HR’s role in brand building

Brand on the run

HR’s role in brand building

When times are tough and marketing budgets are slim, how can HR play a role in building the brand to attract and retain customers? 

In order to fully grasp the opportunity for HR, let’s first understand the meaning of a brand. Simplistically, a brand is how people experience a company. It is what they say or feel about a company. It is intangible, an emotion. While Marketing articulates the values of a brand and influence that emotion, it follows that an authentic brand is built by employees at all levels of the company. Basically, what they do or don’t do builds the customer experience (i.e. the brand).  

The power of collective understanding.
However, it is doubtful that employees understand their brand at all. Possibly, they are all aware of their company’s mission statement, vision and company values but these are internal traits of a company.  It has little to do with the consumer or market. 

What would happen if employees understood what it actually was that truly connected their company to the market? And if they applied these brand values in their specific jobs and processes, would we not see the aggregation of values impact on the customer experience – the brand? Of course we would because that is what iconic brands do. 

HR should enjoy the same resources as Marketing.
It becomes clear that brands are built by people and developing those same people is the responsibility of HR. This understanding brings a whole new meaning to HR.   The drawback is perhaps that HR does not have the necessary expertise in brand and marketing to pull this off. The solution is no different to what their marketing colleagues do – bring in brand and marketing specialists to help them.  Success in building a band of internal brand activists is going to depend on connecting (brand); reaching (marketing); exciting (design); engaging (content) and PR (influencing) with employees – it is no different to attracting consumers.  Treat your people like clients that you need to win over.

Maximising HR’s effectiveness.
If HR understands what the brand is all about, how much more effective could they be in fields such as: 

  • Recruiting and on-boarding the right people 
  • Talent Management 
  • Training & development 
  • Performance management 
  • Rewards and recognition programmes, and 
  • Internal communications. 

While the last point, internal communications, articulates the brand internally to do what Marketing do externally (i.e. connect), the other points listed need to be aligned to the brand. In doing so, you soon develop a brand-centred organisation. Given that the brand is your space in the client’s mind, your people and your clients become as one.

Moving and magnificent.
In troubled times, consider allocating some of your budget to HR so that they can begin the process of building your brand from within and, through your people, create distinct and memorable client experiences all day, every day. Other exciting things will also start happening as the brand becomes your rallying flag. You will fund less politics or petty jealousies and departments move forward with a common goal and greater purpose. For me, a brand on the run through a company is something moving and magnificent with new energy, purpose and pride coursing through the peoples’ veins.


Gary Hendrickse
CEO Sherpa

Sherpa Brand & Design Agency