"One of our main criteria for joining the team was -- you could not be a jerk." - Anon.
Branding is always a marketing exercise, but its first and primary goal is the recruitment and retention of high-performing employees through continuous organizational development.
- The brand tells you what kind of leader is right -- because the leader sets the vision for the rest to follow.
- The brand tells you what kind of planning will work -- because it's not just a matter of allocating resources but of institutionalizing processes that will work in the culture.
- The brand tells you what kind of person can actually earn you money, based not just on skill but also on the customer's preferences. For example, some brand consultancies take the academic approach while others are more design-oriented. Both are "accurate" but it's the customer's preference that determines which is chosen.
- The brand tells you what kind of person is needed to support the revenue-generators. The human resources team, the accountants, the IT professionals, and so on do not work in a vaccuum. They do work in a team where a certain kind of behavior is accepted.
- Finally, the brand tells you what kind of advertising, marketing, social media, sales, and PR campaigns make sense for this unique organization. If you know the organization well enough, you can filter out a good campaign from a bad one in about five seconds.
The first step in branding is on-boarding new employees. Two corporate handbooks are out there and popular now: Valve and Netflix. Zappos has an entire corporate culture section of its website. (Last I heard, which was a while back, they will also pay you $2,000 to quit.) Southwest has an extremely influential Culture Committee.
All of these efforts go to the basics of the brand. Which is "everything," true. But at the end of the day the brand is how your employees behave. Not the logo, not the vision or mission statement, or the tagline or the business strategy or any document. It is what they do.
If you want to strengthen your brand, start with training in leadership, management, organizational development, and communication first. After that, the rest will follow.
* As always, all opinions are my own.