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“Inside Out” Branding: The Hallmark Story


“Inside Out” Branding: The Hallmark Story

In the mid to late 1990s, I was Hallmark’s first official chief brand advocate. In that role, I was responsible for increasing Hallmark’s brand equity and market share. I had the help of a few brand managers who reported to me. I reported to an executive vice president who was responsible for the company’s North American strategy and marketing, but not its product development, sales, retail network or operations, all of which had their own vice presidents. To accomplish my objectives, I needed the support of the entire organization.

My department approached this task in the following ways:

•We created a cross-functional brand management council consisting of middle to senior level representatives from the OD, corporate communications and training departments, as well as business unit general managers hand picked for their understanding of our mission and their influence throughout the organization. I chaired this council, which met monthly.

•I assigned one person in my department to serve as the keeper of the brand’s identity. He, in turn, developed a brand identity system and standards and a brand identity oversight group consisting of the most senior people whose departments most often used the brand identity on products, packaging, merchandising, promotional materials and licensing. He chaired his group, which met regularly to review new uses, proposed exceptions and inconsistencies. The group quickly became a self-regulating body that consistently interpreted and applied the brand’s identity across all uses.

•After conducting internal research to gauge employee’s baseline understanding of the brand and its promise, the brand management council developed a comprehensive two-year internal brand alignment plan, which focused on internal training, internal communication and culture change. This plan set different goals for senior managers, marketers, salespeople, customer service people and employees in general. We focused on some groups separately because of their importance to specific customer touch points, while we focused on the senior managers separately because of their importance to the successful adoption of the brand’s promise throughout the enterprise.

We integrated brand training into many ongoing training programs, including new employee orientation, sales training and new manager training. I personally delivered this training in each and every class right after Don Hall (Hallmark’s chairman, CEO and president) presented an overview of the company, including its beliefs and values.

•We made sure brand training reached all employees by passing it down the organization from senior managers to middle level managers to lower level managers to employees through a PowerPoint presentation, presentation script, key talking points, discussion guide and FAQs

•Internal communication paid particular attention to the proper progression of messages and the best ways to maximize their frequency (at least seven times each) so that employees would finally hear them.

The communication took many forms, including the following:

  • Through the corporate communications department, I integrated brand messages into every one of our CEO’s speeches and articles
  • We posted the brand’s essence, promise and personality at each employee entrance
  • Periodically, our daily employee newspaper (the Noon News) featured an article about our brand and how to support it
  • We created an Intranet site to which any employee could go to find out anything they wanted to know about the brand and its management
  • Each employee received a Franklin page divider that featured the brand’s essence, promise and personality
  • All employees adopted the use of a Hallmark branded screen saver for their work computer
  • We transformed our brand management conference room into an evolving exhibit that featured some of North America’s top brands (such as Disney, Coca-cola, Nike, Starbucks and Harley-Davidson) with an analysis of what made them successful.
  • We instituted a quarterly brand management speakers series featuring people who ran the brands highlighted in our conference room. The series was open to all employees. Each lecture drew hundreds of people.

Corporate Culture Initiatives

•We contracted Root Learning to help us share the realities of Hallmark’s changed marketplace together with its updated business model and strategies. We did this through Learning Maps, which engage employees in learning about and discussing these topics. After immersion in this process, employees are much more open to embracing new attitudes and behaviors that are required for success in the changed environment.

•We hired Kurt and Patricia Wright of Clear Purpose (Follow the wisdom of your heart) to conduct a workshop entitled Clear Purpose Management. The workshop was designed to help employees discover what is really important to them in their lives and then relate that to their jobs at Hallmark. Kurt Wright has written a book entitled Breaking the Rules, Removing the Obstacles to Effortless High Performance.

•Indicative of the degree to which Hallmark employees embrace what the brand stands for is the Product Concept Statement that a copywriter spontaneously wrote for Hallmark’s creative community of 700+ people: “At Hallmark, we create products that help people capture their emotions and share them with one another. After nearly a century, this is what we do best; and we are still dedicated to creating the very best. We strive to offer people a rich array of vivid and memorable ways to express their feelings, and their countless relationships, all over the world. Yet within this diversity, we seek, always, to honor and serve what is universal to the human heart: the need to love and be loved, to be understood and to understand, to sustain hope, to celebrate, to laugh, to heal. We are in a rare business: we help to bring people together, make them happy, and give them ways to show how much they care.”

•In the eighties and nineties, almost everyone in Hallmark’s creative community knew of this statement. It was posted on many of their office walls and it usually brought more than one person to tears each time it was read out loud.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values and brand culture workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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  1. Anonymous - April 13, 2007

    Branding Strategy Insider: Inside Out Branding: The Hallmark Story

    The Nuts and Bolts of Internal Brand Building.

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