Why HR Professionals are branding superheroes in Disguise

Quick, who’s your organization’s favorite superhero? Marketing? Finance? Customer Experience? Sales?

Quick, who’s your favorite superhero? Ill-tempered Wolverine with his healing factor and adamantium claws? Wonder Woman, princess of the Amazons? Foul-mouthed, impossible-to-kill Deadpool? Weather-wielding X-woman Storm? Or maybe Batman with his fancy gadgets, genius mind and awesome fighting skills? And, yes, I know – Batman is technically more of a masked vigilante than a superhero, since he doesn’t actually have any superpowers. Just please don’t say that your favorite superhero is ‘Superman’! That dude is just way too overpowered to be taken seriously.

Chances are, as a kid, you probably read comic books or watched a cheesy cartoon featuring the X-Men, The Justice League or Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can!). And, if you have, you’ve probably seen your fair share of superheroes changing between their hero persona and their secret identities (I still don’t get why Clark Kent chose phone booths to change into his costume, but that’s another topic for another day). Just like our favourite superheroes, some business professionals have alter egos and secret identities – and they seldom get credit for the work that they do while in disguise. 

Take HR professionals for instance. You probably know your company’s HR guy or gal to be responsible for employee-facing initiatives stuff like recruitment, staff training and negotiating contracts. But in reality, these friendly neighbourhood HR professionals are actually branding superheroes in disguise. “Wait, what?” you might be thinking. “Isn’t branding all about marketing and advertising and stuff? What does HR have to do with any of that?” Well, actually, HR does have quite a lot to do with marketing and advertising ‘and stuff’.

People do business with others they know, like and trust. The aim of great branding is to become more known, liked and trusted by your employees, customers, suppliers and the public at large. So while marketing and advertising can play a huge role in helping your company build a strong brand, other factors most certainly play a role in helping your company to be more known, liked and trusted. For example, take customer service. Over the years, delivering exceptional customer experience has become an increasingly critical focus for companies seeking to gain customers, retain them and convert them into raving fans.

Customer experience has become so critical to a business’ brand that even seasoned advertising professionals are placing a heavier emphasis on customer experience than on advertising. For instance, Brian Whipple, Senior Managing Director at Accenture Interactive (a subsidiary of the management consultancy Accenture) notes: “We don’t believe brands are built from advertising anymore. They are built from an amalgamation of customer experiences, so that is what we are focused on.”  

But delivering consistently exceptional customer experience isn’t as easy as it may sound on the surface. Before a company can deliver the type of customer experience that can convert casual customers into raving fans, it must first focus on its employee experience. As the saying goes, “your customer experience will never exceed your employee experience.” As author Chris Wakely, in an article entitled 5 Ways HR Can Build Your Brand, points out: “When you think about the world’s most successful brands, you think of names like Google, Coca-Cola, and Apple – brands that have transcended their category of product or service to become icons themselves. But if you look closely, these brands also have another thing in common. They consistently top annual Best Places to Work Lists. In addition to brand recognition, they also have a strong company culture and highly engaged employees.”

As we can see, a company’s employee experience is absolutely crucial to its efforts to build a strong brand. And this is where HR professionals enter the ‘superhero in disguise’ equation. In most organizations, the HR team is the department most likely to be tasked with developing an engaged company culture which inspires team members to do their best work and to be committed to helping the organization meet its branding and business goals. Without the support of HR professionals, marketers’ jobs become so much more difficult. In fact, marketers owe HR professionals quite a lot! It is almost impossible for marketers to build their companies’ brands when that company has on its payroll a workplace full of disillusioned, disgruntled, or otherwise disengaged employees who couldn’t care less about delivering exceptional customer experience. 

HR professionals are certainly branding superheroes in disguise. Without them, marketers will have a heckuva much harder time building a strong brand. The HR professionals working in your company may not wear spandex tights or a cape. They may not wear a mask or have the power of super speed, strength or flight. And they may not get credit for the launch and execution of your company’s most recent marketing campaign. But they certainly are “branding superheroes” in disguise.

If you’re a marketing professional, give your HR team a hug today. Even superheroes need a hug every once in a while.

By Ron Johnson

Author | Speaker | Storyteller (Co-founder, Blueprint Creative)
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