How to make every employee an active brand ambassador

3 minute read
Organisations invest billions of dollars in marketing their brands yet often overlook an effective resource closer to home – their employees. Chris Roebuck looks four steps to building an army of brand ambassadors
Chris Roebuck

Four steps to building employee brand ambassadors

Over $750 billion a year is spent by organisations globally on advertising to boost their brands. Yet many marketing and branding professionals don’t realise the full potential of employee brand ambassadors.

Inspiring every employee to be a proactive brand ambassador not only ensures the delivery of brand promises to customers but also improves performance which then further strengthens your brand.

The challenge

The vast majority of employees aren’t aware of brand promises to customers. Many are often unclear on vision, values, purpose and the wider  picture. 

Employees will only be brand ambassadors if great leadership motivates them to want to be. 

UBS You and Us promotional material

Does it work ? 

Employee brand ambassadors were a key part of my work in the creation of UBS, the global bank, and delivered significant impact. A clear business case set out by the CEO, cascaded and enabled by proactive entrepreneurial leadership at all levels inspired employees to become ambassadors.

The result? 51% increase in brand value and becoming a top global brand in 3 just years, with higher than peer profitability and numerous awards.  This is now a Harvard Case study “Towards the Integrated Firm”    

But there are wider benefits,  here a specific challenge GE overcame with employee brand ambassadors.

Building your army of brand ambassadors 

There are four simple steps – 

  • Building an ‘I Care’ culture 
  • Building understanding
  • Building belief
  • Taking action

‘I Care’, understanding, belief and action aren’t discrete phases, but more a day-to-day interweaving of a truly compelling and inspiring narrative for everyone.

1. ‘I Care’ leadership for an ‘I Care’ culture

Before you can build understanding, belief and action you have to create a culture where people want to give their best. 

Leaders becoming ‘I Care’ leaders can create this culture in three simple steps :

  • Firm Foundation of key task delivery skills – prioritisation, planning and time management, delegation, communication, giving feedback. These give bandwidth for the next step. 
  • Getting the best from everyone - Simple day-to-day actions which get extra effort, eg asking for ideas – 35% more effort, just showing you care,  26% showing how what people do contributes to the big picture, not only gets over 30% more effort but also enhances understanding of the brand.
  • Focusing the best on what delivers success – Ensuring all effort is focused on the delivery of strategic objectives and the enhancement of the brand, not wasted on low ROI activity.

2. Building understanding

All employees need know the brand promises and see the big picture. This can be achieved via: 

Team meetings – regular meetings to discuss how the team is doing, how it can be better, and how it fits into the big picture, including brand and customers.

Town halls – where senior leaders share key messages about the brand and customers to further enhance understanding and build belief. They have significant benefits if run well and should be a regular event.

Lunch and learn - an extremely effective means to enhance understanding, improve performance and build networks.

Customer facing staff should brief non – facing teams in meetings or lunch and learn on customer needs.

3. Building belief – the power of emotion

Belief moves employees from understanding to action. Belief is emotional commitment. Employees’ trust in their boss built through simple day to day actions is key to success, which then builds belief in the organisation. But the values of the employee brand and customer brand must also align.

Emotional commitment can deliver up to 40% more discretionary effort than rational commitment, see page 10, Without emotional commitment it’s unlikely employees will become proactive brand ambassadors.

4. Taking action

Taking action boosting the brand is much easier once understanding and belief are in place. Just asking “how do you think we could do better for our customers?”, “how do you think we could get our brand message across better?”, “how could we help you be brand ambassador?” focuses everyone on ensuring that everything they do positively impacts the delivery of brand promises. 

There are a vast number of different ways to engage employees – stories from Starbucks, Walmart & Maceys.  

Spread and embed

You need to spread and embed, constantly using success stories, discussion and networking opportunities, team meetings and town halls, opportunities to meet customers and anything which keeps the brand promises and customers in employees' minds as they work day to day.

Being a brand ambassador then becomes part of who you are as an employee.  

On the road to success brand ambassadors lead the way 

As the CFO of a telecoms company said: “This is a no-brainer, it’s a licence to print money.”  That’s true but what is so inspiring is that it makes your organisation’s purpose live in every employee so that they go home happy and spread the word on how great you are. 

Chris Roebuck, pictured below, is a global speaker and advisor with experience in military, senior engagement, leadership and transformation roles. He has been one of HR Most Influential Thinkers 10 times, hon visiting professor of transformational leadership and helps leaders and organisations be more successful in 3 Simple Steps. For a more in depth version of this article and other articles on what key knowledge leaders need check out Chris’s Web or LinkedIn

Chris Roebuck

Published 2 May 2023
Enjoyed this story?
Sign up for our newsletter here.