Brand training is a critical part of any brand’s long-term success. It’s how you connect your brand identity (from your values to your visuals) to the people who steward it on a day-to-day basis: your employees. So, it stands to reason that your brand should be the responsibility of everyone in your organization, not just your marketing team. The truth is that without individual understanding and ownership, your brand is no more than a set of guidelines — an ideal documented in a file; which means your organization’s ability to accurately express your brand and flex to changing market needs may be limited.
In today’s rapidly changing market with more customer voice and influence, and increasing competition – your brand cannot be static. Your brand is a living, breathing identity — and needs to continually evolve to remain relevant; and so does your brand training program.
Rather than a single one-and-done endeavor, think of brand training as an opportunity to keep your brand relevant and top of mind for the folks that live and breathe it everyday. Here’s why that’s important — and how to make it happen.
Why one-time brand training isn’t enough
A one-time approach to brand training can fall short for a couple of reasons. It’s not enough to hold a session or two as part of a rebrand or include some brand training materials in your employee onboarding program. Nor is it effective to confine brand training to small internal groups, such as the brand, marketing, and leadership teams.
First, organizations that limit their brand trainings put the full onus of brand responsibility on a small circle of marketers and executives. That simply doesn’t make sense given that every single employee expresses and represents the brand in some way. In addition, this limited approach can turn your marketing team into brand “police” rather than freeing them up to think more strategically and creatively about how best to grow and evolve your brand.
Another brand training pitfall? Focusing solely on brand guidelines without first making sure employees understand the why behind them. Some organizations spend the bulk of their training time on brand guidelines, messaging, and identity applications. Those things are critically important. But if you don’t discuss the context of the brand and how it came to be, your brand will seem like a set of rules rather than a thoughtfully defined identity.
Be sure you and everyone who trains employees on the brand can articulate the answers to questions like these: What does your brand stand for? What are your core values? How do you express them? And why? These matter. While without these deeper insights, your people may be able to execute your brand identity; their brand knowledge will ultimately be tactical, rigid, and likely confined to the visual components. The only way to develop a strategic understanding — the kind that allows your team to flexibly apply your brand in a variety of settings — is to understand the why behind your brand.
Bottom line? A more robust brand training curriculum is an incredible opportunity to get your entire organization behind your brand strategy, reduce the burden on your brand and marketing team, and create a more consistent in-market brand experience.
How to get brand training right
Ready to expand your definition of brand training and empower your team to fully embody your brand at every touchpoint? Start with these five tips.
1. Lead by example
Your executive team should take the lead when it comes to embodying your brand. Make sure they “walk the walk” by exemplifying the values and desired behaviors you defined in the strategy. Doing so ensures that your brand becomes a top-down priority throughout your organization.
2. Make brand training a must for everyone
Everyone in your company — regardless of title — should be included in some level of brand training. Every person who works for your organization should understand the basics of your brand strategy to be able to tell you what you want your customers to feel or believe after interacting with your brand.
The more you let your employees in on your brand strategy, and the “why” behind it, the more likely they are to buy-in, understand, and adopt it. That combination of buy-in and understanding is what ultimately empowers your team to express and embody your brand more consistently.
3. Tailor your training to different audiences
Everyone needs to be included in your brand training efforts, but that doesn’t mean everyone should receive the same message. As with any communications effort, you should tailor your training to give each employee group what they need. Your goal? Equip them to understand the “so what?” behind their day-to-day responsibilities.
Everyone should receive a baseline explanation of your brand strategy and how it relates to their particular role. The closer you get to the people who are designing branded materials (for example, your marketing, social, digital, and/or sales teams), the more detailed and nuanced your training should be. For example, you should coach your sales team on how to speak to prospects and customers about your services, offerings, and positioning in light of your brand strategy; you should do deep-dive training with your creative and marketing teams to ensure they understand all the visual and verbal nuances of the brand and how to apply it.
4. Rinse, lather, and repeat: make brand training an ongoing process
As mentioned, it’s best to look at brand training not as a single course or curriculum, but instead as an ongoing brand engagement program. A single training (even over multiple sessions) isn’t enough to build understanding and adoption. Regular repetition and reinforcement are critical.
To that end, plan to create an ongoing series of trainings and content to reinforce your team’s brand understanding and behaviors. Keep in mind that different people have different learning styles. So, you’ll want to craft events and activities that appeal to those different styles. For example, you might include a mix of:
Live interactive trainings
Self-paced, online materials
In-market examples and testimonials
Written guidelines and FAQs
Digital guidelines, templates, and toolkits
Supplemental training resources
Over time, your brand engagement program should educate (help your team understand the why behind your brand), empower (give your team the guidelines and tools necessary to apply your brand), and engage (integrate your brand and company culture to keep the momentum going).
5. Incorporate your brand into your internal culture
Brand is a reflection of a company’s culture — and vice versa. By definition, your brand comes with a set of values—and these values should dictate how you think and operate.
Drive home the cultural value of your brand by ensuring it’s written into your organization’s behavioral DNA. You can achieve that in several ways. For example, you could gamify your brand values by creating a points-and-rewards system for exemplifying your brand values in customer interactions. You could also incorporate your brand values into performance reviews and tie them to bonuses or other compensation structures.
By taking a holistic and intentional approach to brand training, you can turn your employees into your most loyal brand ambassadors — and take your brand to the next level.