Brandchannel’s current featured article urges companies to ensure that their “employees act consistently with the brands they represent”, arguing that, if employees do not conform to the brand image, any other branding activity can suffer. Edwin Colyer, the article’s author asks for example, “Would you be troubled by a Ford dealer who prefers to drive Nissan cars?” That example is pretty uncontroversial, but he goes on to say internal brand alignment (as the process of internal branding is known) “is about encouraging employees to behave in certain ways. And that means dabbling in psychology.” Some of the methods highlighted seem just a little bit sinister – for example, Wal-mart is said to use its mainstream television adverts to “demonstrate appropriate behaviour to the company’s own employees.” However other suggestions seem sensible. Colyer argues that, if a company expects its employees to behave consistently with the brand image, those who head the company must lead by example. Also, employees should be consulted as they will be more likely to accept brand values that they have played a part in creating, rather than values that are imposed on them. Finally, he encourage human resources departments to only recruit employees whose “natural behaviour and values fit closely with the company brand.”

There is probably some truth in what Colyer is saying. People are motivated to apply to certain companies and to remain there once employed if they agree with the company ethos, so getting such employees to “toe the company line” won’t be too difficult and ought to be pretty painless for the workers. Similarly, a branding policy that is the result of genuine consultation with those who are bound by it ought not to cause employees too much difficulty. However, such consultancy has to be sincere – asking people their views and then ignoring what they say is likely to cause ill-will which may be detected by customers. At the end of the day, if the brand values are justifiable then they ought to be acceptable. This puts the onus on those who formulate the branding policy to focus on worthwhile values rather than just imposing a corporate identity for the sake of it, although an entire corporate entity espousing values of peace and light and other nice things can itself look too good to be true and seem sinister.

Such monocultural brands have been the target of an advertising campaign run by Excelsior, a small town in Minnesota. The town placed ads in the form of open letters in the local newspaper stating that certain named retailers such as Starbucks, Home Depot and The Hard Rock Café were not welcome in Excelsior (even though none of the firms had plans to open there) because they represented cultural conformity. The campaign has paid off for Excelsior as it has had nationwide press-coverage in the US and has received enquiries from companies that are interested in opening business there.

Conformists click here, here and here
Rebels click here, here, here and here
Internal alignment that went horribly wrong here

IF YOU WANT TO WORK HERE YOU'D BETTER CONFORM <strong>IF YOU WANT TO WORK HERE YOU'D BETTER CONFORM</strong> Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, August 18, 2003 Rating: 5

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