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I’ve just been at the Brand Engagement conference in New York, and there is much discussion about its definition. After attending many sessions (which I will share with you over several blogs), I was left with the idea that ‘Employees are the new Customers’. For a long time, I have been talking about ‘Happy People = Happy Profits’. But this event was held to prove this.

The challenge that was posed however is where does the responsibility for the ’employee experience’ lie? Is it an HR function, a marketing function – internal comms, or with the leadership team. The reality is that all the above are needed to really understand and develop the employee experience of an organisation.

Let me go back a step first. According to Bruce Bolder – President of Selling Communications Inc. “Customer-focused, engaged employees foster increased customer loyalty that translates into a sustainable competitive advantage – Companies that engage people-customers, channel partners, employees – do better financially over time.”

He went on to argue that now with so much choice and information available instantly the only differentiator is the degree to which engaged people are with the brand.
“The Internet and cheap off-shore production have levelled the transactional playing field; the advantage goes to companies that provide a better customer experience” Don Shultz – Northwestern University and a founder of the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement.

More than ever marketing is about identifying and building relationships with the people most likely to buy and generating business through word of mouth, which of course happens when people have enjoyed the experience of doing business with an organisation.

Brand engagement is about connecting the dots between engaged employees, customers and profitability.

I think of brand engagement as the customers (or external people’s) view of an organisation, whilst employer branding is how employees view an organisation. One would hope that there is a consistency of message and actions between the two groups.

We are trying to describe the process of forming an attachment (emotional and rational) between a person and a brand. According to the Wikipedia definition.

“Brand engagement comprises one aspect of brand management. What makes the topic complex is that brand engagement is partly created by institutions and organisations but is equally created by the perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of those with whom these institutions and organisations are communicating or engaging with. As a relatively new addition to the marketing and communications mix, brand engagement sits between marketing, advertising, media communications, social media, organisational development, internal communications and human resource management.”

Years ago I did a research study to find out the customer contact points of the organisation. Knowing these touch points is critical to understand how people experience the brand. Which means understanding if the promise created in the hearts of customers is fulfilled. Did the advertising promise meet expectations? But this is doubly true of employees. If what is promised by an employer is not delivered, if the communications are oversold, if the products are not what they are made out to be…. Employees are in a very powerful position to debunk the myth.

Welcome to the concept of brand engagement – which is intrinsically tied to employee engagement.

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