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
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.