Packaging Professional, Brand Thyself

Internal branding can boost morale and increase productivity.

By Robert Sprung
TippingSprung LLC

Robert Sprung 

Branding is a powerful force in our society. A trend making fewer headlines is the role branding can play internally within an organization to help raise the profile of a department or group of professionals.

Packaging and design professionals are potentially prime beneficiaries of internal branding. Coming at the tail end of the product-design chain, and constantly under deadline pressure, they often feel underappreciated. The cost to the organization can be high in the form of lower morale, reduced productivity, or higher turnover. 

Some organizations use internal branding to reenergize and reinvigorate. My colleague, branding authority Martyn Tipping, recently completed a project for a major consumer-products company. The company�s graphic design department had a problem with morale issues and employees who felt they weren�t taken seriously. �Very often, corporations will have lofty mission statements addressing the human factor, but fail to deliver on an interpersonal basis,� says Tipping. Changing the way a department presents itself� in words, images, and behaviors�can help shift how others perceive it. It can also change how members of the department view themselves.

Words we use have a profound impact on perception. Much of our everyday vocabulary is freighted with associations that pigeonhole people. Departmental branding can start with a new name. Unilever renamed its internal design department the �Visual Branding Group.� R&D is handled in some companies by a Discovery Group�shaking off the dust from a potentially stodgy name and changing the focus of discourse to creativity and innovation.

Consider job titles. Even though we may perform package-design work, does that make us package designers? In an age where any visual work done on behalf of a company contributes to its brand and broader image, why not get credit for this greater contribution? Thus, some firms focus on designers� roles as brand communicators, brand advocates, or brand experience architects.

Firms also invest in tone and manner guidelines. These are the rules by which we communicate, ranging from the macro (what we call ourselves and the work we do) to the micro (what our style of address and letter-writing is, how we speak on the telephone). Firms like the BBC use design as a key component of internal branding. From internal communications and PowerPoint templates to sportswear and wall art, staff in each department rally around their business unit�s distinct, internally created brand. 

Sometimes subtle use of typography or color can give a department the personality it seeks. Often those design elements are carried through to the work environment. �The clever use of color, textures, and lighting can have a profound effect on tying together a group of employees and fostering a subconscious sense of community,� says Bill Schroeder, a designer and specialist in internal branding. 

Internal branding efforts don�t live in a vacuum. The traditional human resources manual and training plans have been replaced in many organizations with brand training�learning to �live the brand� of the corporation. Yahoo! has dropped the old employee manuals, replacing them with �guides to getting things done at Yahoo!� For that same HR dollar, the corporation is investing more directly in its people and its brand. 

And none of this is worth much unless top management buys into it. �Otherwise, you are merely scratching the surface. But if properly nourished, branding can be one of the most cost-effective investments a company can make in employee morale, productivity, retention, and quality,� says Tipping. 

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