Insight of the Week: When branding, look to your employees

In the traditional marketing world, branding efforts are often shepherded at the executive level, with C-suite leaders initiating the process and driving the results. But a new study indicates that branding might be taking place in less obvious places, too, as the growth of the Internet and the availability of social media allows employees to weigh in, also.

This week’s insight: If you’re leading a branding campaign, enroll your employees—or at least be aware that they want to have their say, too.
Research study: “Look Who’s Co-creating: Employer Branding on Social Media” by Maxim Wolf, Julian Sims, and Huadong Yang, ECIS 2015 Completed Research Papers, Spring 5-29-2015,
What they did: The research team studied two major British companies’ social media presences, as well as outside social media and online channels associated with their companies, to determine who was talking about each brand and why. They also interviewed HR managers at both companies to ascertain how restrictive each company was in terms of allowing employees to use social media to discuss their employment.
What they found: Increasingly, despite a company’s best efforts to control social media usage by its employees, the act of branding is not simply “created” from the top, but “co-created” by employees and former employees of the company, the study found.
For those companies that more equitably shared branding responsibility with employees (by allowing them more flexibility over what they posted on social media, for example), the “co-creation” process was more powerful, while the reverse was true for companies that restricted social media use.
But that doesn’t mean that employees eagerly participate in a company’s brand mission. The study found that most employees were still hesitant to post to social media channels run by the company itself, but were much more comfortable discussing the company in outside channels, where they could be joined by current customers and former employees.
In a nutshell, organizations don’t have the same level of control they once had over branding efforts in this increasingly digital age—and that’s a fact of life they need to accept. By engaging employees in the branding effort, they may find a more receptive internal audience, even if that goodwill doesn’t always reach social media.

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