A friend of mine told me about a discussion he had with his teenage daughter over the weekend. It’s got me thinking about branding again and I think it’s worth raising again as it’s so important for L&D and HR. However, it’s often an area that is neglected or not given much thought or time.
The conversation went something like this
My friend – “We need to get you some new clothes, we can go shopping next weekend”
Daughter – “Cool, there are some Nike trackies I want, and I’ve seen a smart adidas hoody”
My friend – “Yeah we could go there, or we could head to (insert high street retailer) and buy from there”
Daughter – “Ewww I’m not wearing those; all my mates will take the mick”
I’m sure these are conversations that many parents have had with their teenage children. The clothes & brands you put them in as younger children weren’t an issue back then. But as they get older, and they become more aware of the world around them, what they wear and what they are seen in starts to matter. Branding and reputation start to matter. Marketing becomes much more important as we become acutely more aware of adverts and marketing campaigns as we get older. There is also peer pressure to contend with and the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality.
It’s not just clothes of course where brands matter, food and drink have always been led by premium brands and it’s been interesting watching the rise of the ‘discount’ supermarket chains. These stores are challenging the big supermarkets with their own brand food, drink and household products which, cost a lot less than premium brands.
Peter Kay always made me laugh when he compared Coca Cola to ‘Rola Cola’ and of course the supermarkets are full of ‘rips off’s’. Products that look and feel like the premium brands and even have a name that’s pretty close to the original – but at a fraction of the cost.
Everyone likes saving money of course but sometimes it is at the expense of quality and taste. In both clothes and food, it may be that we buy cheaper but we do so realising that the quality of materials or the process used to create the products may be done in a way to minimise the cost to the customer. Premium tends to come at a cost, but it tends to taste better, perform better and last longer. An old boss of mine always used to say, “buy cheap and buy twice” and in some cases this has been true in my experience.
I want you to think about your L&D brand or your HR brand.
- What is your reputation in your organisation. Does your organisation use premium brands (e.g. specialist agencies) to bridge a capability gap or because of a lack of expertise?
- Does your organisation outsource eLearning design and development or video creation etc?
- How do the products your teams are creating whether it’s a course or a well-being programme or an employee handbook compare with external products or things that your employees see and interact with outside of work?
- How do you market these products – are they buried within an Intranet or in a Learning Management System or are they supported by good looking and interesting campaigns and marketing strategies to generate use and take up which are then measured to validate success?
- Are your stakeholders clear on what your team can deliver and how they are contributing to the overall goals and objectives of the organisation?
- What does your team brand stand for – is it quality or is it like a discount brand whether you can do the work internally but it’s not quite up to the same standard if you used a premium brand?
Reputation is crucial for both L&D and HR teams. As the demand for credible experts only increases set against a back drop of cost saving and efficiencies there is more pressure than ever to create value and solve organisational challenges. This reputation is essentially your brand.
What it stands for, what it does and can do, the way in which it operates, how it presents itself and what is produced as an end product. Naturally people will compare what we do internally with the sights, sounds and experiences they have externally with technology playing a key part in these comparisons as it provides access to so much more than we could access 5-10 years ago.
These things really matter if L&D and HR are going to stay relevant and continue to not only contribute to organisational success but drive it. For any new project or organisational initiative, L&D and HR should be one of the first names at the table to listen, contribute and advise. We certainly shouldn’t be an afterthought or something that needs to be done to tick a box. Likewise, when the good projects come along we don’t want to be side lined while the agency gets brought in to do the value add work – there may be a balance here however blended external & internal expertise.
It’s this shift that fascinates me and to an extent is redefining the space and place that L&D and HR occupy in our organisations. Our brand matters, our reputation matters and how we are perceived across the organisation matters.
What does your brand say about you, your team and the work you do?