In 1989 Wally Olins published his book Corporate Identity, which quickly became the seminal work in the world of branding. It can be argued that Wally Olins, who co- founded the legendary brand consultancy Wolff Olins in 1965, changed the way organisations actually thought about themselves.
Olins' pioneering work in Corporate Identity challenged traditional ideas on branding, which had been controlled by the advertising industry. Advertising communicated a manipulated image of organisations but did not reflect who they really were or what they stood for. It was all about selling a product and not about creating long-term loyalty and advocacy.
The 80's saw the advent of many design consultancies providing newly merged corporations or large manufacturing groups with organisational structures for branding using visual design and physical environment to communicate values and promote brand loyalty. Another key factor to emerge at this stage was the influence of employee behaviours and actions in the communication of brand values although the full business impact of employee engagement was yet to be realised.
Identity consulting set out to truly reflect an organisation’s core values and create a corporate brand, as opposed to merely reflecting a hyped advertising image, yet even though the creative process would include talking to customers and employees, at the end of the day their opinions were secondary and only valued in terms of how they viewed the organisation not really what they expected from the organisation or how influential their own behaviours and actions might be. In other words, the research focus was purely outside-in and customer and employee values were not seen as something that could be translated directly into business value.
It can be argued that technology and the facilitation of the customer voice has effected a complete change in the focus of marketing communications and brand development, where measuring, interpreting and acting on customers' emotions has proven to be a very successful strategy for building loyalty, advocacy and increased customer spend.
In addition, organisations have now learnt to harness the power of advocacy from fully engaged employees in order to enhance the customer experience and strengthen brand values.
If we accept, on the one hand that the brand promise is the unique value delivered by a company and that staff are fundamental to that delivery, and on the other, that the customer experience is the way customers interact and engage with a company, it doesn’t take long to realise that customer and employee engagement forms an essential part of the brand ecosystem and are an integral part of brand creation and sustainability.