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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: Fred Burt on Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:14 AM | Comments (0)
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

    I’m currently reading Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. Read it – it’s a fascinating insight into how the human mind works, and it has much wider application than honest/dishonest behaviour.

    I’m increasingly interested in how behavioural economics is playing a role in challenging some of the tenets of brand building. And I’m also noting that a number of our clients are paying similar attention.

    Ariely runs an experiment repeatedly throughout his book that tests our tendency to cheat. The overall conclusion is that humans are all predisposed to cheating a little bit if we think we can get away with it. He then introduces variants along the way to tease out a few related issues to dishonesty.

    A number of thoughts have struck me about the results and how they relate to our work at Interbrand. Here are two:

    The first was around honour codes and how fragile they are. Ariely runs the experiment with first year students of a well-known US university who have all recently signed an ethics code where they pledge not to cheat. And he then asks these students, after completing the test, to declare that their answers are honest (despite giving them the chance to cheat in a way that they know thy can get away with). The results? The students still cheated.

    But he then re-ran the experiment and asked the students to sign the declaration of honesty before completing the survey. The tendency to cheat was greatly reduced. The conclusion seemed to be that you need the reminder right up front and in the moment for the honour code to be effective.

    As Areily points out, any industry – for example insurance or tax collection - that relies to some extent on the honesty of its "customers" should look to put the “I hereby declare…” at the start of the form.

    I think it has application for us at Interbrand too, in particular where we do a lot of internal engagement with businesses that are looking to embed brand thinking into their organisation as part of a culture change programme. Too often this is treated as a communication campaign that assumes that if you tell employees in a bright and compelling way, the behaviour change will happen. My conclusion is that we’re all inclined to laziness, and need constant little reminders to "do the right thing" rather than a big moment in time.

    Honour codes work, but they need constant reinforcement against the human inclination to inertia.

    The second theme that struck me was about the social aspect of behaviour change. In Ariely’s experiments he demonstrates that people will cheat if they can, but will cheat more if they see their peers doing it and getting away with it. It’s what Ariely calls "socially contagious" behaviour. Again I’ve got to think there’s a parallel here to the bahvioural change that many culture-led programmes look to engender. The conclusion for me is that we need to work hardest at getting the right behaviours adopted by a few influential employees, and then noticed by their peers, rather than just looking at better company wide communication.

    There’s more to come from Behavioural Economics in the brand world.

    Fred Burt is Managing Director, Global Accounts, for Interbrand.

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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: Jeff Dawson on Friday, July 29 2011 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

    Have you ever been asked to explain why something costs so much? Were you ever curious about where all the money went during a project?
    Well, now is your chance to find some answers to these questions. The Interbrand brand management systems team has developed a service that gives us the ability to approach clients with a specific eye on branding costs. This cost clarity model allows us to assess a client’s potential brand spend that needs to be set aside for budgeting purposes.

    Common brand touchpoints such as signage, fleet, stationery — you name it — are now made easier to grasp and understand financially. Instead of made-up costs or inaccurate reads, we are able to fine tune and make clear the investment ahead. And this can happen with clients during the initial stages of our relationship with them. This is beneficial as clients want to know how much money is involved and why something cost what it does, whether it is a long-term project or short-term project.

    Cost clarity brings to light financial implications very quickly
    Our cost clarity model is based on a variety of simple client inputs. We start by asking some preliminary questions based on what a client is trying to solve for. We employ a few basic formulas around the collected data: for example, product quantities, employee populations, and even office locations. We then output some high level estimates. We can even further fine-tune these cost outputs if the client has more data to share. Long story short, the end results reveal the money needed to implement any number of chosen brand touchpoints. What we really like here, is that we’re don’t have to gather a plethora of research to understand a client’s situation. The financial implications become very clear, very fast.

    Clients are always talking about being able to reach their brand audiences quickly, so having some foresight around what they’ll be spending money on is of huge value.

    Cost clarity simplifies and adapts
    Another great thing about this initiative is that we can get to an estimate on costs without having spent too much time getting into the nitty gritty details of a full rebrand program. Of even more value to us here is that we can work with any size client, from large to small, since the cost clarity framework is scalable.

    Cost clarity helps brands prioritize

    For new clients, this is a different way in to engage with Interbrand. It allows for small, directed conversations to happen without being overly intrusive. For existing clients, this is an opportunity to check in on what may have been done in the past and be able to course correct, based on new information. Unforeseen new business opportunities may arise based on the clarity provided to clients -- as it eliminates any confusion or vagueness. Clients are also aided by being able to prioritize what is most or least important to them based on their given budget.

    During a time when it’s very much about being smart with your money and being careful where you spend, this cost clarity model can make a huge impact on your brand.

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