Your internal brand is your organization’s shared internal identity. It’s what your organization does (your relevantly differentiated value proposition), how you do it, who you do it for and why it matters.
Your organization’s internal brand should be the unifying strategic position that claims a defensible market niche, differentiates you from your competition, defines your brand’s values, articulates your brand’s purpose, and delivers on its promise to your customers. Much like a person’s identity, your internal brand influences everything from your organization’s principles and values, to your tone and vocabulary, how your employees make day-to-day business decisions, who you choose to do business with and your organization’s culture.
New Helvetia Brewing Company is a great example. New Helvetia is a community-based craft brewery in Sacramento that’s driven by a simple purpose: Celebrate Sacramento history and invest in Sacramento’s future. This purpose is the foundation of the brewery’s internal brand and it guides and informs everything from their tasting room experience and recipe development to their beer names, the differentiators they guard, their community involvement and their company culture.
Your internal brand also informs strategic decision-making throughout your organization. Without it, employees are left to solve problems based on their own opinions, perceptions, values and instincts. A well-defined internal brand ensures everyone throughout your organization knows how to make decisions in line with the brand’s identity.
You have complete control over your internal brand, but your external brand is defined in the hearts and minds of your customers. It’s the sum total of every customer impression and experience — how your brand is perceived by your target markets. New Helvetia’s external brand is how the brewery is perceived around the region and in the beer community.
If your internal brand is akin to a person’s identity, your external brand is like a person’s reputation. Everything you do or say as a company has the potential to influence your external brand, for better or worse. This is why a cohesive internal brand is so important to achieving your strategic market objectives.
Your logo is visual symbol of your brand’s identity, a representation of who and what your brand is, does and stands for.
“Our logo is a symbol of everything we stand for: Sacramento’s history and Sacramento’s future,” explains New Helvetia’s taproom manager Iver Johnson. “It’s a reflection of who we are and the gap we’re bridging — the gap between where Sacramento has been and where it’s headed.”
Your brand is who you are; marketing is how you tell people about it. Authentically promoting your identity can bring your external brand into alignment with your internal brand. Marketing includes all the tactical efforts you employ to tell your brand’s story. It should raise brand awareness and promote what sets your company apart from competitors. Marketing engages your target audiences to create memorable experiences, and leverages messaging and awareness campaigns to achieve specific growth and sales goals. Every single marketing investment is an opportunity for your organization to live its brand and connect customers to your brand’s purpose.
Tap handles are one of the ways breweries market their beer when it’s on tap outside the brewery’s own tasting room. Each of New Helvetia’s tap handles are painted in genuine Tower Bridge paint from when the bridge was repainted gold by popular demand back in 2002. Every single one is literally coated in Sacramento history and exemplifies the New Helvetia brand.
The first page of New Helvetia’s marketing plan features a decision-making tree designed to ensure the brewery’s marketing efforts live the brand, deliver on the brand purpose, carve out a competitive niche in the local market, overcome market challenges and work towards the brewery’s strategic business goals. Before a member of the New Helvetia team commits to a marketing investment, they ask themselves first and foremost: Does this marketing effort celebrate Sacramento’s history and/or invest in Sacramento’s future? If the answer is no, the marketing opportunity doesn’t suit their brand and the idea is dropped. If their answer is yes, the team continues their assessment by evaluating the next questions on the list.
Measuring your marketing efforts against your brand position ensures every marketing effort lives the brand and helps cement your strategic differentiated position in a competitive market. But it starts by knowing the difference between your brand and your marketing. Succeeding on both fronts starts with differentiating between the two.