Recently, I had the good fortune to present at Gallup’s world headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. What an impressive and inspiring campus, filled with equally impressive individuals. I was in town to roll out the results of a national study that Campos Inc conducted for Catholic Charities USA, but I was invited to sit in on a session that followed mine with one of the brilliant Gallup strategists, Ed O’Boyle. And, as luck would have it, his subject was one of my favorites: Inside-Out Branding.
For those of you who think of Gallup primarily as a political polling firm, or for employee engagement insights using their StrengthsFinder® program, you will be surprised to hear that Gallup has put significant time and attention into connecting the dots between employee engagement and brand loyalty—essentially, the same concept we have been talking about on this blog as inside-out brand strategy for the last several years. And the research that Gallup has published on this subject is eye-opening. Consider these statistics from the vast pool of Gallup research initiatives:
Only 42% of employees could accurately describe the brand of the company they work for.
Only 33% employees would recommend their brand to the family and friends.
Only 25% think that their organizations always delivers on their brand promise.
If employees don’t know what the company stands for or understand what makes their brand different, how can they advocate for it? And if a brand’s own employees won’t advocate for it, why would we think anyone else will? According to Gallup, front-line or customer-facing employees are among the worst brand ambassadors.
So, if we believe (as we do!) that “brand” is defined as “the discipline that guides the way an organization Thinks, Acts and ultimately, Communicates,” then it is impossible to separate the brand from the organization’s Vision, Values and Voice. In an ideal world, the brand promise itself is constructed on a firm foundation of what the company stands for, or doesn’t stand for, and what differentiates it from it competitors —all attributes that originate inside, versus outside, the company. If brands START building the brand from inside the company, the likelihood that the employees become the brand’s first ambassadors is substantively improved. And this deeply held understanding of the brand promise ultimately translates into customer engagement. After all, how do your customers experience your brand? Most often, one way or another, it is through their interactions with your employees.
According to Gallup:
“The highest-performing companies deliver on their brand promise 75% of the time, according to their customers. These companies have greater levels of customer engagement, which enables them to surpass their competitors in terms of share of wallet,
profitability, revenue and relationship growth.”
“Only 27% of employees strongly agree that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers.”
So if the delivery of the brand promise resides substantively with employees, and if they are, as Gallup points out, “the driving force behind a brand,” they must understand exactly what the brand promise is and deliver on it consistently. And our obligation as leaders, marketers, and researchers must be to stop looking only at our customers—only outside our companies—to define our brands, and start with taking a good hard look at what is going on inside our companies, and how, exactly, our external brand aligns with that internal reality.