Why Your Company Needs To Be 'Brandful'

Brands are valuable. And organizations spend nearly half a trillion dollars every year to introduce, promote and manage their brands. In 2012, Proctor & Gamble spent over $4.8 billion on advertising. Selling is an expensive proposition.

But it doesn’t have to be. Brands are finally starting to reap the value of social media and, as the 2013 Super Bowl proved, the brand value of one tweet can exceed the $3.5 million per-commercial ad spend.

Traditional advertising isn’t dead, but brands continue to look for ways to save money and use existing assets creatively.

Enter the workforce.  Talent and HR leaders know the value of an employer brand—essentially the reputation of your brand as a place to work. But in my previous role leading the employer brand function for Marriott International MAR NaN%, I had to do much more that that. Branding the workforce is telling a great story and getting future employees to want to be a part of the tale.

Storytelling is a common component of employer brands—employees sharing their work experiences as the face of the brand.  But what if employees were truly leveraged as the face of the brand? It’s beyond employer brand. It’s making your company what author Julia Gometz calls “brandful.”

Why Employees Are Key to Your Brand’s Success

Gometz, the former head of employee engagement for JetBlue, is the author of the new book The Brandful Workforce—a primer on how employees can be the most important component of your brand success.

We usually talk about brands in relation to the consumer, but Gometz uses “brandful workforce” to refer to a workforce that works for the brand, not against it. The idea is that your workforce is so enamored with the products and services they bring to the customer every day, they can easily get behind promoting them.

“Not because they have to, but because they want to,” says Gometz. And that results in magic, she says.

“I think back to my early days at JetBlue where there is magic in the air that you can feel. Employees seem like owners of these companies. They don’t just work there and collect a paycheck, they really care.”

Another benefit to having a brandful workforce is the viral marketing and free promotion that comes from employees. When employees are brandful they naturally generate press for their passion in both their work and their employer. It’s why we hear so much about Zappos.

But what if your brand isn’t fun like Zappos or luxurious like The Ritz-Carlton? Gometz says it’s not about what you do, it’s about making a connection. Take hospitals for example.

“It’s quite important to have everyone in a hospital – as an advocate for the services they provide. Creating a brandful workforce is simply about connecting the employees to the products and services they deliver, in a way that they can be crazy proud of.”

How to Get C-Level Buy-In
If only it were that easy. The big roadblock? The CMO. In most companies, the link between marketing and HR is weak, if it exists at all. In my role at Marriott, it took months to even get a meeting with the CMO. And even when I did, marketing leaders were hesitant to see a real marriage between the two functions.

Employees can play a big role in marketing. According to Gometz, the rise of social media and the power that any one individual can make on a brand means employees are a new channel where effective marketing can take place.

But it’s not just in the promotion of products and services.

“CMOs can see employees as actually involved in evolving the products and services and keeping them fresh and ahead of what consumers want,” says Gometz.

But Gometz says not all organizations are ready to be brandful.  First, leaders have to be on the same page answering these 3 key questions:

How do we make money?
What’s our customer promise?
What’s our employee promise?
And then, once aligned Gometz says, companies can focus on using The Brandful Workforce channels to extend the brand.

And she’s right–alignment is key. I often see organizations where many functions work in silos–not just marketing and HR. And that means employees may understand their own roles and functions but find it hard to find the deep passion to fully get behind the brand like, say a 12-year-old idolizes Taylor Swift.

But when aligned, the magic happens. Imagine the shift in the air when everyone has the same level of commitment and excitement as the leadership team. More importantly, there’s money to be saved. Marketing, meet HR. Start the romance already.