This article focuses on how each employee is able to understand and express your brand. Do you have a dialogue where direction and differentiation are clearly communicated and understood?

It is about being able to answer three simple questions
The most logical and fundamental questions which companies think are difficult to answer also form the starting point for describing the company’s identity. Without such a description, the storytelling becomes challenging, and it also becomes virtually impossible to build a culture which employees are proud of and which customers want to be part of.

- Where are we coming from?
- Why are we here?
- Where are we heading?

These are three extremely fundamental questions which require a lot of thought before the answers can enable you to both differentiate yourself and mediate an attractive story to your employees. Everyone has a history, but surprisingly few use it as valuable capital. It is this history which sets you apart from all your competitors and which represents one of the very few resources which are truly positioning. Whether you like it or not, most qualities that you possess are hygiene factors. You must work incredibly hard on these factors in order to be competitive, but it is the way in which you are screwed together and the way in which you communicate that differentiates you.

Waffle irons and impact-absorbing soles
The story of Nike is an excellent example of ‘employee branding’. Nike’s story began in Eugene and Coos Bay, Oregon around 46 years ago. During the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Nike went straight for the throat of the German home favourites, Adidas. The difference in the marketing was however striking. Adidas sold running shoes, while Nike sold “Running”. When they came up with the world’s first impact-absorbing sole, they did not communicate the functional innovation itself, but introduced ‘Rock star running’. They played on feelings. And pride.

“From the start, community has been at the core of who Nike is and what we do. We are proud of our heritage — from Eugene to Coos Bay, to Fossil, Beaverton and Portland. Our history is rooted on the trails, courts, fields and tracks of these communities.”

Nike's Founder, Phillip H. Knight and Chairman, President and CEO, Mark G. Parker

Over all these years, Nike has built its history on their origins. The story of the impact-absorbing sole has a pivotal place, and the prototype was made in the waffle iron of track and field coach Bill Bowerman’s wife. You can copy running shoes. You can copy impact-absorbing soles too. But no one can copy the brand story and expect to be believed. Nike has realised this.

Solid results
Allow me to also share some research results from Harvard Business School. Harvard has researched 20 different sectors and identified three common denominators which characterise the 250 most profitable enterprises that they studied. Year after year. These common denominators are ‘identity’, ‘storytelling’ and ‘culture’. These companies have described their identity in a way which contributes to an effective storytelling which ultimately builds a culture which both employees and customers want to be part of.

These enterprises score better on critical parameters, such as bottom line growth (4x), job creation (7x), growth in share price (12x) and profit performance (7.5x). I often use this example when I meet MBAs, engineers and lawyers on the other side of the table, who perhaps limit brand-building to a logo, profile and colours on packaging, and a PowerPoint template.

Do you also deliver functionally, emotionally and socially?
All irresistible brands leave behind clear footprints. They offer precisely what their target groups are looking for. This means that they deliver on three levels of conscious and sub-conscious user needs: the functional, social and emotional. This is also most certainly true in a B2B market.

“Clients do not come first. Employees do!
If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Richard Branson

When a brand makes a strong and natural connection across these layers, it is convincing and irresistible because the feelings it creates are reflected both functionally and socially. If you are able to achieve and maintain this, you will gain not only sustainable irresistibility, but also employees who are enthusiastic marketers every single day. It is this that the Americans call “Employee branding”, in contrast to “Employer branding” which is perhaps used more here.

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