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Exploring the relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 19(6), 401-409

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Purpose – The corporate branding concept places an emphasis on employees' attitudes and behaviours. This has given rise to internal branding and employer branding, which argue for a closer alignment between the employees' values and those of the corporate brand. However, few studies have attempted to provide a platform by which the two concepts could be synergised to achieve a strong, consistent corporate brand. This paper therefore seeks to explore and demonstrate how the three concepts of branding are interrelated through a new framework. Design/methodology/approach – Three bodies of literature (corporate branding, internal branding, and employer branding) were selected for review and examination in terms of their implications for the proposed framework that conceptualises the relationships between the three areas. Findings – The review of the literature highlights the importance of employer branding and internal branding, and its potential to support the corporate brand‐building initiatives, whilst maintaining their distinctiveness in the literature. It also sheds light in terms of the inter‐relationships among the three concepts of branding. Originality/value – The analysis of the literature reveals a degree of synergy and integration between employer branding and internal branding. It also facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the implications of the two concepts for branding and integrated corporate brand management.
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Exploring the relationship between corporate,
internal and employer branding
Carley Foster, Khanyapuss Punjaisri and Ranis Cheng
Nottingham Business School, Chaucer Building, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Abstract
Purpose The corporate branding concept places an emphasis on employees’ attitudes and behaviours. This has given rise to internal branding and
employer branding, which argue for a closer alignment between the employees’ values and those of the corporate brand. However, few studies have
attempted to provide a platform by which the two concepts could be synergised to achieve a strong, consistent corporate brand. This paper therefore
seeks to explore and demonstrate how the three concepts of branding are interrelated through a new framework.
Design/methodology/approach Three bodies of literature (corporate branding, internal branding, and employer branding) were selected for
review and examination in terms of their implications for the proposed framework that conceptualises the relationships between the three areas.
Findings The review of the literature highlights the importance of employer branding and internal branding, and its potential to support the
corporate brand-building initiatives, whilst maintaining their distinctiveness in the literature. It also sheds light in terms of the inter-relationships among
the three concepts of branding.
Originality/value The analysis of the literature reveals a degree of synergy and integration between employer branding and internal branding. It also
facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the implications of the two concepts for branding and integrated corporate brand management.
Keywords Corporate branding, Brand management, Employees attitudes, Employees behaviour
Paper type Conceptual paper
An executive summary for managers and executive
readers can be found at the end of this article.
Introduction
Balmer and Gray (2003) advocate that a strong, favourable
corporate brand is a powerful “navigational tool” to a variety
of stakeholders, which include not only existing employees
and shareholders, but also potential employees. This
underlines that effective corporate brand management needs
to balance an external orientation with an internal orientation.
The importance of existing employees internal stakeholders
has been recognised in the literature due to the rise of the
service era. Because employees are central to corporate brand
management, internal branding and employer branding have
recently been introduced to the branding literature. While
internal branding focuses largely on the adoption of the
branding concept inside an organisation to ensure that
employees deliver the brand promise to the external
stakeholders, employer branding offers a way of ensuring
that an organisation recruits the right people in the first
instance. However, the relationship between corporate
branding, internal branding and employer branding are yet
to be fully explored in the corporate branding literature.
Although there are a number of studies which investigate
corporate branding, internal branding and employer
branding, this research tends to regard these concepts as
stand alone elements. Few papers (e.g. Mosley, 2007) have
discussed internal branding and employer branding together.
Still, they have not clearly addressed how the two concepts
could be adopted together to ensure the consistent corporate
brand experience. Furthermore, how the three concepts of
branding, namely corporate branding, internal branding, and
employer branding, are fundamentally inter-related has been
overlooked. Without this basic understanding of their inter-
relationships, it is difficult to understand how a consistent
corporate brand can be achieved, and to pursue any future
research to understand how these inter-relationships may vary
by the type of industry, market and organisation. The aim of
this paper is therefore to explore and demonstrate through a
proposed conceptual model how corporate branding, internal
branding, and employer branding relate to one another.
Although back office staff play a role in corporate, employer
and internal branding activities, the focus of this paper is
customer-facing staff, since these represent the crucial
interface between the organisation and customers (King,
1991). Consequently, the model put forward in this paper is
most relevant for those organisations operating in a service
environment.
Corporate branding
As a corporate brand is an explicit promise between an
organisation and its key stakeholder groups (Balmer, 1998), it
is important that the promise is kept at all times for all
company constituencies. All attributes of the organisation’s
identity need to be made known in the form of a clearly
defined branding proposition, which underpins organisational
efforts to communicate, differentiate, and enhance the brand
vis-a
`-vis key stakeholder groups and networks (Balmer,
2001a). Simply put, corporate branding concerns
the systematic planned management of behaviour,
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
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Journal of Product & Brand Management
19/6 (2010) 401– 409
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]
[DOI 10.1108/10610421011085712]
401
communication, and symbolism in order to attain a
favourable and positive reputation with target audiences of
an organisation (Einwiller and Will, 2002). More specifically,
the “behaviour” aspect could refer to the employees’
behaviours in delivering on the promise of a corporate
brand. Because a brand acts as a promise between an
organisation and its potential and existing customers, the
promise has to be understood internally and the entire
organisation has to be committed to deliver on it. It needs to
permeate throughout all actions of a company (Tilley, 1999).
Effective communication is therefore key to successful
corporate brand management (Ind, 1998). Alignment
between an organisation’s vision and employees’ values must
also be met (Hatch and Schultz, 2001) so that a brand
promise and values delivered by employees can facilitate the
communication of a consistent brand image and its
associations to external constituents (Berry, 1995, 2000;
Bitner, 1992; Ind, 1998).
King (1991) advocates that employees are the interface
between the organisation and customers. Likewise, de
Chernatony et al. (2003) argue that service brands are
about the delivery of promises through personal interactions
between the customer-facing staff and customers. Employees
are thus a key element of building an organisation’s corporate
brand (King, 1991) as corporate brand management requires
the total commitment of all staff within an organisation
(Balmer, 2001b) to deliver the brand promise to the
stakeholders. Although one might argue that viewing a
brand as a promise focuses on attracting and retaining
customers (e.g. McQuiston, 2004; Tarantin, 2002),
the corporate brand promise is derived from understanding
the corporate identity and its culture. This is because the
corporate identity represents what the corporate brand stands
for as it encompasses the organisation’s ethos, aims and
values. Furthermore corporate identity acts as a link between
the organisation and customers (Aaker, 2004). It creates a
sense of individuality for an organisation that can be used as
one of the sources of differentiation for the organisation (de
Chernatony and Harris, 2000) and according to Balmer
(2001a), corporate identity represents the foundation of a
corporate brand.
The behaviour of employees is seen as having a major
influence on how external stakeholders perceive the corporate
brand and make sense of its identity and image (Anixter,
2003; Hatch and Schultz, 2001). The importance of
employees in the corporate branding literature has been
extensively highlighted (e.g. de Chernatony and Harris, 2000;
Harris and de Chernatony, 2001), as Ind (1998, p. 324)
argues that “employees have the potential to make or break
the corporate brand”. Therefore, close alignment of the
employees with the organisation’s brand values may provide
an organisation with a sustainable competitive advantage
(Pringle and Thompson, 2001). Furthermore, it is important
to note that at the heart of corporate branding is the idea of
“nurturing” existing employees as well as attracting and
recruiting the right candidates in the first instance (Ind,
1998). However, “potential employees” as a key stakeholder
group of the corporate brand have been overlooked in the
existing corporate branding literature (Hatch and Schultz,
2003).
Internal branding to fulfil the corporate brand
promise
The service and corporate branding literature has highlighted
the influences of staff on existing and potential customers and
other stakeholders’ brand perceptions through their role in
delivering both functional (what are delivered) and emotional
(how they are delivered) brand values (de Chernatony, 2002).
As such, internal branding has as its focus the internal
constituencies, namely existing employees. However, since the
effective delivery of the corporate brand promise is reliant on
individual employees, each service encounter may potentially
lead to variability of the corporate brand experience. This
concerns not only the interactions between customer-facing
staff and existing and potential customers but also those
between the customer-facing staff and the back office staff.
According to Heskett’s (1987) service profit chain, internal
service quality is the key driver of customer satisfaction, and
hence organisational performance and profitability. The
premise is that individual staff must provide and receive
excellent service to ensure the best possible service to
customers. This reflects the notion of effective internal
branding, which proposes that both customer-facing staff and
back office staff are important to ensure the consistent
delivery of the brand promise. That is, every employee across
the organisation needs to understand the corporate brand
values. If this is achieved, it is argued that their appreciation
for their roles and their commitment to delivering the brand
promise will increase (Heskett, 1987). Recent studies reveal
that internal branding can also enable organisations to fulfil
the brand promise proposed to external constituencies (e.g.
Drake et al., 2005). The premise is that internal branding
activities communicate and educate employees about the
brand values to enhance their intellectual and emotional
engagement with the brand (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn,
2001; Thomson et al., 1999). Based on this clear
understanding of the brand promise, employees can behave
and act naturally during the service encounter whilst still
effectively communicating the brand promise (Mosley, 2007).
Drawing upon social identity theory (Ashforth and Mael,
1989), unique and distinctive brand values can also provide a
focal point to help employees identify with the organisation
and internal branding can act as a tool for enhancing
employees’ identification with the organisation. Furthermore,
the organisational identification theory suggests that
employees who identify with the organisation will endeavour
to accomplish the company’s strategic interest (Brown and
Williams, 1984; Cheney, 1983; Dutton et al., 1994; Van Dick,
2001) and similarly, the organisational commitment theory
suggests that employees are more likely to be emotionally
attached to an organisation if they accept the values of the
brand (Cook and Wall, 1980).
Although a universal definition has not yet been proposed,
authors agree on a key principle underpinning internal
branding, that is that it ensures that employees transform the
espoused brand values, which set customers’ expectations
about the organisation, into reality during the delivery of the
brand promise (e.g. Aurand et al., 2005; Boone, 2000; de
Chernatony and Cottam, 2006; King and Grace, 2008;
Manhert and Torres, 2007). This demonstrates the
importance of existing employees and internal branding
The relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding
Carley Foster et al.
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 6 · 2010 · 401 409
402
activities in achieving overall corporate brand consistency and
that an internal branding programme should be managed and
implemented together with a corporate branding strategy.
Limitations of the internal branding research
Recent research has been conducted to understand the
outcomes of internal branding on employees’ brand-
supporting behaviours (e.g. Punjaisri and Wilson, 2007;
Punjaisri et al., 2008, 2009). These have highlighted the
importance of an integrative internal branding framework
encompassing functions such as human resources and
marketing. Specifically, Punjaisri et al. (2009) have shown
that the coordination of human resources and marketing is
key to successfully implementing internal branding and
engendering positive outcomes such as employees’ brand
identification, brand commitment, brand loyalty, and brand-
supporting behaviours. Although various authors within the
internal branding vein have acknowledged the importance of
aligning marketing and HR functions, Mosley (2007) has
observed that HR roles are still restricted to communication
support rather than playing a more strategic role in people
management practices to ensure the delivery of the brand
promise.
Drake et al. (2005) argue that internal branding is realised
through the practice of internal marketing and a review of the
“IM” literature (e.g. Ahmed et al., 2003; Berry and
Parasuraman, 1991; Cahill, 1995; Gummesson, 1991;
Sasser and Arbeit, 1976) demonstrates that training is not
the only important activity, but other HR practices such as
recruiting, rewarding, and retaining staff are pivotal. Kundu
and Vora (2004), for example, argue that recruiting the right
people is critical, particularly for organisations that rely on
employees to represent brand values and deliver their brand
promises. Furthermore, Halbesleben and Buckley (2004)
suggest that hiring patterns affect the organisation’s culture,
service standards, and reputation; thereby affecting the
success of corporate branding. However, most internal
branding studies have not provided a solution on “how” to
recruit the right people into an organisation and instead,
recent studies (e.g. Punjaisri and Wilson, 2007; Punjaisri et al.,
2009) have focused on how to use internal branding to secure
the employees’ brand-supporting behaviours. This is despite
work by Punjaisri and Wilson (2007) highlighting that senior
managers in their study had difficulties recruiting suitable
candidates who shared similar values to that of the
organisation and de Chernatony (2001) arguing that staff
recruitment based on the level of value congruence is
sometimes more viable than focusing merely on technical/
operational skills as values are a driver of staff behaviours and
yet are difficult to change. In effect then, the internal branding
literature focuses on influencing existing employees to deliver
on the brand promise, but fails to address how an organisation
can recruit the “right” candidates whose values fit with the
organisation in the first place.
Employer branding the concept
While internal branding has focused largely on ensuring that
existing employees deliver on the brand promise, firms, as
part of the corporate brand management process, have begun
to realise the importance of recruiting employees whose values
fit with an organisation (Ind, 1998; Hatch and Schultz, 2003).
This is achieved through developing an “employer brand”
which creates a perception of the organisation as a desirable
place to work within the external labour market (Sullivan,
2004). Employer branding allows the firm to differentiate
itself from other employers competing for talent and to attract
applicants who ideally possess similar, if not the same, values
as the organisation (Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004). Employer
branding therefore provides an organisation with the benefits
of increasing applicant quantity and quality (Collins and Han,
2004) and organisational performance (Fulmer et al., 2003).
From corporate branding to employer branding
Moroko and Uncles (2008) argue that consumer, corporate,
and employer branding share similar characteristics; that is, a
brand has to be noticeable, relevant and resonant, and
unique. A comparison of the definition of an employer brand
provided by Ambler and Barrow (1996) with Park et al.’s
(1986) more general brand categorisation further reinforces
this argument. Ambler and Barrow (1996, p. 187) state that
an employer brand is ‘the package of functional, economic,
and psychological benefits provided by employment, and
identified with the employing company”. Similarly, Park et al.
(1986) categorise brands based on how they fulfil the
functional, symbolic and experiential needs of customers.
Further similarities between corporate branding and employer
branding can be observed when considering the “promise”
made between the organisation and the stakeholder group.
Moroko and Uncles (2008) suggest that an employer brand
can be regarded as a psychological contract between an
employer and employee, and similarly the corporate branding
literature (e.g. Olins, 2004) has long considered a brand as a
promise from an organisation to customers. For this promise
to be successful in an employment context (as it would in a
product/service context), the employer brand propositions
should be established to ensure that the rational and
emotional benefits are congruent with existing and potential
employees’ expectations (Mosley, 2007).
Referring to the person-organisation fit concept, research
has found that potential applicants compare their needs,
personalities and values to the employer brand image, which
is formulated based on the organisation’s intent statements to
attract prospective employees (e.g. Byrne and Neuman, 1992;
Cable and Judge, 1996; Judge and Cable, 1997). If an
employer fails to deliver their employer brand promise to new
staff and new recruits look to validate their employment
decision, it is likely that the post-entry performance of
employees will be negatively affected and staff turnover will
increase (Schein, 1985; Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004). This
further stresses the importance of providing accurate brand
messages about the organisation’s culture, identity, and values
to potential applicants so as to form a realistic psychological
contract that can and will be reflected by their employment
experience.
The necessity of aligning corporate branding with employer
branding becomes even more important when we consider the
increasingly complex identities of stakeholders who have a
significant impact on corporate brand management. In this
instance, potential applicants may also be the customers of an
The relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding
Carley Foster et al.
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 6 · 2010 · 401 409
403
organisation, and in corporate management terms both are
considered to be the key external stakeholder audiences
(Knox and Freeman, 2006). Existing and potential customers
have perceptions towards the corporate brand based on the
organisation’s external brand-related communication
activities, such as being exposed to the company’s
advertising and interacting with customer facing-staff,
particularly in the service sector (Balmer and Wilkinson,
1991; Nguyen and Leblanc, 2002; Parasuraman et al., 1985).
Indeed the importance of frontline staff has been highlighted
in a study carried out by Rynes et al. (1991). Their findings
show that the employer brand image is established through
the actions of front line employees rather than the employer’s
“controlled” recruitment activities and materials. It can be
argued then that this customer experience would also
inevitably impact on an individual’s perceptions of the firm
as a place to work. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile emphasising
that company-wide involvement from all staff is critical to
ensure the effective delivery of the corporate brand promise,
particularly within the service sector, where employees are the
personal manifestation of the brand (Berry and Lampo, 2004;
Olins, 2004). Thus, without the integration between the
corporate brand and employer brand, inconsistencies may
occur in the minds of the general public, which may lead to
the corporate brand negatively impacting on the employer
brand and vice versa (Moroko and Uncles, 2008). Ultimately
this could lead to a reduction in the organisation’s
competitiveness in the labour market and increased staff
turnover (Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004).
Aligning corporate branding with both internal
branding and employer branding
Although most authors argue that employer branding aims to
communicate to both prospective and existing employees that
the organisation is a desirable place of work (e.g. Lloyd,
2002), most research focuses upon enhancing the process of
person-organisation value-matching through effective
communication during the recruitment process (e.g. Davies,
2008; Knox and Freeman, 2006; Mosley, 2007). This is
because achieving alignment between an individual’s values
and those of the organisation assumes that diversity of opinion
can create performance-related issues, such as internal
conflicts, for managers (Foster and Harris, 2005) and
ignores other literature that suggests that diversity of
opinion and values can enhance an organisation’s
performance (Appelbaum et al., 1998; Pelled et al., 1999).
The primary focus of the employer branding literature
therefore concerns how an organisation externally
communicates its brand to potential recruits rather than
how this should be done internally to existing staff. Similarly,
the internal branding literature has as its focus existing
employees, i.e. internal stakeholders, but fails to explore how
these employees could be recruited from an external labour
market in the first place. This paper therefore argues that
there is a need to align internal branding and employer
branding to ensure that effective corporate brand
management is achieved. Moreover, because a corporate
brand promise is derived from the organisation’s identity and
culture, this paper argues that the corporate brand values
should act as a guide for both internal branding and employer
branding. Concurrently, employer branding should clearly
understand what promise of benefits its corporate brand can
offer prospective and current employees to avoid the
perceived violation of a psychological contract. Internal
branding can ensure that the new recruit continues to
understand what the brand stands for and what values the
corporate brand is proposing to the external stakeholders (e.g.
Aurand et al., 2005; Thomson et al., 1999; Vallaster and de
Chernatony, 2006). This process is important since the role of
employer branding does not end at identifying what
prospective employees can expect from the organisation in
terms of rational and emotional benefits (Mosley, 2007).
Aligning internal branding with employer branding should
in theory lead to a closer working relationship between the
HR and marketing functions and ultimately an increase in
organisational performance and a strengthened corporate
brand. So, for example, research shows that the effectiveness
of internal branding is determined by work environment
factors such as reward systems and remuneration schemes
which are typically the responsibility of the HR function
(Punjaisri et al., 2008, 2009). Similarly, Mosley (2007)
remarks that internal branding has focused more on the
communication-led aspects of the process, despite recognising
that HR and marketing practices need to be more co-
ordinated.
Employer branding is key to ensuring the total employer
brand experience as illustrated by the conceptual framework
proposed by Mosley (2007), which reveals that an employer
brand’s focus should extend beyond recruitment to include
orientation, reward and recognition. This model could be
extended further by integrating internal branding with
employer branding. Training staff in internal branding
activities could present opportunities for career
advancement thus enhancing the total employer brand
experience (Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004) and encouraging
employees to remain with the organisation (Baruch, 2004;
Punjaisri and Wilson, 2007; Punjaisri et al., 2008).
Conclusion and implications for corporate
branding, employer branding, and internal
branding research and scholarship
This paper has brought to light the inter-relationships that
exist between the corporate branding, employer branding,
and internal branding concepts. Based on these insights, this
paper proposes a conceptual framework (Figure 1) that
concludes the key issues reviewed. This framework provides a
useful commencing point for corporate branding scholars to
appreciate the synergy that exists between employer branding
and internal branding, and to acknowledge the importance of
different stakeholder groups, including existing employees
and customers and potential customers and staff, in corporate
brand management. The paper and model exposes areas
where internal branding could be supported and enhanced by
employer branding and vice versa, thereby proposing the
possibilities for integrating the two concepts to attain the
success of a corporate brand. This paper has also emphasised
theimportanceofacorporatebrandas“apowerful
navigational tool” (see Balmer and Gray, 2003).
The framework shows that overall, corporate branding
concerns “promise management”. Internal branding (A) and
The relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding
Carley Foster et al.
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 6 · 2010 · 401 409
404
employer branding (C) are shown to support this brand
promise delivery, albeit from different perspectives. Internal
branding has an internal focus while employer branding tends
to focus on the external constituencies, namely potential
employees, which could also be an organisation’s customers
(D). As an organisation’s existing and potential customers
tend to interact with its customer-facing staff (B), they may
form a perception of the organisation as a place to work, i.e.
the employer brand based on these interactions, which may
ultimately persuade them to join/not join the organisation (E).
Once a new employee, they may then become customer-
facing staff and exposed to internal branding activities (E). It is
also implicit in the model that the employer and internal
branding activities should precisely and consistently articulate
what the organisation, based on its culture and values, can
offer its employees and customers (potential and existing),
therefore highlighting the need for an integrative framework
across human resources and marketing. This will ensure that
the corporate brand provides consistent experiences at every
touch point, while adapting to the changing environment.
The model also indicates where the gap exists in the branding
literature (as indicated by the broken line in Figure 1 (F)),
which is the failure thus far to identify the link between
internal and employer branding as part of the management of
the corporate brand.
The authors have attempted to address this gap by
proposing that closer conceptual links should be made
between internal and employer branding, and have indicated
where these links might occur. However, a limitation of what
is presented here is that it draws upon the limited amount of
employer and internal branding literature. Empirical studies,
in particular qualitative case studies, which would enable the
researchers to explore the activities of both HR and marketing
functions, would further our understanding of how employer
and internal branding might link to enhance the corporate
brand and how the two concepts could be better aligned.
Furthermore, empirical work that explores the implications
this model might have for organisations that do not rely so
heavily on direct interactions between customer-facing staff
and customers would be beneficial.
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About the authors
Carley Foster is currently a Senior Lecturer in Marketing and
Retail Management at Nottingham Business School. Her
research interests include diversity management, employer
branding and retail marketing. She has recently embarked on
research which explores how the diversity of customer-facing
retail staff might influence the shopping experiences of
customers, women’s career progression in retailing and
employer branding across different sectors. Carley Foster is
the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
carley.foster@ntu.ac.uk
Khanyapuss Punjaisri is a Lecturer in Marketing at
Nottingham Trent University in the UK. She completed a
PhD at the University of Strathclyde Business School in the
area of services marketing, focusing on the hotel industry in
Thailand.
Ranis Cheng is a Lecturer in Marketing at Nottingham
Trent University with research interests in corporate identity
and corporate brand management. She has published her
work on corporate identity in the UK fashion retail sector in
European Journal of Marketing.
The relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding
Carley Foster et al.
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 6 · 2010 · 401 409
407
Executive summary and implications for
managers and executives
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives
a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a
particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in
toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the
research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the
material present.
Most scholars agree that a strong corporate brand is essential
to different stakeholders of an organisation. Alongside current
employees and shareholders, potential employees have been
included in this category. In light of this, it is feasible to
assume that corporate brand management demands both an
internal and an external focus in order to be effective.
Internal branding
Internal branding is already key within many companies, and
the role of employees in corporate brand management is
widely recognised. Consequently, ensuring that the branding
concept is embraced inside the organisation is the core aim of
internal branding initiatives. This is vital if employees are to
deliver properly the brand promise to customers and other
external stakeholders.
Those responsible for delivering the promise must
understand the identity and culture of the organization in
terms of, for example, its aims and values. The branding
proposition therefore needs to be clearly defined, as it reflects
the behaviour, activities, symbolism and communication that
can differentiate the company from others and create a
favourable impression on its target audience.
How external stakeholders perceive the brand is
considerably influenced by how employees behave. Indeed,
some belief exists that employees have the power to determine
the fate of any corporate brand through the brand values they
choose to deliver to current and potential customers and the
manner in which they deliver them. Given these claims, firms
should make securing alignment between the company vision
and employee values a core objective. A general assumption
here is that employees who more closely engage with brand
values are likely to display greater commitment and be more
intellectually and emotionally connected to the organisation.
In this regard, several analysts have noted the scope for
internal branding to help boost employee identification
through various activities designed to further educate the
workforce about brand values. Customer-facing staff are the
logical target of such endeavours, but communicating a
consistent brand message demands a high degree of
understanding throughout the whole organisation. That
way, there is a greater likelihood of the positive interaction
between frontline and back office employees that some
scholars believe to be vital if the customer is to receive quality
service from the company.
The importance of internal branding is undisputed, as is the
suggestion that related activities and programs need to be
implemented and managed alongside the corporate branding
strategy. To this end, researchers have commented on the
need to develop an internal framework that includes key
functions like marketing and human resources (HR) to
facilitate the implementation process. Employee training is
viewed as one important HR activity, while staff recruitment
and retention are other key practices.
Recruitment is especially significant, but the focus of
internal branding research on brand-supporting behaviours
among existing employees means that this issue has not been
considered in great depth. However, one study did find
evidence that senior managers found it hard to recruit
candidates whose values closely matched those within the
firm. Granted the assumption that individual values are
entrenched and therefore difficult to change, this appears
highly significant and adds weight to the argument that value
congruence can prove more valuable than accentuating
relevant skills, as is the norm.
Employer branding
This growing realisation about the importance of attracting
the right employees at the outset has prompted scholars to
suggest that these objectives can be attained through the
development of an employer brand. Such an approach can
help to differentiate the firm to prospective candidates and
nurture the perception that it is a desirable environment in
which to work. Through employer branding activities,
organizations can attract the calibre of employee needed to
improve performance.
An employer brand has been described as a “psychological
contract” between employer and employee. To others, it
encompasses the functional, economic and psychological
benefits provided by a company to its workforce. That the
benefits should align with the expectations of current and
potential employees is a significant point made by some
analysts.
Statements of intent made by the company therefore
become key reference sources for candidates to compare their
needs and values with those of the organization. Just as a
failure to deliver the brand promise will alienate customers, a
comparable outcome concerning the employer brand promise
is likely to impact negatively on the morale and performance
of the workforce. Retention thus becomes more difficult and
staff turnover increases. Foster et al. argue that this scenario
can be avoided if communication to prospective employees
about the firm’s identity, culture and values is accurate from
the start. It is nevertheless worth noting that certain scholars
believe that a firm’s performance can actually be enhanced if
its workforce boasts some diversity in terms of opinions and
values.
Branding alignment
The authors maintain that consistency between corporate
branding, internal branding and employer branding is
essential. To illustrate the point, they note the possibility for
stakeholders to have “increasingly complex identities”, such
as in situations where prospective employees are also
customers of the firm. In their guise as existing or potential
customers, these individuals evaluate the corporate brand
based on relevant external communications that include
advertising and encounters with customer-facing staff.
Employer branding must therefore function to ensure that
these perceptions remain steadfast. On the other hand, the
The relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding
Carley Foster et al.
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 6 · 2010 · 401 409
408
inconsistencies that occur when the corporate brand and
employer brand are misaligned inevitably triggers doubts
among the general public that can negatively impact upon
employee satisfaction, brand credibility and competitiveness.
This situation is less likely to arise if internal branding and
employer branding are guided by corporate brand values.
Most studies that have examined employer branding and
internal branding have considered them as separate entities. It
is the opinion of Foster et al. that this is inappropriate because
of the concurrent nature of their relationship. For instance,
the employer brand prepares the foundations for the
“psychological contract” between the brand and its new
employees that is then reinforced through internal branding
activities that indicate what the corporate brand offers to
external stakeholders. Alignment between internal branding
and employer branding also extends the relevance of the latter
beyond recruitment to issues such as how employee efforts are
rewarded and recognised. Different researchers also suggest
that alignment fosters closer working relations between HR
and marketing functions and note the positive impact on
organisation performance and brand strength.
Ultimately, organisations must comprehend the “synergy
that exists between employer branding and internal branding”
and are urged to create a framework that blends HR and
marketing. This can help deliver consistent communication
based on company values and culture that promotes the
organisation to current and potential employees and
customers.
The need for closer conceptual ties between internal and
employer branding as proposed by Foster et al. could be
further explored within empirical research using qualitative
case studies. Additional investigation into the contribution of
HR and marketing functions may provide greater insight into
how the association between employer and internal branding
can enrich the corporate brand.
(A pre
´cis of the article “Exploring the relationship between
corporate, internal and employer branding”. Supplied by
Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)
The relationship between corporate, internal and employer branding
Carley Foster et al.
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 19 · Number 6 · 2010 · 401 409
409
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