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Prepare your brand for tomorrow’s employees

How can you keep an eye on the next few years with a business pressuring you to focus on the short-term? The key is to focus on your employees, their networks, and a young, fresh outlook. Rebecca Ley writes

Whether you’re undertaking a rebrand or trying to future-proof your company from a potential economic downturn, long-term thinking can often be the antithesis to the way marketing is encouraged to work. How can you focus on what’s going to happen in three years, when you’re constantly under pressure to prove your ROI and value to the bottom line to the board?

Marketing leaders shared their top tips at a recent roundtable, and we spoke with IQVIA and Vodafone Business to understand how they balanced budgets with blue-sky thinking in their recent rebrands.

Focus on the next generation of employees

A key reason marketing leaders cited for rebranding their business was to entice new employees and be seen as an attractive brand for young people to work for. Many said they couldn’t recruit fast enough and therefore wanted to focus not just on driving new business, but using a new brand to bring in top talent.

Young people don’t stay in roles for very long, so many leaders are concerned with how to get them to hang around. Where a few years ago leaders would often only talk to the board about staff if there was a real problem, now they find themselves in regular conversation about how to appeal to a younger generation of workers.

For Jane Mackenzie-Lawrie, VP creative and marketing operations at IQVIA, information, technology and contract research services company operating in the healthcare industry, retaining talent was a key concern when rebranding following the merger between IMS Health and Quintiles. With more than 100,000 applicants to the company every year, it was important to get the employer brand right.

“You have to take your internal audience with you on a rebrand,” says Jane, “If your employees don’t understand culturally what your brand is trying to do, and what their role is, then you can’t hope to influence customers.”

Understanding what the brand means to your internal stakeholders is crucial to drive the company forward, and ensure the message is consistent. While it took just six months for IQVIA to take the new brand to the market, getting the message right internally will take much longer. With offices in more than 100 countries, it will take many years for every person in the organisation to buy into a new message. “It’s easier for new employees to buy into a new brand,” Jane explains, “But with existing employees, it’s about helping them change.”

The hashtag #braveminds is the way the employer brand is being pushed out globally, focusing on how IQVIA can make a difference in the world.

Social media is being used to boost brand recognition and reputation to influence a range of networks. “We used a new internal social platform called GOIQ to push messages to employees through different channels on topics they’re interested in,” Jane says. This then meant employees in turn shared posts to their own social media feeds, which influenced their own networks and customers. “Their friends might be future employees, so it makes a huge difference to our reach. We’re not splashing out vast amounts of money,” Jane explains.

Prepare to be flexible

According to the discussion among marketing leaders, as long as you’re tracking your marketing-sourced revenue, you can show the impact you’ve had to sales and the board and still justify long-term thinking. Having a good CRM system where everything is tracked and you’ve attributed sales to the customer journey as much as you can, means you can justify more tenuous results.

If the board buys into what you’re doing in the short-term, they’ll be more willing to trust you when you focus on wider gains. Our Leaders said it’s worth having something in your back pocket to keep the bosses off your back, but it’s not always worth doing something quick just to tick a box.

Jane agrees, explaining that listening to customer behaviour and how they are talking on different channels can give you valuable metrics to help weigh up your priorities and risks for the long-term.

“We built a new website and that takes a long time to build, so you’ve got to dig into feedback and be agile and flexible enough to change,” she says – something millennials are particularly familiar with.

This strategy is also essential when it comes to rolling out a new brand regionally and globally. Focusing on making things easier for people is one way to approach it, says Jane. “By centralising the function such as managing trade shows, you can centralise the messaging that appears globally.” IQVIA achieve this by creating a resource of material on a digital asset management system that marketers from all around the world can use. If people in every country can pull down DIY templates, it enables them to add or tweak content to a centrally-created brochure that they can then print locally. “Creating one source of the truth means being consistent with the message, but also allowing for local flexibility,” Jane underlines.

Navigate a brave new world

Leaders at the roundtable advised keeping your eye on political, economic and environmental concerns, because the marketing function often bears the brunt of any downturn. This fear of being scrapped is what shifts the attention to the next six weeks, rather than the next six months. This makes it more essential to prove you can affect short-term goals, but you shouldn’t forget about thought leadership. Investing in your brand rather than concentrating on the short-term sale is key to a flexible approach that means you’re ready for anything. If you’re looking at long-term crisis planning, get ready to slow down as well as accelerate was the advice from the discussion.

Jane says preparing for market changes is something that should be built into every project, as well as your brand. “We have a crisis management plan in existence which will roll into action depending on what the crisis is,” she explains.

“With a rebrand, you build in the worst that could happen and calculate risk.” This might mean learning to achieve your objectives with a reduced budget, or account for problems such as launching a brand where you can’t own the trademark. Whatever it is, you have to be agile and take the risks seriously. “You’ve got to figure out how to navigate a very difficult world.”

Vodafone finds putting the customer first improves employee engagement

Iris Meijer, CMO, Vodafone Business, explains how a customer-centric rebrand meant internal satisfaction soared.

 

After starting at the company last year, Iris immediately recognised that the team was very focused on the customer, solving challenges together and identifying the ideal technology for the job, delivering the best outcome for them. She realised the brand was a missed opportunity as it didn’t reflect this.

 

After research involving 3500 customers of all sizes, Iris discovered one thing they all had in common: a concern with digital transformation. She realised they all wanted a strategic partner to help with transforming their customer experience, and the brand had to reflect this.

 

While the refreshed brand shows customers at the centre of what Vodafone Business does, there was another positive side effect. “The internal engagement has been unbelievably amazing,” Iris says. “We received one piece of feedback that read, ‘It really feels like they have listened to us and given us legs to become even bolder.’ As a CMO, that makes me feel very warm inside.”

 

Internal employees responded as positively to the new visuals as customers, even across different markets despite cultural differences. She explains the focus on customer outcomes rather than just product is a crucial reason employees felt like they’d been listened to. “Even I was surprised by the impact the brand has had on our employees. It reinforced the company purpose and represented what they believe a Vodafone business is.” In a world that focuses more and more on technology, emphasising the human experience, with the customer at the heart of the business, has made the employees feel more connected to the brand.

 

Iris explains her aim is to show every employee how their work ties into the customer experience, whether you’re a financial analyst or engineer. “If you focus on trust and transparency, building your relationship with customers, your brand will be resilient through any crisis. You need a village to do that and I’ve been very fortunate to have one.”

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