Internal Branding: The Secret
Ingredient to Organizational Success

When we think of branding, we often envision logos, taglines, and marketing campaigns aimed at capturing the attention of consumers. But there’s a lesser-known, equally vital aspect of branding that significantly influences an organization’s success: internal branding. While it might not get as much attention as its B2C (or B2B) counterpart, the benefits of internal branding stretch far beyond what meets the eye, influencing both internal dynamics and external perceptions in surprising ways.


The Essence of Internal Branding

Internal branding is all about promoting the company’s mission, vision, and values within the organization. It’s about ensuring that employees understand and embody the brand, creating a unified and motivated team. Unlike external-facing branding, which focuses on attracting and retaining customers, internal branding is about shaping a cohesive company culture, fostering a sense of identity among employees, and communicating the brand’s purpose to coworkers.

This often underestimated aspect of branding is crucial because it directly affects how employees interact with each other and external stakeholders. When people are aligned with the company’s values and mission, this reflects in their work, their communication, and ultimately, the way the company is perceived by the outside world.


Defining Departments’ Value

While building a holistic internal brand is vital to a company’s culture, branding individual departments are equally important—and often overlooked. By paying attention to how departments are internally perceived, they can clearly articulate their function and value within the organization. This not only improves internal communication but also enhances external communication by presenting a cohesive and consistent message.

One recent example was the Distribution Marketing team within a large entertainment organization we recently partnered with. Internally, there was confusion regarding the team’s responsibilities and expertise compared to the overall marketing department. They were seen as providers of lower-end services and go-betweens between the marketing department at large and various vendors. The Distribution Marketing team felt their contributions and value to the brand were undervalued and misunderstood.

To address this, an internal branding exercise was conducted, involving interviews with team members, stakeholders, and partners. This process highlighted the unique skills and specializations of the Distribution Marketing team, leading to the creation of a department mission statement and a capabilities deck to be used as part of internal communications. These helped elevate and clarify their purpose and function within the organization.

In an industry marked by frequent mergers, clearly communicating the department’s core expertise was crucial to prevent it from being absorbed into the general marketing department. This exercise not only clarified the department’s value but also strengthened its position within the organization.


Cultivating Pride and Belonging

Internal branding also has a profound impact on employee morale and their sense of belonging. When employees understand their role and see how their contributions fit into the larger picture, they feel more valued and engaged. This engagement, in turn, boosts overall productivity and job satisfaction.

For example, an experiential marketing team we recently worked with was perceived as merely handling merchandise and printing T-shirts. In reality, they were the masterminds behind large, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that were crucial to the success of the ad sales team. However, the lack of recognition led to low morale among team members.

An internal branding exercise was conducted to address this issue. The team was given a new name that better reflected their role in experiential marketing, along with new mission and vision statements, and a communications deck outlining their four areas of company contributions. This rebranding effort helped communicate their importance to both internal and external partners. As a result, the team received more funding for their projects, and employees experienced a greater sense of satisfaction and appreciation for their work. The transformation was not just in their external image, but in their internal confidence and cohesion as a team.


The Bigger Picture: Why Internal Branding Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought

Fulfilled and engaged employees are the cornerstone of a successful brand. When employees are aligned with the company’s values and feel a sense of pride and belonging, they are more likely to be innovative, efficient, and committed to their work. This, in turn, enhances the company’s external brand perception.

Internal branding creates a ripple effect. It starts with employees feeling understood and valued, which boosts their engagement and productivity. This positive internal environment leads to better customer service, higher-quality products, and more effective marketing efforts. Ultimately, a strong internal brand translates into a strong external brand.