In my early 20s, on the cusp of being just a little “too old” for it, some friends and I planned a Spring Break trip to Disney World in Orlando. We had previously become obsessed with Mulan (yes, the old-school version) and could quote every line and belt out (albeit off-key) every song.
One evening, while watching the Main Street parade, it happened: the moment we’d been waiting for. Mulan herself, waving from atop her dazzling parade float, was approaching. As planned, we counted to three, then bowed in a traditional Chinese martial arts salute (yes, we were nerds). To our surprise, Mulan caught sight of us, smiled, and returned the bow. We were stunned. We were giddy. But more than that, we were swept away, caught up in the story and the experience.
As a now middle-aged(ish) marketer, I can see what Disney did and continues to do so well: brand alignment. Every employee, from the princesses to the park janitors, work in a synchronous choreography meticulously designed to tell a seamless, consistent story. For consumers, this commitment to brand alignment creates their trademark magic. For the business, it builds efficacy and efficiency that permeates every layer of the organization. Luckily, you don’t have to don Mickey ears for this strategy to work for your brand.
What Is Brand Alignment?
Simply stated, brand alignment happens when every single employee understands and communicates how your company fulfills its brand promise. This doesn’t just mean that your employees can recite your mission, vision, and values without a script; it means that they become characters that share the story of your brand, not from memory, but from the heart.
Aligning your employees under your brand strategy comes with numerous benefits, including:
Better employee retention, culture, and satisfaction
Stronger relationships with consumers (and therefore, stronger conversions)
More efficient employees that operate seamlessly across channels
Increased ability to adapt to changing consumer needs and make key decisions
Improved communications between teams, departments, and channels
You may think your employees have a good handle on your brand, but if they aren’t strategically aligned, the crack will start to show.
How Do You Know You Have a Brand Alignment Problem?
You have a high employee turnover rate. Wondering why you struggle to recruit and retain top talent? It could be that they don’t understand who you are or what you stand for. Aligning your teams under your brand strategy will make them stronger and give them a solid foundation on which to build their career and better support your marketing and business goals.
Your employees use inconsistent language. While every employee will describe your brand in their own words, the brand voice and tone should always be the same. If you aren’t sure your teams are on the same page, here’s a simple test: ask members of each channel to describe your core products or services. If you get many different answers to the same question, you have a problem with brand alignment.
Your customers seem confused about what you do. This is a likely indication that the content and communications you’re releasing are out of alignment with your overall brand strategy, and it could mean that your teams aren’t in sync internally.
You don’t stand out from the crowd. Do you get frequent feedback that customers can’t differentiate you from your competitors? This doesn’t necessarily mean your brand is bad or unappealing, but it could mean that your messaging is inconsistent because your employees are out of alignment. When consumers interact with your brand across multiple channels (web, email, social, etc.), and they hear competing voices, languages, and messages, they may end up tuning out the noise…and eventually tuning out your brand.
How Do You Align Your Teams for Better Channel Efficiency?
Button up your brand. If your brand isn’t well-defined, you won’t have a framework with which to align your teams. Before you work toward brand alignment, first plan an audit of your brand’s efficacy by connecting with your audience to find out their brand perception. Understand how their perceptions differ based on which channel they use to access your brand, and review inconsistencies in messaging and content.
Hone your strategy. Brands evolve over time, so even if you started with a rock-solid strategy, chances are there have been changes that will influence your alignment and brand decision-making as you move forward. Rehash your brand strategy and consider how your personas, benefits, and attributes have changed, and adapt accordingly. Be sure any brand revisions are communicated clearly and effectively across teams.
Define cross-channel dependencies. Your teams should work together more effectively and efficiently once aligned, but first, you need to determine how they work together. Review your processes and look for gaps in communication and operations. Consider cross-channel brand training to make sure every employee is prepared with the right vocabulary and is telling the right story.
Make an alignment plan. Moz has a handy free tool for planning your brand alignment, which they call a Focus Canvas. This guide will help you frame your alignment strategy, set a timeline, and work toward integrated goals between teams.
Appoint a brand steward. Once you have your strategy nailed down and a plan for alignment, who’s going to make sure your various teams are in compliance? A brand steward reviews all content and communications to ensure brand voice, tone, and objectives are consistent across all channels and can help with quality assurance and setting future goals.
Maintain accountability. Put a system of checks and balances in place to maintain brand alignment across your teams. Your brand steward should be able to help you set up a system for reviewing, coaching, and training employees and a plan for improvements when needed. No strategy is set in stone, and yours will likely evolve as you work toward better alignment.
You don’t need to work in the House of Mouse to create a brand that unites your teams and turns out efficient and effective marketing solutions. You can create your own Magic Kingdom with a little planning and a commitment to channel alignment (pixie dust optional).