Why Internal Marketing Could Be the Most Important Marketing

May 30, 2015

Gina McDuffie

Gina McDuffie is the executive vice president of global marketing at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events. Her expertise lies in the overall integration of marketing efforts for GES and its clients, and in customer experience and engagement.


Disney is one of the most effective brands of all time. Through its parks, films, and stores, every brand touchpoint induces the same magical feeling and inspires loyal brand advocates.

In a program called the Disney Difference, the company offers employees and their families free admission to the parks and access to employee-only areas, on-site daycare facilities, special employee events and more. Disney invests in benefits like these to give employees incentives and invite them into the brand experience.

The company clearly understands that happy, engaged employees work more effectively.

Employees, whether happy or grumpy, manage every moment along a customer’s journey. Employees are the brand, and entrenching them in the brand experience is the most effective way to build an army of loyal advocates.

Disney goes above and beyond to train employees and create an enjoyable experience for them, but that doesn’t mean your internal marketing plan has to go to these same lengths to be effective. You can do several things to engage employees without the help of a Magic Kingdom.

1. Give employees an authentic brand experience: When I worked at DIRECTV, the company made sure I became a fan by offering its service for free. My job was customer retention, and being a customer allowed me to become fully engrossed in the ins and outs of the product and deliver the best customer experience. Give your staff the opportunity to engage with your product or service, and they’ll convey a more authentic experience outwardly.

2. Communicate their roles in the bigger picture: For employees to feel tethered to a brand, they need to know how crucial they are to its success. After conducting extensive customer and employee research, we decided to do a brand refresh and introduce a new tagline that better exemplified what we do and why. Our service depends on designers, multimedia experts, technologists, and engineers (just to name a few), and we’ve grown through multiple acquisitions. Although we always beat the one-team drum, our new tagline—“The Art and Science of Engagement”—is what helped employees from finance to creative understand the importance of every team member’s role in delivering our brand promise.

3. Trust employees to talk about the brand: Ideally, you’ve hired trustworthy individuals who are enthusiastic about your brand. Instead of controlling communication, empower your staff to talk freely about the brand. By giving employees the microphone, you not only instill trust in them, but you also humanize your brand to outsiders.

At Zappos, staff members are encouraged to speak on behalf of the brand to vendors and customers and at various industry events. Tony Hsieh understands that a strong, transparent culture leads to happier employees and superior customer service. And when you trust employees to be the voice of your brand, they’ll feel more invested in your message.

4. Gamify the training process: Learning should be a continual process that’s fun—and also mandatory. Offer refreshers and more in-depth training through video series or quizzes every few months.

Our mission is to provide clients with superior service, so we asked employees to strategize ways to defy convention. As a result, we created “Defypalooza,” a digital leaderboard that awarded points to people who correctly answered brand quizzes and shared pictures of teams defying convention.

Sonic Drive-In gamifies its training with the Dr Pepper Sonic Games. Crews at different locations compete in online quizzes for the chance to win prizes, including a trip to its annual conference.

Give employees control over their training, and don’t position it as a chore. They’ll be much more likely to retain the information if it’s presented in a fresh way.

5. Keep your strategy consistent: Once you pick an internal marketing strategy, keep it consistent across the company. This way, you’ll be sure to deliver the same brand experience at every touchpoint.

Just look at one of my favorite brands, Trader Joe’s. From its fun, informative Fearless Flyer mailer to its family-friendly in-store experience and cheerful crew, every step matches the brand’s personality.

While an internal marketing strategy might not be directly tied to revenue, passionate employees who are truly invested in your brand pay dividends.

By offering your staff a genuine customer experience, giving them the freedom to speak openly about your brand, and livening up your training process, you’ll build a band of devoted followers—inside and out.

What are you doing within your organization to encourage employees to be brand ambassadors?

Origannly published on CMO.com. 

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Partner Voices
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