As India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi launched the ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) movement on October 2 (Mahatma Gandhi – birthday of the architect of India’s independence) I noticed how closely his approach related to building a brand from within.
The brand I am referring to is the country itself and like how organizations look at their employees as stakeholders in their progress the Prime Minister is focused on his citizens. It is interesting to note how closely the movement is linked to the principles of internal branding. In this post we will explore the parallels of this movement with internal branding. Internal branding, internal marketing and employee branding are often interchangeably used in literature and for the purpose of clarity I would stick to internal branding in this post.
- Articulating an ambitious vision: While cleaning a nation is no easy task the Prime Minister listed clear deliverables and a completion date. The Swachh Bharat program is a 5 year mass movement plan (to be completed by 2019) that expects India to be clean and to dedicate the outcome to the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The government is committing 16000+ crores of the 62,000 crores needed and the movement will cover 4,401 towns, provide 2.5 lakh community toilets, 2.6 lakh public toilets, and a solid waste management facility in each town.
Internal branding is successful when there is a clear vision that spells out what is expected, by whom and when. The vision needs to be ambitious and far reaching. It isn’t a one-off campaign but a long term sustainable movement.
- Timing the movement: By launching the movement on Gandhi Jayanti (Oct 2nd, the birthday of the Father of the Nation) the Prime Minister selected a day which resonates with every citizen. He chose a leader who liberated a nation through a movement and is well respected globally. It also provided the PM a platform to aim for something larger than just cleanliness. He was looking to unite a nation on hope and aspirations. The mission aims to cover 1.04 crore households which will require a mass movement to get this initiative over the finish line. No easy task considering we are talking of a nation of over a billion people who are keen to raise their self-respect, pride and confidence.
Choosing the moment is crucial to the success of an internal branding exercise. The moment needs to monumental and can shape behavior, enhance large scale change and connect deeply with the masses.
- Internalizing the movement and leading by example: Nothing can be more powerful than a leader who sets an example. After announcing the movement, the PM conducted a surprise visit to a police station and wielded a broom. While the move was symbolic it helped to focus the attention on the action. By making simple but clear commitments the PM made participation easy. He committed to 2 hours per week to cleaning the nation. By committing in public he has also put a stake on his credibility and to lead the change.
For internal branding to work leaders must demonstrate strong commitment. They must lead the change and be seen at the forefront.
- Symbolisms and artefacts: The visuals of Mahatma Gandhi adorned on posters, t-shirts and other paraphernalia apart from the ubiquitous broom made the movement all the more powerful and self-sustaining. Citizens relate to visuals that can emotionally strike a chord. The consistency with which the messages were cascaded meant that the movement would stay alive long enough. The website, the newspaper ads, the radio spots, the short service messages, social media outreach among others tuned everyone to the same message – that of refreshing a nation from within.
Internal branding does expect you to invest in building and refreshing artefacts that consistently spell out messages you want your audiences to understand and live.
- Making the actions visible: Tapping into the sciences behind human behavior and influence the leader nominated nine people – publically announcing their names. They were in turn asked to do an ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ kind of chain with others. Note the choice of people – celebrities, business leaders, politicians, TV serial cast among others. The chosen set not just have clout but have large networks and followers and can influence the masses. He also went across political parties breaking down the silos further proving that this wasn’t a ‘party’ led idea. It also puts peer pressure on others to join the engagement – which some celebrities and business leaders did promptly!
Use influence and make the movement larger by amplifying the reach and impact. Choose your ambassadors wisely. Not on authority but on passion and influence. With a vast nation such movements can only take root when everyone pulls together.
- Making people accountable and their actions tangible: I found the idea of inviting suggestions from citizens remarkable. Citizens were asked to upload ‘before’ and ‘after’ cleaning imagery on the government website making their actions real and practical. By doing so, the movement will gain momentum and sustain itself with or without leaders’ attention. The onus will get transferred since people would love to demonstrate their participation and action.
Focusing on internal transformation – while the challenge of making every employee a brand ambassador is immense, including everyone in the movement furthers your chances of success.
- Seeking affirmative action: By asking everyone to read an oath, inviting all to don the role of cleaners and practitioners, asking citizens to be the eyes and ears to see if change is occurring clearly sent a message that positive action will follow. Data from reputed sources were used to substantiate how the nation fares and how every citizen benefits – for example, the World health Organization reports how every Indian loses INR 6500 to unhygienic conditions and health concerns
Every movement needs to see positive change and by helping employees see how they can play a role in it helps make decisions and buy-in easier
- Projecting to the world: By confirming similar messages externally during his visits overseas (inviting proposals to clean the Ganges, seeking ways to improve sanitation etc) he has ensured the internal and external communication stayed consistent. What citizens read and heard externally were the same as what he wanted them to be a part of. This is more than just about citizens feeling proud and achieving the objective of a clean nation but also about how they will begin to project themselves as nation builders to stakeholders outside – citizens of the world.
Employees need to feel confident that they can project their best faces to the world and feel happy that they belong to a movement.
Overall, the above principles of internal branding can ensure you have a head start with your organization’s engagement movement. While there will be critics and naysayers of every internal branding movement, by placing the onus on everyone with a clear vision there is little chance of such engagements losing steam.
What do you think?
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