Living Your Brand

Living Your Brand
Joel Newport
May 14, 2015

Recently, I was at a restaurant for my daughter’s birthday. A few tables away, a young man wearing navy dress whites was assisting two elderly women with their seats. I thought nothing of the well-mannered sailor, as my immediate assumption was that he was simply on leave and visiting relatives. A few minutes later I looked back over to the table to see that he was not dining with the older women, but was several tables away with a young woman his own age, apparently on a date.

When we meet a member of the military or see an ad thanking the brave men and women who serve our country, the phrase that is most commonly used is “Thank you for your service.” That really is the simplest way to sum up the brand of the branches of the U.S. military. Service.

But this sailor got me thinking about serving one’s country differently. He didn’t just serve his country on the battlefield or on a ship somewhere at sea; he served his country in everyday moments of life. The simple, kind act of helping an older person with her chair at a table was not just a nice thing to do, but an extension of his service-minded attitude. At least that’s how I saw it.

So how do you inspire employees who represent your company or organization to live your brand? Like the sailor who serves, we want employees to embrace their company’s mission, vision and values so that it can be embodied into the brand experience for the customer. Here are five ways to help you harness the power of employees as brand advocates.

1. Be clear.

In fact be crystal clear. If what you stand for is convoluted or complex, how can you expect your employees to get behind it? It can also potentially leave your brand open to interpretation that may lead to confusion in both the workplace and the marketplace.

2. Create a culture that supports your brand.

A company’s culture is not what is written on a wall or in an employee handbook. Culture is what is practiced day to day within a company. How employees interact with each other and how they work together is a direct reflection of the external view of your brand. You can’t be the “service” company if your employees aren’t willing to participate in acts of service toward each other. Whatever you tolerate or practice in your workplace is ultimately your brand.

3. Top down.

Or better yet – “practice what you preach.” If leaders within the company can’t embrace the brand culture, how can you expect employees to do so?

4. Hire the right people.

Most tasks within a company can be learned. Whether it’s a specific piece of software or a machine on the line, people can be taught how to use the tools correctly. Things like attitudes and beliefs, however, are harder to teach or to change. It’s important to have employees who are already in alignment with what kind of company you are. It’s easier for them to take pride and participate in the brand values of your company if they are in agreement with those values from the outset.

5. Let your employees make your brand their own.

Don’t directly dictate how your employees participate in your brand. It can’t be forced, but rather must come from the employee themselves. This gives them ownership of your brand and a stake in its success. If tips one through four are firmly in place and practiced regularly, number five will come naturally.

Your brand is the most valuable asset you have as a company, and when employees are your advocates, there’s nothing more powerful. As seen in the actions of the sailor in the restaurant, employees who fully embrace and practice your brand can provide a rewarding experience for anyone who comes into contact with them.