DEARBORN - Employees are vital to the success of any business – whether it be a local mom-and-pop establishment, a global automotive industry leader like Ford or a premier multinational digital media company like Yahoo!
When Yahoo launched a new global brand promise in late 2009, the company rolled it out to employees first before introducing it to external customers.
“We found it to be critically important to make sure that our brand promise was indoctrinated and embraced throughout the company before we extolled it to the world at large,” said Penny Baldwin, senior vice president, Global Brand Strategy and Marketing Programs, Yahoo. “Because if your brand promise isn’t evident in the product experiences and in the culture of the company – in every behavior and at every touch point – then it’s doomed for failure at the outset.”
The conception of Yahoo’s brand promise – which is to deliver deeply personal and uniquely relevant digital experiences – began with the formation of an internal task force that was representative of all departments of the company as well as all regions, says Baldwin.
“The brand strategy was not developed by a handful of people living in an ivory tower but rather by a cross-functional team that came together in order to craft the options and then ultimately explore them very extensively through qualitative and quantitative research with consumers,” she said.
“Once we had all the consumer feedback on the options that we were exploring we then took the brand strategy back into the organization, socialized our findings and our recommendation and got buy-in from every single discipline in the company.”
Coming up with the right expression of the brand promise was not an easy task, admits Baldwin.
“The toughest thing in the world I think is to find a handful of words that capture it perfectly that people can actually understand and remember,” she said. “We iterated fairly constantly with our agency partner until we got it right.”
Baldwin says having all areas of the company aligned with the brand strategy was – and still is – an important key to success.
“In order for people to get on board they had to be part of the process,” she said. “They had to see the data, hear the insights and be part of that consumer feedback.”
Once the company’s new brand strategy was identified and formalized, Baldwin says Yahoo launched a major internal initiative that took the shape of a communications campaign replete with brand strategy kits that were specially crafted and designed for employee consumption and distributed worldwide.
Today, Baldwin says, the Yahoo brand promise is continuously reinforced through signage in areas where employees congregate. It’s included in ongoing corporate communications. And it’s nested in the company boilerplate and in all of Yahoo’s new hire kits.
“Having a global brand promise has been galvanizing in that it informs and directs the decisions that we make across the board,” said Baldwin. “We ask ourselves whether or not a given campaign is a reflection of a deeply personal experience. How are we delivering on that and how is that expressed? The same thinking applies to product and to customer service. So everybody really took it to heart and used it as a means to think through how they execute and how they deliver.”
Baldwin says she believes having a brand promise in place is essential for any company.
“I think it’s critically important. Otherwise, where is that cohesive promise that you’re going to deliver to your customers worldwide and how could you possibly align and organize all of your company’s efforts in the absence of having something that everybody embraces, understands and executes against? The brand strategy is the consumer-facing promise that brings the business strategy to life,” she said.