.27 This is the prime method training.

25
Tosti, T. and Stotz, D. (2001) “Brand: Building Your Brand From The Inside Out”, Marketing Management, Vol. 10, No. 2 , pp. 28–33.
26
De Chernatony, L. (2001) “From Brand Vision To Brand Evaluation — Strategically Building And Sustaining Brands”, Butterworth-Heinemann,
Oxford.
27
Welsh M. and Jackson P. R. (2007) “Rethinking Internal Communication: A Stakeholder Approach”, Corporate Communications: An International
Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 177-198.
28
Procter, T. and Doukakis, I. (2003) “Change Management: The Role Of Internal Communication And Employee Development”, Corporate
Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 268-277.
29
Yeomans L. (2008) “… It’s A General Meeting, It’s Not For Us …”, Internal Communication and Organizational Learning – An Interpretive Approach”,
Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 13. No. 3, pp. 271-286

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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Revisiting the analogy of storytelling, the Without doubt, both the brand champion
central role of brand ambassadors is to and his/her army of brand ambassadors
support the chief storyteller by repeating must fulfil their roles well and work hand-
the exact same story to all customers. in-hand in order to successfully execute
Literature has identified that “successful the brand communications strategy in a
internal branding engenders employees’ cohesive and consistent manner.24
commitment to, identification with30 and
loyalty to31 the brand.”19 Employees In the closing section of this article, two
therefore need to embrace and internalise case studies will be presented to inscribe
the brand values before they are able to the importance of consistent brand
deliver consistent brand messages.32,33 communications.
Internally, employees should take the
initiative to assist in training new brand
ambassadors by sharing their commitment
and stimulating brand commitment.34

Case Studies
The two case studies are companies which of these companies are fictitious. The first
StrategiCom served within the last four years. company is “Alpha Foods” and the second,
In the interest of confidentiality, the names “Beta Weld”.

Case 1 - Alpha Foods:


Alpha Foods is a multi-faceted business a series of four brand track audits at six-
with core businesses in consumer foods, month intervals. As mentioned in Table 1,
healthcare and packaging. After a change the brand track audits serve to measure
of hands in the ownership, the new owners how well the brand communications has
embarked on a brand strategy project in an been done internally and externally by
attempt to disassociate the company with the measuring if there have been improvements
old positioning of “Supplies Selling”. While in stakeholders’ perceptions of the brand.
it was recommended that a name change The results of the first three brand track
was necessary to successfully reposition the audits were especially worrying. Over
business, the recommendation was rejected a period of one-and-a-half years, the
by the board. A roadmap to reposition the perceptions of Alpha Foods’ employees
company was subsequently provided but it and customers were found to be generally
was observed that the client, as the brand deteriorating. This was particularly true in
champion, was not committed and did not the case of Alpha Foods’ employees.
have the will to implement the changes.

Following the completion of Alpha Foods’


brand strategy, StrategiCom conducted

19
Chong M. (2007) “The Role Of Internal Communication And Training In Infusing Corporate Values And Delivering Brand Promise: Singapore Airlines’ Experience“,
Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 10, pp. 201-212.
24
Thomson, K., de Chernatony, L., Arganbright, L. and Khan, S. (1999) “The Buy-in Benchmark: How Staff Understanding And Commitment Impact Brand And
Business Performance”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 15, No. 8, pp. 819-835
30
Meyer, J. P., Stanley, D. J., Herscovitch, L. and Topolnytsky, L. (2002) “Affective, Continuance, And Normative Commitment To The Organisation: A Meta-analysis
Of Antecedents, Correlates, And Consequences”, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Vol. 61, pp. 20–52.
31
Papasolomou, I. and Vrontis, D. (2006) “Using Internal Marketing To Ignite The Corporate Brand: The Case Of The UK Retail Bank Industry”, Journal of Brand
Management, Vol. 14, No. 1/2, pp. 177–195.
32
King C. and Grace D. (2008) “Internal Branding: Exploring The Employee’s Perspective”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 15, No. 5, pp. 358-372.
33
Burmann C., Zeplin S. and Riley N. (2009) “Key Determinants Of Internal Brand Management Success: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis”, Journal of Brand
Management, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 264-284.
34
Kalla H. K. (2005) “Integrated Internal Communications: A Multidisciplinary Perspective”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 10, No. 4,
pp. 302-314.

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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Investigating further, the main cause for terms of its direction and naturally, employees
the general worsening of stakeholders’ did not know how they could contribute to
perceptions of Alpha Foods was deeply rooted it. Customers too, were not aware of the
in the absence of the owners’ commitment change in the position of the corporate
to implement the changes to reposition the brand. Evidently, the lack of leadership
company, as well as the high turnover of from the brand champion gave rise to the
employees. Without the brand champion lack of employees’ buy-in. This in turn was
passionately leading the company through a direct contributing factor to the decline in
the repositioning phase, internal branding to customers’ perceptions.
align employees’ attitudes and behaviours to
the company’s new brand values was as a Amongst other recommendations, it was
result, starkly lacking. The people within the encouraged that Alpha Foods set up an in-
company did not feel the change and this house training department to ensure that the
was clearly reflected in the audit findings. company’s new brand values was properly
communicated. Six months later, the results
Although Alpha Foods’ employees could of the fourth brand track audit showed a
regurgitate the company’s new corporate marked improvement in employees’ and
position statements, they were not informed customers’ perceptions of Alpha Foods.
on how the company intended to change in

Case 2 - Beta Weld:


In a separate case study, Beta Weld is in Internally, the people within the company felt
the welding, gas and safety integration the change and this was clearly reflected in
industry. With the management’s strong the audit findings. Not only could employees
commitment, the company’s name was regurgitate the corporate position statements,
successfully changed and recommendations they were also aware of the intended
laid out in the repositioning roadmap were changes and how they could play a part to
swiftly implemented. support the transition. Externally, with every
interaction with the company’s employees,
To date, StrategiCom has conducted three customers were slowly being educated about
brand track audits at six-month intervals the new vision of the business and its nature
after the completion of Beta Weld’s branding going forward.
project. Giving consideration only to
employees and customers, the results of Beta As the brand champion and brand
Weld’s brand track audits were pleasing. Beta ambassadors respectively, Beta Weld’s
Weld’s staff and customers demonstrated management and employees were
significant improvements in their respective instrumental in the effective repositioning of
perceptions of the company and this was the company. This thus leads us to emphasise
attributed to Beta Weld’s adoption of various on the importance of communicating
aggressive measures to communicate clear, changes in a company’s brand strategy
consistent and constant brand messages from internally, outwards.
both internally and externally.
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BrandBank • JULY 2010 issue

Conclusion
As competition across all The next important component is
industries escalates, business to ensure that there is a structured
owners can no longer afford to method of internal brand building.
run away from the reality that Apart from conducting regular
success today lies in effectively training, some common tools that
differentiating their businesses can be employed to consistently
through the twin functions of and repeatedly communicate
branding and marketing. As a brand values internally include
result, brand communications devoting time for frequent
merits close attention for its dialogue sessions, displaying
extensive contribution to posters with the corporate position
the role of marketing. statements, utilising notice
boards , and circulating internal
16
In order to build a strong brand
newsletters, emails and written
successfully from inside out, the
memos35. Furthermore, non-
Sharon Lim joined StrategiCom in first step that B2B companies
verbal communication elements
2009 as a Research Analyst. Formally must work towards is to ensure
such as dress-codes and the way
with FT Consulting, Sharon was the complementary presence of
employees are addressed36 are
actively involved in various franchise a brand champion and an army
subtle techniques that may have
development, intellectual property of brand ambassadors. As the
an effect in encouraging brand-
management and branding projects ultimate brand champion, business
supporting behaviours.
for clients such as Old Chang Kee, owners must stand at the forefront
Fragrance Foodstuff and Griffin Kinetic. of the company and take charge The two case studies on Alpha
In StrategiCom, Sharon specialises in of developing and executing the Foods and Beta Weld have served
Brand Communications and her list brand communications strategy. to illustrate the importance of
of clients includes Hu Lee Impex, Shao Besides developing a “good effective brand communications.
Fook Engineering and Chemilink story”, the brand champion needs Achieving the three Cs of effective
Technologies Group, amongst others. to convince employees that as brand communications - clarity,
She is currently involved in a national brand ambassadors, they need consistency and constancy – is
Employer Branding Correlation Study to play their part in repeating undeniably no mean feat; the
conducted jointly with the Singapore this same “story” to all the reward for successfully achieving
National Employers Federation. company’s external stakeholders. this, however, is far-reaching.
She can be contacted at
sharon.lim@strategicom.com
16
Punjaisri K. and Wilson A. (2007) “The Role Of Internal Branding In The Delivery Of Employee Brand
Promise”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 57-70.
35
Vallaster, C. and De Chernatony, L. (2005), “Internationalisation Of Services Brands: The Role Of Leadership
During The Internal Brand Building Process”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 22, pp. 181-203.
36
Vallaster, C. and De Chernatony, L. (2006), “Internal Brand Building And Structuration: The Role Of
Leadership”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40, No. 7/8, pp. 761-784.

about strategicom
StrategiCom is a global B2B brand strategy consulting firm headquartered in Singapore with 11 offices and 110 consultants & researchers
around the world. The industries it serves include Information Technology, Oil & Gas, Petrochemicals, Commodities Trading, Business Services,
Pharmaceutical, Medical & Healthcare, Transport & Logistics, Construction & Real Estate, Precision Engineering and Electronics Manufacturing.
StrategiCom’s consultants, researchers and proprietary methodologies provide the catalyst for companies to transform from traditional
businesses into differentiated brands.

contact us
StrategiCom Pte Ltd 371 Beach Road #19-08 , The KeyPoint , Singapore 199597
Tel: (+65) 6220-2216 Fax: (+65) 6220-2116 Email: publication@strategicom.com

© July 2010 StrategiCom Pte Ltd. All rights reserved. Published by StrategiCom Pte Ltd.
An imprint of StrategiCom Pte Ltd: 371 Beach Road, #19-08, The KeyPoint, Singapore 199597.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior
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