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Wage a Campaign Inside

The campaign methods used by political entities are a good model for making change inside a brand.

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It’s time for a new mode of thinking in brand alignment. When we introduce a new brand to customers, we launch a splashy campaign. But when we introduce that same brand to employees, we delegate brand cops who will crack down, compel, and control. I tell my clients they need to think of an internal brand launch as though it were a political campaign. Political campaigns change how people think and create a groundswell of public interest. An internal brand campaign should do the same. There’s much that political science can teach us about transforming a branded organization, including how to frame the mandate and the narrative.

Every four years, when American voters cast their ballots for the highest office in the country, pundits wonder about mandates and they frame the narrative of the candidates’ campaigns. Framing and mandating the narrative are critical buzzwords for an internal brand campaign. Your mandate is a better brand experience—framed by the narrative of your strategy, which is tailored to key audience segments. We have already discussed the importance of a brand narrative, but in this instance we’re focusing it on the people inside. You begin your campaign by articulating why change is necessary. What benefit will be created? What promise must be kept? How will it be delivered? You can’t effect change unless you can clearly answer these questions for your employees, partners, and investors. As you develop your strategy, you must consider how you frame these questions for two groups within your organization: supporters and the unconvinced. We can further divide these two macro groups into four subparts, as follows.

Evangelists: These are the people who do more than believe in the mandate. They’re willing to get out there and convince others of its necessity. Your job is to provide them with the narrative that will help them grow the base. You should identify your potential evangelists early in the process. You’ll often find them while you’re developing the brand strategy. You’ll know who they are by their ability to persuade you of the brand’s opportunities and merits. You’ll also know them by the influence they have in the organization. While you’ll certainly find brand evangelists living in the C-suite, you’re likely to find even more working close to the action. Don’t mistake official status with evangelistic potential. Some of the best brand evangelists line up with the majority of the organization. That’s why they wield power.

Followers: These are people who believe in the mandate and are mostly willing to do what it takes to see it through. They need a narrative that articulates what they can do to make a difference. In the age-old will/skill analysis, these internal audiences have the will, but they usually need skills and resources to be effective.

Unconvinced: While it’s not the most appealing segmentation name, the “unconvinced” comprises anyone in your organization who’s not yet on board with the strategy. The campaign to the unconvinced is the battleground for a winning brand implementation effort. It addresses two subsegments.

Detractors: Though this is generally a very small segment in most organizations, an influential detractor can greatly impede brand implementation. Most detractors, for whatever reason, don’t believe the strategy reflects the true promise of the brand. Maybe they have a conflicting agenda or maybe they’re misguided, but they are strongly opposed to the change you wish to make. If not addressed, they will create a counternarrative that can derail or diffuse your effort to act on the mandate.

Undecided: This is often the largest audience to address, particularly in big organizations. Most of the undecided aren’t opposed to the change you wish to make; they just don’t understand the mandate. In my experience, most people in an organization who have no opinion about the state of the brand are that way because no one has taken the time to help them understand why the brand matters. No one has linked a promise to the brand’s experience. No one has illustrated how the delivery of that experience creates value that is relevant to the undecided employee. This is where you focus your narrative.


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