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Planning way beyond launch. Linking brand research to employee engagement

All good brand projects begin with strategy, and all good strategy starts with research.

The research phase of a brand project covers all sorts of areas, both internal and external to the organisation. I speak to employees at all levels, in interviews and focus groups, I run surveys, speak to customers and suppliers, audit the competition, review websites and sift through market data, read reports and marketing materials...

I love listening to employees. The real knowledge in any organisation does not sit in the boardroom. It’s with the people who are out there dealing with customers and suppliers every day, managing teams, getting hands on, selling. These people know whether the business is functional or dysfunctional. They often have great ideas about how to make it better. They know how well the brand works and what it means in action.

Research with employees throws up all sorts of valuable information and insight. Some of it is helpful in drilling down to an organisation’s ‘why’, revealing fundamental truths about a business and what drives it. But plenty more of the insight from employees is to do with how the business works, or doesn’t. It’s about culture, communication, structure and strategy.

I gather up and digest all of this important information and then present it back to the client, with recommendations, as one part of the output from the strategy phase. What happens next? We generally agree the brand strategy with the client and move on to the creative part of the brand project – the visual and verbal execution. But in all the excitement of new logos and colours, those valuable insights from the research phase can be put to one side, or even forgotten about altogether.

And that’s a problem. Because a shiny new brand won’t work if the organisation it is supposed to represent isn’t working. Like new paint on rust, it will crumble away.

Unless brand, employees and business strategy are all pointing in the same direction, all working together, a lot of time, effort and money can be wasted.

The results of the research phase can support the success of the brand, way beyond launch, but this possibility has to be built into the brand process. This is why I am working a lot more with clients on employee engagement, alongside creating and launching their new brands.

This is not about making sure everyone starts using the new corporate font and knows the brand values. Employee engagement stretches from remuneration to internal comms to team structures and training, and everywhere else there are people in a business. It’s about bringing a brand to life throughout an organisation. Making sure the brand is genuine and based in authenticity.

Aligning brand, employees and business strategy is an obvious recipe for success. But it’s not something to think about when a brand is ready to launch. We should make use of the common ground between brand strategy research and employee engagement, and make it an integral part of brand thinking and process, right from the start.

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