What is the essence of business? Fundamentally, it’s the act of engaging in commerce, and we generate commerce by influencing someone to do something—buy a product, invest in an idea, or influence others to buy a product or invest in an idea. The engine at the heart of any business is influence. So, how can a company harness the power of influence to reach its business goals?
One of the most effective ways of influencing customers to take action is through branding (if influence is the engine, branding is the transmission). If you have a strong brand, the interface between the brand and the customer does most of the heavy lifting, influencing them to buy your product.
But, before your brand can work its magic on customers, you must consider the other side: the interface between the company and the brand. Every manager and employee must be on the same page, communicating the same ideas to the outside world and to each other, for a branding initiative to work. One way to boost internal brand awareness is through a comprehensive brand training program. Another way is to harness the power of social influence, which is rooted in cognitive psychology.
To see how we influence each other, we can look to social learning theory, which was developed by the psychologist, Albert Bandura, in the 1950s. Social learning theory describes how new behaviors can be learned by observing and imitating others in a process called social modeling. Essentially this theory implies that people learn by processing what they see others doing. The ability to learn primarily by observing others multiplies the amount of learning that can take place during one’s life. This is thought to be a key element in large-scale cooperation , which forms the foundation of human civilization.
There are several elements that support effective social learning and modeling:
- Attention: For social learning to take place, the teacher or model must attract the attention of the learner. Someone who displays distinctive personality traits, who is clearly successful, or is known for taking a novel approach to problem-solving can serve as an effective model for others.
- Retention: Information learned through observation is not quite as “sticky” as that which is learned through direct experience, so learners need to take action to internalize it. Observing multiple examples (in multiple environments) of the same behavior, writing down notes, and mentally or verbally rehearsing information all help retention.
- Reproduction: Implementing observed behavior is the strongest way to retain new information. It’s the whole point of social learning. Once the learner has successfully reproduced what they see, they are well on their way to behavior change.
- Motivation: There needs to be a good reason for the learner to reproduce the behavior they see. People are motivated when they see how certain behavior enriches other people’s lives and helps them overcome tricky problems.
With these principles in mind, we can see the link between this kind of cognitive process and blended learning solutions with social components. Certain individuals within a company can act as influencers, using social modeling (either intentionally or unintentionally) to not only spread knowledge but also stoke enthusiasm and help others develop habits that support the brand. These folks are known as internal brand influencers. They act as the company’s de facto leaders when it comes to brand awareness. So, developing a team of internal brand influencers should be part of a company’s overall brand training strategy.
Through these influencers, social learning forms a bond that permeates an entire organization. Having this bond is critical for maintaining robust brand integrity, and without that, a branding initiative is practically worthless. Internal brand influencers are, therefore, critical to saving the company from incoherent brand messaging and resultant losses on the bottom line.
Bridging the Brand Training Gap
If you’d like to learn more—much more—about developing a team of internal brand influencers you’ll want to register for the Allencomm Bridging the Brand Training Gap webinar. Here are a few thoughts from a brief interview with one of the webinar presenters, Amy Weiland:
How do we translate the principles of brand influence into real-world results?
“It all starts with social learning—people do what they see others do. Encouraging and supporting influencers leverages this powerful human trait. Managers and HR specialists need to have a structure within the organization to facilitate that. They can create this structure by following the gain, train, and maintain template: find brand influencers, train them to be effective, and develop a plan to keep them in the loop and maintain brand integrity.”
How do you find influencers within the organization?
“There are a few different ways. In a larger organization, you can assign managers to seek out likely influencers, people who exhibit a certain set of attributes. In a smaller organization, you can employ peer groups to determine likely influencers. The peer groups will be focusing on a different set of attributes than the leaders will, however.
Brand influencers can also appear organically, they just fall into the role. These are people who display a natural enthusiasm for the brand without any prompting, and they are invaluable.”
Once you’ve identified an influencer, how do you motivate them?
“There are two aspects to this: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Since influencers bring value to the company beyond their normal job duties, it makes sense to compensate them with extrinsic rewards like bonuses, upgraded job titles and branded merchandise that only influencers can get. On a deeper level, influencers are motivated by intrinsic rewards like the opportunity to contribute in a unique way and to help solve important problems.”
Once you have your brand influencers on board, how do you maintain their effectiveness?
“Influencers have to stay current to be effective. This means communication is key, and a robust feedback loop using email, Skype, regular meetings, or whatever works, should be set up. Any time something changes with the brand, whether it’s a new graphic style or a change in messaging, influencers must be among the first to know. This makes the whole company more agile and responsive to the business environment.”
References: Large Scale Cooperation