Why Incentive Programs Are Essential To Branding

In many of our blog posts, we've discussed numerous times (along with other blogs outside of ours) on how employee incentive and recognition programs are vital to boost engagement and improve productivity among your workforce. We all know that good morale will boost productivity which in turn should have a positive influence on results. However, how does all this affect your corporate brand?

In a blog post eons ago, we took a look at Southwest Airlines and how their employee recognition programs have been a catalyst to their success. The post describes their motivation efforts as typical noncash style incentives, from giving away larger grand prizes (a prize anyone in the company is eligible to win) to all the little forms of engagement such as personalized birthday cards, birth announcements and even condolence letters. The theory is if they instill a culture of goodwill and fun with their front line employees, that attitude will pass down to their customers.

It's a strategy that's paid off.

Being one of the few airlines in the industry today with the ability to remain in the black, Southwest has built its brand on its employees. It's known to many as a "fun" airline and love how they are treated by the employees while traveling with them. All of this starts with upper management. The leadership of the company has created a fun working environment and culture for their employees, who in turn replicate a similar environment for the customer base.

Branding is more than just a good ad design, website look or catchy slogan. Those aspects are just the icing to a multi-layered cake. Effective branding starts internally with the employees. You get the employees excited about the brand they work under and that enthusiasm will overflow towards the customers. That enthusiasm starts with engagement and recognition, something incentive programs help supplement. You can't have one without the other (as i2i's Paul Hebert explained yesterday).

Your employees are a huge extension of your overall brand.

What do you think?