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  • Posted by: Sarah McLaughlin on Thursday, October 17 2013 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

    If you’ve ever been around a precocious child, you are no stranger to the question, “Why?” And then when you answer that question, it’s followed up by another thought provoking question… “Why?”

    Eventually we all grow out of the “but why” stage, yet it doesn’t mean that the question no longer exists in our head. A clarity and purpose as to why you’re doing something drives motivation, especially in the workplace.

    It’s no secret that companies spend tons of money researching consumers so they can talk to them in the most effective way. Yet many of those same companies don’t invest the same resources in learning how to communicate to their own workforce.

    Recent studies have shown that how companies speak to employees through their internal messages and behavior is a valuable investment in employee engagement. According to a 2011 Towers Watson study, companies with the most effective employee communication have a 48% higher shareholder returns over the last five years.

    If you’re looking for a brand that excels in this type of communication, look no further than Nike. Over the past five years its stock price has increased 121%. Perhaps how the brand answers the question, “why,” for its employees has contributed to some part of that growth.

    Steeped in a rich brand DNA, Nike takes pride in and communicates its heritage to every single employee who comes to work for the swoosh. As a former MBA intern at the company, I got to experience first hand how Nike engages its employees. Prior to my arrival, I had only been influenced and inspired by their consumer facing stories. As a passionate Nike loyalist, I was eager to see how it all came together from an employee perspective.

    The first day you show up on the Nike campus, you are immersed in a 360 deep dive exploration about why the company exists, its vision and its brand maxims. You learn about brand history from senior leaders in the company, many who have worked at Nike since the beginning. It’s without a doubt an awe-inspiring, “lets go out there and kick some butt together,” experience.

    Nike Swoosh

    The Nike brand maxims are a 10 Commandments type list, although there are 11, that govern employees and emphasizes their reasons to believe in Nike. They are nothing like a typical employee handbook tossed aside after the first day. At Nike, the Maxims have infiltrated nearly every internal brand interaction.

    If you’re in a meeting and things are getting complicated, someone will ultimately say “Simplify and Go,” (Maxim #4). A decision will be made and the group will move on. When you’re planning a brand event you may hear, “We are on the offense. Always.” (Maxim #10).

    It’s an inspiring call to action that engenders empowerment, drives engagement and creates a mindset synonymous with going to battle. Your colleagues are your comrades in arms. When you and your team are looking to break new ground you’re always thinking, “It’s in our nature to innovate.” (Maxim #1)

    The commitment to the messages Nike sends to employees can also be seen at The Maxim Awards. Like the academy awards, the Maxims at Nike recognize superior work. An award is given for each one of the 11 Maxims to an employee or team that has brought the true meaning and vision of that maxim to life during the previous year. Maxim award presenters will often have very famous names such as former NFL player Jerry Rice or Carolyn Davidson, the woman who created the swoosh. Putting the person who drew the swoosh on equal footing as an NFL Hall of Famer sends the message to the employees that both accomplishments and contributions to the brand are equally valued.

    You can easily see Nike’s internal brand mindset infused in its external marketing communications. The FuelBand copy such as “I will defy winter and conquer Nike fuel missions,” or “I will crush my personal best,” is the same type of authentic, “on the offense” attitude used internally. With any great messaging platform, the brand repeatedly emphasizes the same messages but with fresh, varied expressions. By doing this, you can immediately see what the brand and the FuelBand stands for.

    Thinking you want to try this with your company and have no idea where to start? Start with the answer to the question “Why?” Figure out why your company exists and why it’s important and then reinstate that belief in your company. And if things start getting to complicated, just simplify and go.

    Sarah McLaughlin is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Amanda Munilla on Monday, June 3 2013 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

    Repair the Rockaways

    Games are nothing new. Competition and the need for rewards and recognition are innate in humans. Mobile technologies and apps such as Foursquare, Yelp, Wii and Kinect have all tapped this need and made gaming relevant across demographics.

    In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the US's northeast, Repair the Rockaways, a Zynga-produced game raised money for recovery efforts. More recently, the beta version of Google Glass demonstrated the potential to gamify nearly any task in real-time. Games can even be used to help tackle abstract, future-facing challenges like resource scarcity and talent recruitment, as Siemens pioneered with Plantville.

    Games spur action and participation. Gamification can include using badges to show merit (you’ll remember those from your scouting days), creating leaderboards, and using those impulses of competition to encourage desired behavior.

    Games can also test understanding, gain constituent feedback and help guide decision-making. In the business world, gaming has become a common way for organizations to reach customers. According to Mashable, more than 70% of Fortune 200 companies use games for customer retention and marketing.


    Companies are increasingly using games to motivate their workforces. Brands like Walmart have used gamification to improve customer service through employee engagement, a strategy presented at The Conference Board's Extending Your Brand to Employees conference in May.

    Interbrand was also there, presenting alongside BNY Mellon on the importance of influencing employee behavior to drive desired business outcomes. Customer relationships are the core product in the B2B space, and gaming is a great tool for driving employee engagement.

    For gaming to be a powerful tool, however, it has to be underpinned by a solid strategy — one that is set to move the needle and prompt workforce action. To derive value from gaming, company leaders should ask themselves: What are my objectives and desired behaviors? What kind of games will work in my organization's culture? What incentives will prove effective at driving change?

    BNY Mellon conducted a robust exercise to identify the key behaviors in employees that would unlock the business strategy, as well as structured a system of cues and rewards to incentivize employees. This case serves as a great example of how a company can get employees, dispersed across the world, to collaborate on developing the right behaviors to drive the business forward. In the coming years, B2B brands will have to increasingly employ these strategies in creating sustainable momentum across their organizations.

    Amanda Munilla is a Senior Consultant in Interbrand New York's Strategy Department.

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  • Posted by: Dan Spiegel on Tuesday, September 25 2012 04:16 PM | Comments (0)
    Working at Pret A Manger

    Photo from Pret A Manger's website, Working at Pret

    Lately I find I have eaten a considerable amount of lunches at Pret a Manger, the London-based pre-made sandwich shop. Thinking about one great experience after another, I grew curious about how Pret continues to over-deliver on my expectations. I did a little research on the company to learn more.

    The fundamentals of the business strategy are tight: provide a streamlined menu, prepare food the day of consumption, use local ingredients, charge a price roughly equivalent to a fast food value meal and get the customer in and out of the store in under 5 minutes.

    This strategy actually affords the brand an ability to beat the traditional giants on their own promises. Who else can deliver the freshness and speed Pret has to offer?

    Beyond speed and freshness, Pret really differentiates itself on the experience it offers. As you approach an army of cashiers on your way out of the store, you are greeted by smiling employees conveying excitement as they help you move through the line at lightning speed.

    No doubt, scaling this type of experience at the rate Pret has grown is no easy task. To do this, the company has very strategically aligned its employees to the superior experience it seeks to deliver to customers.

    This alignment is present in every phase of the employee’s journey with the company – from the experience of applying for the job through getting promoted. Prospective employees are sent to work in a store for a day where the team in place will, after a few hours, determine if the candidate exhibits the right level of customer orientation to get the job.

    Once on the job, the employee finds himself a part of a team that is collectively incentivized to deliver the highest level of cheer to customers possible. When employees receive a promotion, they are given $50-$100 that they are required to give back to the colleagues that helped shape their career along the way.

    As the brand continues to grow, no doubt other brands will look to react by pulling on the traditional levers: product innovation, price, and scale. However, pulling on these levers promises only periodic spikes in business performance, not the sustainable value generated from real strategic alignment.

    The lesson for brands? Focus more on aligning your employee base behind your business strategy to deliver a richer customer experience.

    Dan Spiegel is a Senior Consultant for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Ariën Breunis on Monday, April 9 2012 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

    Last Friday, I finally managed to have dinner with a good friend of mine. We hadn’t seen each other in months, so we had lots to talk about. I was particularly interested in hearing about his new job in Amsterdam’s flagship Apple store.

    During the starter course, I discovered that my friend had been on Apple’s payroll since January -- more than two months before the official store opening in March! This was the case because my friend had been involved in extensive training sessions since the beginning of the year.

    Before being faced with hordes of Apple enthusiasts in Amsterdam, my friend was required to work alongside international colleagues in the Apple stores of Covent Garden and Regent Street in London. During the rare occasions when he was actually in Amsterdam, my friend spent his days in a Hilton hotel participating in employee engagement training. In those two months prior to the Amsterdam Apple store opening, my friend learned everything about the Apple brand, its products and services, its communications, its retail environments, its channels and, of course, its people.

    As our main course arrived and my friend continued to discuss how helpful his training time had been in London, I realized why Apple employees have such strong internal clarity around -- and great commitment to – the Apple brand itself. Apple seems to innately understand that great brands start from within.

    As dinner continued, I brought up another leading brand, Nike. I asked my friend if he knew what an ‘Ekin’ was (Nike spelled backwards). He did not, so I explained the story about Nike and its ‘Ekins.’ To be an ‘Ekin’ means one is a true Nike brand ambassador -- someone who spreads the gospel of Nike around the world. After intensive training, each ‘Ekin’ is invited to have the well-known Nike swoosh symbol tattooed on his/her ankle -- a true sign of devotion to the brand.

    After dinner, my friend and I parted ways. We agreed to meet up again in a couple of weeks. I won’t be surprised in the least if he shows up sporting Apple tattoos, one on each ankle.

    Ariën Breunis is a Senior Consultant (Brand Strategy & Analytics) in Interbrand’s Amsterdam office.

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  • Posted by: Maryann Stump on Wednesday, March 30 2011 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

    No brand wants to confront the news that the U.S. Supreme Court may hear a potential class action lawsuit involving alleged widespread discrimination against female employees. But for Walmart, it’s especially bad news. It’s not simply the fact that the lawsuit could potentially include one million current and former female Walmart employees (that’s one percent of all American females), it’s also that the news has been a springboard for the media to revisit previous stories involving Walmart’s low pay, poor benefits, and cheap and sometimes flimsy products.

    Just as consumers evaluate brands based on how they treat the environment (BP, we’re looking at you), consumers also evaluate brands based on how they treat their employees. When a brand declares that it wants to help people “Live Better” by saving them money, it’s only natural that consumers may ask if that brand is helping its employees to “Live Better” as well. Shoppers love a bargain, but as brands associated with child labor have learned, they don’t want to feel guilty about saving money.
    Walmart would do well to remember that the lawsuit on hand is far more than just a public relations issue: It’s an employee engagement issue. Walmart’s employees stand front and center in its stores wearing vests emblazoned with the words “How Can I Help You?” They are the face and representation of the brand— something that Walmart needs to remind itself.

    Now is the time for Walmart to make the link between its many laudable corporate citizenship efforts and its brand. The question Walmart needs to begin asking itself is this: How is Walmart helping its employees “Live Better” today? There is a story to be told. Let’s hope Walmart begins telling it.

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