Employers spend thousands of dollars on various marketing tactics to promote their brands and messages, but if their own employees don’t believe in it – what’s the point? After all, employees can be a company’s greatest marketing tool, but by forgetting this, companies are setting themselves up for suboptimal customer experiences and a negative impact on their bottom line.
Southwest Airlines is one company who has moved in the opposite direction by embracing their employees as part of the marketing discussion. The airline’s employees not only believe in the brand – they live it! This past weekend, I had the privilege of listening to their senior VP of culture and communications discuss this exact topic at the National Association of Women MBAs conference. Regardless of your opinion of the airline, there is no doubt that employee brand advocacy is one of their competitive advantages.
From a pilot who held a plane for a grandfather trying to make his three-year-old grandson’s funeral to an employee who followed up with a customer who was miles away undergoing surgery, Southwest employees understand the “big” picture. They feel like true stakeholders in the airline’s overall success and understand that a customer’s decision to choose Southwest starts with them.
If you’re really looking to build employee brand equity, here is Southwest’s method, with a few additional tips that I think also help.
• Develop employee understanding of the brand through consistent messaging. Make sure you tell the same positive brand story in everything you communicate to your employees – this applies to your actions as a company too!
• Motivate employees to deliver the desired message by ensuring employees know what is expected of them and what they will get in return. Don’t give room for confusion.
• Gather feedback from your employees: Ask them what they think of the brand and what they think the company should do to improve its image. They are key stakeholders in that process as well.
• Pay attention and offer rewards for a job well done. Listen to what your employees are saying about themselves and each other. If they meet expectations and/or go above and beyond, make sure to take notice and recognize them.
• Create an environment where creativity is promoted. When an employee feels part of the business, they will more likely think outside the box and treat the company like their own.
• Create a community among your employees. Coordinate employee outings and use social media for employees to further connect.
Is your company doing something that keeps you engaged and invigorated about the brand? If so, let us know below!