"What do you do?"
That’s usually one of the first questions someone asks a stranger when striking up a conversation and why almost as many branding opportunities present themselves outside the office, as they do inside. They manifest in unstructured formats, such as social gatherings away from work, instead of through formal channels like advertising campaigns. For this reason, every organization must recognize their public identity needs to be grounded within its staff if it’s to stand a chance of being accepted by others.
At Red Door Interactive we are always cultivating our brand first and foremost with our own team; we believe it is not just a logo or a name that establishes a company’s identity, but rather a collection of feelings, attributes, promises and expectations that a name symbolizes. Much like a human relationship, a brand should meet expectations, deliver on its promises and remain true to its ideals in order to build trust. We strive each day to reflect our core values to inspire, share, evolve and exceed; all the while, maintaining our "100% jerk free" policy.
That’s why we hope a conversation like this one never happens outside of our office:
"I work for Red Door Interactive."
"Oh what do they do?"
"We do a lot of web stuff. It’s hard to explain."
End of discussion. This sounds like an employee who just has a job, not a vested interest in the company. Here’s how you avoid that:
Conduct internal research to help determine how everyone on your staff views your values, brand awareness, business challenges, opportunities and trends. You can do one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders, or bring in outside experts to moderate a workshop or summit with decision-makers and the entire staff. This ensures employees take more ownership in the brand, as they become partners in reaching the goal of a clear, consistent identity.
Get staff excited by rewarding employees for not only understanding, but reflecting your brand to help them become passionate believers in the work that you do. Also, get staff members involved in new initiatives and strategies to keep them excited.
Reinforce your brand by using internal communication to emphasize the values and behaviors that mirror your identity. That keeps employees well versed in the messages you want to send your audience, with the ultimate goal that your messaging becomes second nature.
If done correctly, the end result is the fostering of more fruitful conversations like this one:
"I work for Red Door Interactive. We help companies succeed online. Some of our clients are Cricket Wireless, Souplantation, Rubio’s and Cox Communications. Right now, for example, I am working on [insert applicable client and their non-confidential objective here]."
So, one of our people might say, "Right now, for example, I am working on helping Sony Online Entertainment increase the number of people subscribing to their Free Realms game, while reducing the cost of each person we encourage to subscribe. We are doing that primarily through pay-per-click advertising on search engines."
Usually, whatever we’re working on stops them there and they say, "Wow, that is really cool."
"What do you mean ‘succeed’ online? Like build websites?"
"We do a lot more than just create websites. We call it Internet Presence Management and that means that our capabilities include everything from helping them acquire traffic through search engine optimization or online advertising, to converting that traffic better through testing and usability and retain their customers through email campaigns, social media and other tactics. The end-result is that we are here to help our clients make more money using the Web."
"Do you have a red door?"
"No, but we chose the name Red Door because we’re a friendly place that welcomes our clients and employees to work together and help each other win whatever their objective might be. A Red Door is a meaningful detail of a house and we all know how critical the details are in doing things right."
This discussion sounds more genuine, since it’s delivered by an employee that fully embraces the company’s identity and takes responsibility for developing it. Some people call them brand ambassadors or evangelists. Whatever the name, they are the best employee you can hope for and should be rewarded.
Once you develop a logo and unique identity, even before you go public with your messages, connect with those down the hall and closest to the brand. Critical word of mouth conversations begin with employees and volunteers, and eventually land with your audience. Avon, Starbucks and Google are three very successful examples of brands that got off the ground exclusively using word of mouth.