To admire is to treat something or someone with respect, to look up to them. And in the last issue of Journal of Marketing
we looked at the top ten globally admired companies and how they have changed in the last decade, sometimes quite dramatically. Many people talk of the skills shortage affecting South Africa, which is set to get worse before it gets better. But this is not a purely South African phenomenon, it is a global problem. However, just as marketers know that in a world of production over capacity, it is the brand that is best marketed that will win the battle for consumers hearts, minds and wallets – just look at the success of Toyota and BMW, versus General Motors and Ford – so companies hunting for the best skills, or as The Coca-Cola Company calls it ‘talent' - know that being admired can make the difference between winning the top candidates or losing out. A reason the marketers and human capital teams in a company need to work closely together.
To be proud on the other hand can be seen as displaying excessive self-esteem, conceit, even arrogance. And there is a fine line that can be drawn between being proud or honoured to be part of a company or organisation and being over confident and pretentious. We often find ourselves working with senior management at companies where we ask them: are they proud of whom they work for to the point of introducing themselves to a stranger, they would say: I work for so and so! Take the same exercise down to lower management and shop floor level and the answer can be very different.
I may be proud of being part of the global Interbrand Group, operating in over 30 cities around the world, and I may take pride in our achievements, both locally and internationally, but one always has to be careful that this is not interpreted by some as big headedness. Perhaps it's safer to follow the management adage of ‘speaking softly but carrying a big stick'. Certainly we find in many tender processes that our track record and achievements are there for all to see, whilst others appear to have risen without trace.
‘Taking pride in your work', and in the company you work for, was the subject of a recent study by Interbrand in the UK. For some time much research has been done on the customer decision-making process when you make a purchase. Looking at personal experience, I am sure we can all think of times we have made purchases, which make no sense logically, a deeper visceral process. A decision driven by emotion.
Taking a sample of 2000 employees, the research found that 47% were proud of their companies, 37% neutral and 16% had no pride. Figures showing there was huge room for improvement, but that nearly half of respondents were supportive. Another question was to ask what people were willing to do for their company. The research found that 61% were happy to put in additional effort, 48% have recommended products and services, but only 43% recommended their company as an employer. In a world where ‘word of mouth', remains one of, if not the, most trusted communication channel – today made even more potent through the internet – the latter figure is a worry.
All this also tends to highlight the fact that today brands are becoming ever more complicated and multi-faceted. A brand can mean many things to many different people, but at all times it should act as the glue that holds everything together. Brands today can be product, service or corporate; a country, city, province or person; a challenger, hero fighting or whatever, but in addition an employee brand.
The research went on to split responses by regions of the country – resulting in surprising differences - and by size of organisation with those working in large organisations often feeling lost. Pride in belonging to a company of under 100 people was significantly higher to those in larger companies (57% vs. 38%). This feeling of being ‘lost' in a larger company is an issue that is causing increasing concern. Building pride amongst employees has a huge impact on the corporate brand, which in turn results in the brand being admired. To test the impact of pride on organisational performance, structural equation modeling was used to measure the relationship of pride and a number of key behaviours for employees.
For some time we have spoken of the crucial need to foster a spirit within an organisation, of being ambassadors rather than saboteurs and so build the corporate brand equity. Reading the FinWeek
‘The Ideal Employer' supplement (3 May 2007) shows a fascinating insight into the local scene when it comes to MBA's. The survey reiterates the point, practiced globally for some years, that marketing is not only to external audiences, but also to internal. In fact some companies in the industrial field in the US spend around 50% of their total marketing budget on internal stakeholders. There can be little argument that to launch a new product or service, without first informing and training your employees is a pointless exercise and waste of money, resulting in negative reaction from the consumer.
Simply by increasing pride by as little as one percent can result in very positive shifts in behaviour:
1. Reducing people actively looking for a new job 0.48%,
2. Increase recommendations of products or services 0.71%,
3. Generate extra enthusiasm and effort 0.78% and
4. Increase employee recommendations of the company 0.83%
From this it becomes apparent that shifting to a more positive behaviour results in improved company performance.
When asked what factors boosted pride in a company, a wide range emerged. Essentially the main theme was of corporate brands supporting individuals to make a difference. The individual employee is concerned with fair pay, making a positive impact on people's lives, being ethical, etc.
Richard Gray, who ran the project out of our London office sums up by saying: “So what can be learnt from the results? We can see that pride is an important factor in driving positive behaviour in an organisation, their corporate brand, they are more likely to stay in the job longer, work harder and more efficiently and market the company by saying positive things about all it's activities and it's execution.”
In the field of branding, universally people want to work for Procter & Gamble and Unilever, in consultancy for McKinsey, Bain or Deloitte. Other companies have long promoted their products or services and paid scant attention if any to their corporate brand. A few years ago we created the name for a new organisation following a merger here in South Africa, and during the presentation I stated that the priority should be to build the new name into a strong corporate brand. The CEO growled that he had no intention of becoming a brand, he said: “we are brand owners, not a brand in our own right!” Wrong! That company today is extremely high profile, listed on the JSE, operating around the world, owns many major product brands and is an employer brand of note. And the same CEO remains in place doing an excellent job, but highlighting the need to change with the times.
Much of our lives today are ruled by emotion. In business no one plays a more important role in linking the emotional with the functional than the marketer. And in building up a company that commands admiration, it is necessary to review its activities through what we call The Cultural Lens.
Measuring: The Walk, The Talk, The Alignment and The Change Experience, and managing the entire process, by peering through this lens can bring the whole subject into focus. Increasing employee pride can have a profound effect on the business.
Increasing the admiration for a company can assist in hiring and keeping the best talent. It was Mr Leo Burnett who once said: “Before you can have a share of market, you must have a share of mind.” Jeremy Sampson
14 May 2007This article was originally published in
The Journal of Marketing, June/July issue.