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Internal Brand Strategy
Change in organisations has been necessitated by different forces. Going through certain transforming changes, strategic, operational and cultural helps a business to avoid hazards and fully benefit from opportunities (Kotter 1996).One specific way is through branding. According to (Cottle and Nolan 2009), non governmental organisations (NGOs) field has become crowded hence a rising of competition, leading NGOs to position themselves in the marketplace by communicating meanings and values through brands. However brand success starts within the company through internal branding, which simply defined is a way to align staff behaviour with brand values to deliver desired customer experience (MacLaverty et al 2007).
Employees, top level down need to be consistent with the brand itself for any other brand strategies to be successful. If employees don't understand and support brand messages, it's doubtful anyone else will. Supporting and understanding is not enough, employees should endeavour to fulfil the brand promise. Change such as internal branding in organizations is not easy to implement. Moreso in network organizations as NGOs, who have a decentralised business structure and employ staff from different continents. Such is the case with World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).
WWF is made up of over 40 organisations from around the world coming together to form the network to reach a common goal. Some of the organisations came with their own culture. This has resulted in much variation in ways of operating and fragmentation within WWF. This is indicated in the logo which went from inconsistency, illegibility, confusion, to diluted impact.
Furthermore there is confusion regarding the name WWF itself. WWF originally stood for "World Wildlife Fund". In 2001, the name was changed to "World Wide Fund for Nature" to cover all activities done by the organization. Some countries such as United States and Canada opted to maintain the old name. This has led to confusion although the network uses WWF as its global name.
WWF currently has competitive brand values rooted from its founders in Switzerland. Values such as seriousness, trusted, respected. Culture internally is also one of modesty and professional integrity.Hence the current brand has been effective. As a result WWF have 5 million and Passport (WWF's international campaigning tool, has over 100,000 volunteer activists from more than 170 countries).
However many achievements of WWF are not communicated to media and potential stakeholder should be. It is therefore assumed internally there is a lack in this area encouraging a culture of passivity. Employees need reinforcement and recognition of their contribution to the organization. At this point communication of brand seems to have been left to each country to choose its own approach hence, fragmentation. All network offices have access to intranet with variation of resources in each country, which appears to be underutilised.
One of WWF's major challenges at present is geography. With 40 offices operating autonomously it is difficult to maintain uniformity. In addition, non-profit organizations tend to be decentralized, with little formal hierarchy. This means doing activities that are meant to protect or update the brand often meets with misunderstanding internally (Quelch 2010). Another challenge is language. With 5400 employees, speaking more than 15 languages, it is difficult maintaining same meaning in brand values; it can be lost in translation.
Organisational culture which is closely linked to language is also an issue. What is meant in one organisation as an important value may be viewed as non essential in the next. Furthermore country organisations have been doing things in their own ways which means cultures have become deeply ingrained and difficult to change (Kotter 1996).
60% of WWF's funds come from individuals. This leaves them vulnerable as donations given depend on the amount of free money donors will have. A recent example is the economic crisis which saw businesses and individuals cutting back all costs, the larger part of this being donations to charities and NGOs. Many NGOs are looking for new ways to raise money. The global economic crisis is reducing private donations, causing many dependent NGOs to downsize (Global policy 2010).
The overall desired business outcome is to help organizations speak with one voice about its mission, vision, and values. WWF understand they need to be seen with a consistent identity and personality worldwide. A more crucial objective is to be viewed more credibly among stakeholders, hence improvement of their effectiveness in conservation.
Internally WWF's objective is to aalign employees with the new positioning, in order to create a brand identity accurately reflecting the network's activities and mission, and resonates with employees and volunteers. All employees should understand the need to maintain brand values through out their work processes. Employees must “live the brand”. According to (Alcorn et al 2008) an engaged employee, understands what the organization is trying to do and why. This employee is enthusiastic and clear about the relationship between his tasks and organization's goals.
A top down approach is best method to communicate the repositioning. This is because firstly change is difficult to implement unless the top of the organisation is in support (Kotter 1996). In addition it contributes to success of the project, as understanding can be passed on well. Leadership and management fully understand systems and structures in their organisations and know how best to angle change.
Top down approach is used because of two major factors. First being language. Information is better passed down and understood in native languages. Meaning can be lost in translation; hence the goal is to ensure top management understand fully before passing down information to teams below in their own languages. Secondly, the budget for the project is limited, this approach has low costs. With this approach the intention is to have willing collaborators in employees. This strategy will involve directors and managers taking ownership of the change.
To lead the transformation and ensure everything is going the right direction a leader is required. Employees in large, older firms often have difficulty getting a transformation process started because of lack of leadership (Kotter 1996). The best will be International President of the Secretariat in Switzerland. The President should motivate all network organisations and employees to embrace the necessary change and innovation needed. Director General of the Secretariat should also act as a wingman to the President.
To support efforts of the President, the secretariat office should form a team. As the secretariat is responsible for coordinating international campaigns and developing policies and priorities, all internal brand messages should emanate from there. Furthermore secretariat directors from all departments of WWF Network namely conservation, communications and marketing, operations, and executive affairs should be part of the team. The team from the secretariat become brand champions. This means they will be in charge of the strategy. This team should be well informed and aid the President in inspiring the brand to the rest of the 40 countries.
On country level, the first point of contact will be the heads of the 40 countries who will be custodians of the brand and become brand ambassadors. Leading by example, through motivating and inspiring the workforce to believe in the brand, heads should create an environment challenging and optimistic at the same time credible and accountable.
The presidents will be responsible for educating directors who will in turn train brand reposition to managers. Directors should educate managers about brand values and promise ensuring everyone is in line with mission and values of the brand. They should ensure all business processes support and maintain the brand. Managers will then transfer knowledge to their subordinates. These are the most important point of call for the organisation because they are front line of the organisation. Staff is who the public and potential sponsors see in action.
Marketing and communications in coordination with the secretariat team are to communicate the brand. They should support leadership in delivering communication, ensuring visibility of the brand and enlisting the help of Human Resources (HR) team. When it comes to brand building from inside out, marketing and HR should become aligned to share an objective of making sure employees clearly identify their role in upholding and delivering the brand promise. However it's not enough for marketing to involve HR only in implementing brand values, every discipline and function in the organisations should be involved.
The network has no clear structure of how things run. HR should be an effective channel to reach all employees as HR works with an organisations 's employees, new and old, reaching across functions and the company. In future HR should be supportive by
employing people who match the brand promise and fashion their training to support the brand promise. Training new hires about the network's vision and brand values helps new employees better understand the business, to create new brand ambassadors.
Below is an illustration of the flow of communication.
The main short term objective is to raise awareness and understanding of the new brand positioning, build support for impending change. Messages should inspire and encourage participation of all employees in building and maintaining the new brand. For long term the intention is to ensure employees believe personally in making a difference and acting in line to deliver the brand promise through their work. And understand need for consistency with the brand to contribute to the overall image of WWF as part of the 40 countries.
As mentioned earlier meaning can be lost through translations. There are a lot of non-english speaking employees. Marketing and communications departments of each country should work in collaboration with the secretariat team to ensure meaning is maintained. Consistency and simplicity of messages is also crucial for employees to understand (Kotter 1996).
Suggested measurable objectives are:
• 85 percent of staff understands all key messages
• 75 percent of staff understands WWF's core purpose
• 75 percent of staff understands WWF's brand vision
• 75 percent of staff understands WWF's new behaviours
• 75 percent of staff understands their role in helping achieve the brand promise
Create a title for the brand strategy to create excitement about the project; a suggestion is “The Panda Rising”. Three types of messages will be sent, beginning with market research that inspired the repositioning initiative. Provision of information on what the organisation is missing in order to take advantage of future funding opportunities and rewards. Images of the old brand can be used here with explanations. To encourage understanding of how internal brand, data such as awareness levels of brand should be relevant to each country. (Kotter 1996) says when preparing for change leaders should create a sense of urgency, this reduces reluctance of employees to engage in processes and creates a platform for messages to be received.
The second message to be sent will be the new brand position. Inspiring visions of the future include good brand elements, i.e. ethical, serious, trusted, respected, and moderate. New visual elements and tagline of the brand are to be explained. The point is to communicate how this new brand will address missing characteristics of the old brand, while aiming to have employees knowledged about the brand positioning features (Lebard et al 2006).
Third message will highlight where employees come in. How can they stay on the brand and how will that benefit them and WWF's brand values. Consistency should be emphasised, becoming one team with other organisations, striving to speak in the same voice. Messages will appeal to long term interests of employees. Employees become believers in the brand.
The last message, to reinforce and identify the kind of behaviours expected of employees. Recognition of people and rewarding of people who actively deliver the brand promise should be sent around the whole network.
WWF has a small budget to use for this internal campaign. Tools suggested are low cost and environmentally friendly.
The organisation already has an intranet set up. This tool can be used to spearhead brand communication and is a good forum for all employees to access information. Intranet will facilitate distribution of material from marketing and communications, not only digital brand but any information organisations need to distribute. Options for all languages should be installed. Intranet can be used further to ensure the brand and all relevant information pertaining to it is kept current. Newsletters are distributed through the intranet in order to promote ongoing awareness.
Intranet tools are plentiful and enable streamlining of business. Intranet applications such as discussion tools, document sharing can be used .Live video web conference will also be used. Time differences between countries can be overlooked allowing large rooms of people at different locations to interact with one another effectively without any travelling. This can be done online through an upgrade of the intranet.
The webcast can be saved in intranet as part of Q n A about the brand. Recordings can be accessed anytime. These tools facilitate an ongoing sense of feeling being connected and continuity of information. They encourage future interaction between network organizations where members share emotional support which is crucial to sustaining enthusiasm.
PowerPoint and other visual displays can be shared live. Virtual whiteboards allow people from different locations to add their ideas into one collaborative space by asking questions using microphones. Cheap options are available if one does not require more advanced features and it saves time, is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
For those areas with limited resources, especially access to internet, the best methods could be E-mails with sophisticated electronic bulletins incorporating images, sound, and video, as well as written messages. The web cast can be sent by email as well. Communications can be distributed to employee's internal mailbox for more personalized viewing. Screensavers or desktop items can act as visual reminders.
The most important tool to be used will be a painting of the brand reposition. The painting can be cut down into sections for better understanding for every section of employees to see where they fit it and what they gain. This tool is best as it transcends cultures and language barriers. Pictures are language everyone can understand, invoke emotions and attachments necessary for the brand training. Physical marketing items such as posters of the picture will be posted as reminders. A sample is provided below.
It is important to measure success of the brand reposition. This will give an indication of the understanding of the whole organisation top to bottom. As indicated in the action plan below, the first way to check for this will be after every level in the first stage there will be a testing of understanding using an interactive tool. At different stages to evaluate effectiveness of the program, a survey will be conducted with staff to gauge awareness and understanding of the mission, behaviours, values and their roles in bringing these to life. This survey will be done through intranet. Results will be included in training for the next stage.
The plan to present the new brand position to employees it is important to ensure everyone is on the same page about the brand from Directors to volunteers. This is because if at any point in the information chain one level does not fully understand, the information passed along will be different from the desired brand, resulting in inconsistency. According to (Vallaster and deChernatony 2005)'s model of leadership based brand building, leaders can enhance awareness and gain acceptance through verbal and non verbal communication matching the brand vision. Leadership must ensure they understand their audience as shown below.
It is important to remember when implementing the action plan that there are differing reactions to change. Individuals have different response patterns, some people enjoy change, are stimulated by it. Others dislike it, preferring to maintain things as they are. It is important to note changing brand values is connected to changing culture of the company; this is why some people may react in as presented below. Culture is deeply imbedded and difficult to change.
The model by Kubler Ross above shows people go through four stages when confronted with change (Yukl 2007). The first stage is denial where people are shocked and fear change. This would be equated to the first stage of the action plan. Second stage people begin to realise what is involved and may resist, get angry, or depressed. In the third phase acceptance and understanding as they realise change is inevitable. Last stage is commitment, where people are willing to work towards the goals. This process is noted in stages below of the action plan.
Ellwood (1994) says any message from the top takes a while to become practise at the front of the business. This is why the strategy stretches for three stages, checking for understanding at every stage.
Culture change should come last. According to (Kotter 1996) once a culture shift has occurred through the brand reposition the rest of the change effort becomes more realistic and easier to put into effect. Culture changes only after successfully managing to change people's actions when they see the connection between new actions and improvement in performance. However the stage for this has already been set in early stages where change in behaviours and attitude by showing how the old brand was passive but the new brand will encourage more promotion and publishing of achievements.
Organisations of the network need to change their systems, i.e. cultures to ensure they remain in support of the brand promise. This is part of speaking in one voice. Furthermore another change in culture is recruitment of staff. All network organisations should ensure new staff match the brand position. Training of new employees is part of necessary bottom-up tactics. This is the best time to start showing the standards of how one is expected to perform (Lamos 2005).
The process of creating and maintaining a brand culture - internal brand alignment - requires more than a manual and a slide presentation. Organisations should take into account use of local language, type of messages, technology and budget available. Leadership must be at the helm of this change and must themselves actively live the brand in order for the rest of the employees to believe in it. The most important result is reached when employees top level down actively deliver the brand promise and become brand ambassadors. Culture change comes last.
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