Branding is vital for the success of every business, no matter how big or small. A strong corporate image is the foundation for your company's success, and it determines who you are.
In today's competitive business environment, companies spend millions of dollars every year on branding exercises to update and enhance their image and reputation. A large percentage of this expenditure includes advertising on traditional and online medium, corporate branding, events, product packaging, and association with worthy causes through corporate social responsibility projects and sponsorship programmes, and so on. Getting associated with the right brands, philosophy or presenting your company in a good light can enhance your company's image.
But, what sort of image or impression does your client get at his first contact with your employees?
Employees are often one of the most undermined and under-developed aspects of a company's foundation. Not only are they the face of your company and living representatives of your brand, they also differentiate your brand from your competitors, and deliver the ultimate brand experience you want your company to be known for.
While you are setting aside a large budget for this year's branding exercise, consider this: The proof of the pudding is in the eating -- are your living, breathing brand ambassadors projecting the right corporate image to the outside world? Are your employees walking and breathing your brand according to your company philosophy?
Consistency is Key
Your employees and your corporate image are every successful organisation's two greatest assets. As long as your employees' appearance and behaviour are not in tandem with your corporate image, the repercussions can be detrimental to your business.
I share a personal experience: A luxurious, internationally-acclaimed hotel located in town recently opened for business. Impressed by their claims to provide guests with a high-level of attentive and personalised service by a team of professional, impeccable staff, I thought the hotel could be a wonderful event venue and decided to visit. It being my first visit, I could not find my way around. Only after looking around for assistance that I noticed three service staff chatting and laughing among themselves away from the hotel entry, oblivious to guests entering the new hotel. Within a short time of its opening, the hotel had already stopped living up to its widely-publicised brand promise.
On my second visit to the same hotel one week later, I encountered a very helpful staff who readily offered his assistance when I first entered the main hallway. Although he was very attentive and helpful, I saw a jarring inconsistency in the service level and found it difficult to erase my first not-so-nice encounter on my last visit. Needless to say, my first impression of the hotel did not match up to its brand promise, and I decided not to shortlist the hotel as a possible venue for my upcoming event.
Employees -- the Face of the Company
Fortunately or unfortunately, the buck does not end at your front-line employees.
No doubt, employees working behind-the-scenes have less face-to-face meetings with potential clients and end-consumers, but they are no less important! They offer your brand experience to the outside world too.
From security guards and accounts assistants, to IT managers and human resource directors, every employee has direct or indirect contact with your clients, shareholders, business counterparts, partners and suppliers, potential employees, etc.
Showing up late for a meeting, dressing inappropriately or sloppily, using bad grammar in writing or speech, a limp handshake, poor dining etiquette, and not being clued-in on cross-cultural protocol and business practices are some of the bad and lasting impressions one can create.
Only when your employees are united and aligned towards the same company philosophy, can your organisation begin operating at its full potential.
Catherine Chan, Managing Consultant, Iconiq Image
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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