Saying great brands are built by great employees is nothing new. Almost everyone agrees (there are still a few Luddites) that brands are built from the inside-out. A knowledgeable and dedicated workforce that understands, internalizes and exudes the company’s brand values is an asset most CEOs would kill for. Whether it’s the quality of the products they make or the service they deliver – management knows that employees who live the brand are often what differentiates one company from another, and sets real industry leaders apart. So what does it take to get employees to recognize their role as Brand Ambassadors?

Both established brands like GE, IBM, Starbucks and Southwest as well as new brands like Google, Rackspace, TiVo and Zappos have preached the value of employee fanaticism and herald their brand evangelist workforces. Many recognize their brand culture is what attracts top quality employees. Yet in many cases, brand building within an organization is still a one-way street: employees are expected to fulfill and accrue brand value for their employer – just because. But this is beginning to change. Simply providing a great place to work and teaching employees to ‘live the brand’ isn’t enough – companies are going to have to reward those employees that truly live up to the charge. Surprisingly, most companies have no actual metrics or compensation processes in place to track, incentivize or reward good brand behavior. Being a good Brand Ambassador isn’t typically a line item on employee performance reviews, yet every company expects you to be one.

2010 will mark a turning point. Companies are beginning to proactively establish new initiatives to reward the Brand Evangelist – via public recognition, financial compensation and career advancement. Hundreds of individual Zapponians, famous for their weirdness (that’s value #3) are celebrated in an annual 500-page Culture Book. And to ensure only the truly worthy are allowed to don a Zappos.com t-shirt, after a multi-week training course, Zappos actually offers trainees who don’t feel they can live the brand values $2,000 to just walk-away. Has your company adapted or are you still trading on goodwill? Because in today’s social-media world, those evangelists can quickly become the loudest voices of the company, intimately influencing friends, family and customers. Employee value has never been more important.

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