Graham Jarvis, writes on behalf of SiteMorse about the potential aftershocks caused by internal and external branding, suggesting that even brand enforcement tools can assist in a brand’s value creation and its more enthusiastic adoption.

The aftershocks of whatever has an impact on a brand in the wide world of the marketplace can either provide some good vibrations to motivate staff, or do absolutely the reverse and damage your staff’s belief in your company’s product of service offering. “Internal branding’, argues BT’s Nicky Gilbert, “is an often overlooked but vital part of the branding process. Employees are the living representation of the brand at every point of customer contact, so it is essential that internal branding messages are consistent and accurate and that the product set is current. Keeping intranets up to date in this way is challenging. An automated tool to help achieve this has to be an enormous step forward.’

The Nectar campaign at Sitel Corporation is a good case study with regards to the impact of the aftershocks. In the beginning there was a great idea created by Loyalty Management UK Ltd, which had been test marketed in the USA and had proven itself to be successful. The call centre staff back here in the UK were taken on a team-building day out to Alton Towers, and during training each team member was given a Nectar card – even if they didn’t want one.

To many it really couldn’t be better. Then everyone hit the phones on day one of the launch; the phone lines were jammed with confused and often angry customers, the website didn’t work and the integration of the various IT and CRM systems between Nectar and Sainsbury’s added to the tension. Sainsbury’s customers felt totally confused; they wanted to keep their old Reward cards, and what was this funny thing called Nectar about? The much reported website problems made a molehill into a mountain of bad publicity and complaints.

The way things worked and were managed often failed to impress the increasingly stressed staff and the dumbfounded customers: Nectar didn’t seem so rewarding! Not enough was done to motivate staff, and late in the campaign they found themselves with little to do but wait for the odd infrequent call. Eventually, the campaign thus moved north to Newcastle and many of those who’d worked hard to launch and build the loyalty card’s brand found their efforts unrewarded by having to look for new employment. Redundancies will always have an impact on marketing; they let brand champions become potentially your worst viral marketing nightmare, and this will impact upon those who remain.

Even so a number of lessons were learnt from the launch of Nectar, and some things did improved as time moved on. Many of the IT integration problems didn’t though; the reason behind this is that a decision had been made not in favour of real-time accuracy of customer points, providing the customer with the ability to instantaneously use and collect points at the point of delivery or purchase. Cost had been the key focus. The basics of adding customer value were forgotten. Some cynics, including members of staff, suspected that the purpose of this was to increase call centre volumes.

Consider other scenarios, potentially real but hypothetical ones, that could damage product or service credibility: someone is mishandling your brand, they are subversively using it to poach customers by referring to your brand in their website’s meta tags without your permission. Poor website design is another issue that can harm your customers and staffs’ brand perception. What about if someone is hacking into your intranet or website? What is the impact upon the brand from both an internal and external perspective? So marketers need to look at brand protection more holistically, include the physical and every type of virtual aspect of it. The way that you manage your brand will therefore have an impact on both sides of the fence.

“As well as a virtual brand protection strategy one must also have a physical strategy, for example using Digital Watermarks embedded in the packaging design as developed by MediaSec Technologies’, says Rob Karsten, Director of Business Development at brand protection agency Kontacts. Like with call and contact centre management, perhaps marketers need to take a multi-channel or layered approach to brand development: Karsten seems to agree: “Web trawlers such as BrandMorse in my experience could prove a useful tool as part of a multi-layered brand protection strategy for brand owners that want to keep a close eye on the uses & abuses of their brand identity.’
Dwain Thomas of CCHM Digital highlights the problems that are faced in the virtual world of the internet and with working with third parties, he says: “Doing business on a global basis requires many companies to develop websites in local and regional areas. While these companies work internally, they also link with affiliate and partner companies which can lead to the misuse of logo's, brand marks and even basic spelling which is not consistent with the corporate brand guidelines established in the corporate headquarters. Many corporations spend millions a year to monitor these sites and hopefully they catch most of the errors before they are published onto the web.’

So what do brand enforcement and protection products actually achieve, and what is their purpose? Business2www provides a couple of examples, which arguably may or may not have an impact on internal and external branding. The company writes:

1. “If you are BT, which has several different logos, you want to make sure they appear correctly on your own sites - in addition you want to be sure that anyone authorised to use your logo is doing so correctly, and if you suspect other companies of using your logo when they are not authorised to do so (maybe they have lost the right to do so) you can check their websites to check if they are being used illegally.’

2. “If two companies merge - brands/logos/names may be changed - BrandMorse can identify (line by line) where these items appear on websites enabling corrective action to be taken quickly.’

Nadia Tarazi, Senior Producer of the Internal Brand Communications Summit USA at Marketing Week Conferences leaves aside the technical aspects of brand management, and looks more at internal branding as a means of creating ambassadors, she comments:

"Creating brand ambassadors from grass roots to board level is the only way to guarantee your company's external promises are actually delivered at every touch point. Besides improving employee retention, internal branding has proved enormously successful in increasing customer loyalty and ROI."

Yet there is no single view to branding, and “Effective global brand delivery is complicated further by the requirements of the Internet as is protecting your brand from misuse by either approved or non-approved companies or competitors’, says Nicholas Le Seelleur, a director of Business2www who adds, “BrandMorse can assist significantly, by testing for the correct and appropriate use in a timely and cost effective manner.’

In truth in order to develop a brand you cannot rely on tools alone, but they can stop it from being abused or used without consent. However poorly managed websites, poor customer service, process and technology integration issues, brand protection and enforcement can each potentially have an impact on internal branding. Some of these may have a greater impact than others. Virus software protects your computers from unwarranted and malicious attacks; so why not have tools that do the same for your brand, protecting it could save your company millions and its core values would therefore receive higher acclaim both internally and externally to your organisation? The outside reflects what happens inside and vice versa.
0870 759 3300
Nicholas Le Seelleur

Published on: 12:00AM on 23rd July 2004