It was refreshing to see the news recently that Müller plans to train non-marketers from other areas of the business in an attempt to forge a “more disruptive” brand building philosophy. It’s about time that big brands realise that marketing is no longer reserved for sales and marketing departments alone. It doesn’t matter whether a company has two employees or two thousand, it’s important that every member of staff not only knows what the business stands for and what its values are, but can also embody behaviours that support that. External appreciation of a brand’s philosophy can only really happen once employees themselves embrace and model these fundamental beliefs.
Müller’s initiative reflects Maverick’s Thinking Inside Out™ approach to brand engagement.
This sees us working with major brands like DHL and Bacardi to help them listen to the business in order to define a meaningful brand proposition. We then help them to align their employees and management team around a common vision, set of values and corporate culture. Once all of this is in place, businesses are then equipped to express their brand proposition creatively and develop comprehensive customer and employee engagement programmes.
Why is this process so important? If employees across the business do not feel invested in the brand’s philosophy and approach to marketing, then how are they supposed to sell these values to customers?
The concept of brand values is big and ambitious. Customers perceive a brand through its marketing initially, and then via their brand experience. Consumers are influenced as much by their experience of a product as by the product itself, and employees are often the face of that experience. If there is a gap between the two, brand mistrust emerges. Brand perception is governed by a series of inter-related touch points, only some of which are overseen by the traditional ‘marketing’ remit. Many touch points, such as calls to customer service centres and interactions between the sales force and customers, sit outside the traditional marketing organisation.
In light of this companies need to become marketing vehicles, powered by employee engagement, in order to design, build, operate and renew their customer-centric approach. Employees perceive their company brand values not by being told what they are, but from the experiences they have, day in, day out. This is played out via the quality of interpersonal relationships they have at the organisation, through the quality of the communications that run through the business and, fundamentally, by how listened to people feel.
Therefore in order to manage external brand reputation, we have to manage internal brand perception. Company values need to be inhabited and demonstrated at the highest levels of the organisation. If people see a gap between the values on the wall and what they actually experience, they lose trust in the values.
Managers should be provided with support and training, enabling them to understand the kinds of behaviours which support the values, and the ones that might get in the way. There should be training put in place to enable people to relate the values to their role, and understand the behavioural framework that will underpin each of the values.
It’s time for an overhaul of the way in which businesses think about brand values. Senior management teams need to recognise that establishing a brand philosophy is a long-term mission rather than another box that needs to be ticked and then forgotten about. Müller is setting a fantastic example for other brands through its latest initiative and hopefully other companies will follow suit.