EDITORIAL: Alienated staff will seriously damage your brand health

Contrast these two stories. Last week, Ford’s Dagenham plant was locked in a bitter row over institutionalised racism on its shop floor, with 800 workers downing tools to complain about how an alleged racist assault had been handled. The atmosphere in the factory was described as ’poisonous’.

Contrast these two stories. Last week, Ford’s Dagenham plant was

locked in a bitter row over institutionalised racism on its shop floor,

with 800 workers downing tools to complain about how an alleged racist

assault had been handled. The atmosphere in the factory was described as

’poisonous’.



Elsewhere, on Saturday, IKEA stores were enjoying one of their busiest

days of the year. But this time, the staff were the direct

beneficiaries, because IKEA had decided all sales on the day would be

shared between staff, with the company taking none of the profit. A

spokesman was asked on BBC radio whether the event wasn’t just a public

relations gimmick.Well, the co-workers, as IKEA calls them, were getting

the money so it wasn’t a gimmick, he said. More to the point it was

about staff relations rather than public relations.



Two very different tales of industrial relations, and no one would

suggest tackling racism in large industrial workplaces is easy. But both

stories tell us something about the companies, their cultures, and help

shape our view of their brands. More importantly, they highlight

something no marketer can afford to forget in the rush to put the

customer at the heart of marketing. Staff, co-workers, partners, call

them what you will, but the people who make up your business, who

provide the day-to-day delivery of product and service to the customer,

are a crucial factor in commercial success or failure.



In the rush to make bigger, better promises to the customer, there is a

temptation to bulldoze through policies without explaining what they

mean to the staff who have to carry them out. Several big name British

brands have lost the confidence of staff in recent years - notably

Sainsbury’s, with its disastrous ads in which John Cleese berated staff

to shout about low prices, and British Airways, which alienated cabin

crews with its hardball approach to an industrial dispute. To their

credit, both businesses have recognised the damage done and are working

to try to put it right.



But the fact is that in all business, your people are your brand

too.



There is little point in selling a marketing masterplan to the board and

the City, and coming up with a multi-million pound ad campaign, if your

staff don’t buy into it. It seems extraordinarily obvious, but it’s a

point that big firms, which should know better, often miss. Perhaps this

neglect of internal marketing is a symptom of the short-termism that

inflicts many of today’s marketing directors, who on average do less

than two years in their job before looking for the next move.



One marketing director I discussed this with recently said there was a

territorial problem, with reinvigorated human resources departments

annexing the internal marketing role. But this shouldn’t mean

capitulation by marketing departments.



The marketing industry - and, indeed, this magazine - spends a lot of

time talking about the relationship between marketers and their service

providers. But the biggest service providers of all are the staff that

work for a brand. Businesses forget that at their peril. Just ask

Sainsbury’s.



Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer