Nearly every company can do better at what we call Invertising, or marketing your company from the inside, out. Invertising works like this: your people know they are driven by a clear purpose. Your people become happier and perform better. Your people are more and more inspired by your vision, values, and goals, so they always do everything they can to make those a reality.
Just like advertising, Invertising requires deep thought and creativity. And like any marketing program, invertising needs a long-term strategy. First, you have to know your audience and what motivates them — both positively and negatively. Second, you have to involve them. Their insights will make your company smarter and help them buy into the culture you’re building together. This works whether you’re trying to improve customer experience or rebrand the company.
First and always: Choose transparency. Whether you’re newly forming or reactivating a brand, be transparent with your team from the get-go. Planning a grandstanding reveal or brand rollout without first tapping your people can cause uncertainty, and ultimately lead to disloyalty if that uncertainty is never truly satisfied.
Because internal change communication can feel generic and removed from employees’ realities, most are naturally cynical and suspicious about change. The following three moves will help keep your team naturally inspired by (and more supportive of) your brand in the long run.
Keep the curtain open. Don’t push yourself to have a crystalline speech or announcement prepared — just tell everyone what you’re doing and offer some background to clarify the purpose behind your decision. Be honest, and invite people to get involved, share their ideas and help. Answer every question you can as soon as you can. Encourage more questions.
Even if you’re working with an outside agency, find ways to tap your team for insights throughout the process. By giving them the power to help shape the brand, you’re demonstrating that your people are your brand — something a lot of companies say, but never demonstrate.
Group workshops centered around focused questions are an efficient way to involve as many people as possible, and to keep the loudest voice in the shop from being the only one that’s heard. Workshops are also a great opportunity to uncover the nitty-gritty soul of your brand. Examples of focused questions you might workshop through are things like: What motivates your team to come to work every day? What satisfaction do they find working here that they haven’t found anywhere else? To your team, what is the higher purpose of what your brand provides to your customers (keywords: To your team)?
Well-facilitated workshops give people a chance to share ideas that can influence the company — and influence each other — helping to create emotional buy-in and support. The goal is never alignment around a lowest common denominator, or to dilute your brand strategy so that everyone sees themselves in it. The goal is that everyone feels heard, and understands the why behind the element(s) ultimately chosen as the thing(s) your brand can truly own — whether it was their idea or not.
Think of workshops as an evolved, more sophisticated version of sending around a survey or two (which adds work to your team’s day without adding much fun or inspiration in the process), and a more inclusive exercise than conducting a focus group (which can feel cold and exploitative).
Core values nobody knows and purpose statements hidden in dusty binders aren’t inspiring or useful. If your brand’s playbook is stale or just plain missing, consider that a wide-open opportunity.
By inviting your team to relate to the brand both creatively and independently, everyone naturally gains a deeper stake in the culture. With a solid brand foundation in place — Vision, Values, Purpose, Mission, etc. — work with your team to fortify these promises, and contribute ways to bring them to life.
Your playbook doesn’t have to be complex. There are plenty of strategic shortcuts between your brand foundation and simple, meaningful actions you and your team can use to support the brand every day. For example, Starbucks employs six “differentiators” as part of an internal playbook for change. For you, maybe three to four memorable mantras that everyone knows by heart can help guide service delivery and product development.
Archetypes are another way to simplify and clarify your brand personality. Think of archetypes as a shortcut for ascribing relatable, deep and powerful meaning to your brand and how everyone internally can connect with the world through the brand.
During a brand refresh for Kirkland’s, a home goods retailer, our research connected the brand to the Innocent archetype. The home decor store chain embodies the values of faith, hope, beauty and togetherness. And because the home decorating experience supports the human yearnings for happiness and renewal, the Kirkland’s brand resonates with people in accordance with a powerful emotional driver: To create a happy place for everyone who enters the home. To follow suit, we recommended some store-level action items inspired by the Innocent archetype.
A few store-level ideas from the Kirkland’s brand playbook:
At an individual level, store associates might wear brighter colors, and encourage shoppers that anything they want to recreate at home is possible — without the pressure of perfection. Also, store associates for an innocent brand would never be authoritative or negative, always approachable and positive.
Whether it’s through mantras, archetypes or another strategic shortcut, give your team a way to fully relate to your brand, inspire it, and deliver who your company is to the world, over and over.
By including + inspiring your team, you’re giving them something bigger to be part of, and to share.