If you’ve ever worked on bank or credit union branding projects, you know it takes a lot of time, energy and investment to get one off the ground successfully. You may have the best-looking marketing collateral, vision and mission statements and even dress code around. Guess what? None of that means anything unless your staff is living the brand, every single day.

Unless all staff members, front office, back office, whatever office, believes in and lives out the brand in front of consumers as a daily part of his or her job, your brand is dead on arrival. Bank and credit union professionals are often too enamored of the external component of branding (consumers) and failed to recognize the importance of building the brand within (employees).

Here we’re talking about the internal marketing of your brand. Without that, your staff simply cannot build the emotional connection to the products and services they are responsible for introducing to consumers. If your staff cannot feel the relevance of the brand to their position and that which they are trying to cross-sell to consumers, you can forget about deeper wallet and market share.

While the human resources department certainly has a role to play in integrating employees with your brand, most of that responsibility falls squarely on marketing. It is their job as experienced communicators to not only introduce the concept of brand to staff but also to continually ensure employees understand it, live it and act it in front of consumers.

A critical component in making these things happen is bringing the brand to life for your staff. Just like a campaign geared towards your consumers, your brand must deliver as a campaign to your employees. For example, in one of our recent Brand Ambassador Program newsletters to credit unions, we discussed the importance of staff avoiding complacency when it comes to living and enforcing the brand.

Work to ensure that your staff understands how the brand affects their jobs and how their jobs affect the consumers that rely on your financial institution. For example, you could explain to your front-line consumer relationship team how living the brand and introducing consumers to your products and services helps improve their financial livelihoods. For your back office staff with limited consumer exposure, bringing the brand to life might be something more like highlighting how their support enables frontline staff to do a better job.

Your brand is much more than a printed plan. In order for that plan to work, your internal employee audience must totally buy into it. If they don’t, your brand is about as watertight as a submarine with a screen door. Don’t let your financial institution sink into the brand abyss — work now to ensure your internal market fully gets it.