Learning functions around the world are realising the significance of creating a brand for learning in their organisations. The idea is not just about inviting employees to attend a training course, but about convincing employees to believe in what the training programme has to offer and in turn, how this underpins the entire brand ethos and its accompanying values. For extended enterprises, those who train retailers, suppliers or customers, training can provide one of the strongest opportunities to engage these crucial partners.
Ultimately, good branding underpinned with communication programmes to inspire learning and campaign-based training can open minds, create a conducive atmosphere for learning to take place and increase learning retention.
What is branding?
Scott Bedbury, former worldwide advertising director for Nike and SVP of marketing and branding at Starbucks, said, "A great brand raises the bar—it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it's the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness, or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you're drinking really matters."
Put simply, branding is much more than a logo, a witty tag line, or a beautiful design. A strong brand brings in different tactics to create an emotional response to your messaging and improve how people both think and feel about your brand. Branding learning, therefore, is about enhancing an individual's experience with the learning function—his perception of the learning function, his attitude toward learning programmes and initiatives, and his enthusiasm to learn.
Do I need a branding strategy?
A successful branding strategy and communication plan focused on relevant success metrics to the right audiences will elevate and reposition L&D within the organisation as well as with employees.
L&D marketing is about far more than putting up posters and circulating newsletters about upcoming training opportunities. It’s about creating brand positioning for the learning function by explaining how training efforts directly help individuals and the business to meet their goals.
For extended enterprises such as automotive manufacturers, developing an L&D brand for external retailers can help improve engagement with your wider business and help reinforce key messages about the importance of buying into brand values as well as learning the product information.
Creating a brand for these audiences can be a challenge. Overall, a large majority of business leaders do not believe that L&D provides strategic value. Line managers don’t want their people “wasting their time” on training. Using terms and metrics that other leaders and their teams can readily appreciate, for example, if customer service training has increased profitability for a retailer, can convey the value of an L&D initiative to all.
It’s time to take action
By embracing marketing, the learning function can proactively help their organisations to better understand how and where L&D can contribute toward improving business metrics and moving the whole organisation forward.
In the words of George Fisher, "When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target." That holds true with your branding efforts as well. With the changes in the learning space, branding should be as versatile as the learning function in itself, taking input from various fields to best communicate the case for learning and its undeniable effect on growing the individual and the business.
Good or bad, your learning department already has a brand. It’s up to you to make sure it best represents the L&D function's value and to leverage it for maximum impact. Just as marketers seek to attract the attention of busy, distracted customers, L&D must command the attention of employees through the value of learning.
By effectively promoting the value of L&D throughout the organisation and your department's ability to deliver on the promise of learning, you can more readily attract and engage learners, facilitate a stronger working relationship with the organisation’s other leaders and, ultimately, increase your ability to provide impact and business value.