Internal branding is much more than making sure your people know what your brand is: it’s about helping them understand their own importance, and encouraging them to focus more on your customers and your business. If successful, internal branding will influence how the people within your organisation live up to your external brand.

It’s been described as aligning an organisation around a brand. It’s about your company’s values and about the actual visible brand that people associate with your business.

Any designer will tell you that the look and feel of your communications is important. So when communicating with staff the obvious approach is to align your external and internal branding. That logo that your customers recognise should go on all your internal communications, right? Well no, not necessarily. Too much explicit branding on your intranet, internal newsletters or other communications could mean they are dismissed by staff as mere marketing; top-down messaging that doesn’t relate to them.

Phil Steed, Sequel’s Head of Creative, says it’s all about flexibility and knowing your readers.  “Many large businesses take a step back with branding on internal comms and opt for a subtler approach to make sure it’s something staff can relate to. You want them to pick it up and read it not dismiss it.

“As with all communications, it comes back to your audience. There’s a fine line between reinforcing your external branding and making your staff feel that you’re trying to manipulate them.”

The aim is credibility and authenticity, he says, and ‘less is more’ is the way to go; top design companies tend to be very subtle in their own branding.

Some companies have very clear branding and design guidelines, but Phil says they often need to be relaxed for internal communications. “The best comms people know when to be flexible and say ‘it’s a guideline not set in stone’. It’s all about the readers.”

He cites a client whose internal brand guidelines called for a sans serif type face for all publications, but agreed that the rule could be broken for a multi-page magazine as a serif face is much easier to read. The compromise was the sans serif face for headings and all other copy – but serif for the text.

“It’s recognised that some fonts give a more relaxed feel and add life to publication – printed or online. The right font can make it more digestible. Knowing when to relax the rules is important,” says Phil.



Colour for internal branding

He’s also a strong advocate of choosing the right colours. Your external brand may be bright red but does it really need to be plastered over every piece of internal communication? Phil recommends that you pick a specific internal brand colour, as well as a neutral palette to increase flexibility.

“I like to use strong primary colours creatively balanced against a set of neutrals,” he says. “Having a special colour palette for your internal branding indicates that this communication is ‘just for us’ not merely a repeat of the branding the rest of the world sees.”

And getting the colour right matters: it really can affect the way people feel. Research by Color Communications Inc says it takes about 90 seconds for someone to form an opinion of a brand, and much of that is influenced by colour alone.

Big businesses understand that colour changes the way we see them. Global fast food chain McDonalds’ earlier red and yellow colour way came to be associated with cheap and poor quality food. When they relaunched their food with a more wholesome feel, they changed their colours to green and more natural tones, while keeping the world-recognised yellow arches

Colours have different significance around the world. Did you know that men don’t wear green hats in China: wearing one is a sign that your wife’s cheating on you. In the UK it might just mean you’re celebrating St Patrick’s Day. In the Far East black is still associated with death and a printed black border brings to mind memorials – as it used to in the West until recently. Many people here wear black to funerals but in China and India white is the colour of mourning.

People have different colour associations. Phil says: “I worked with a client who said we couldn’t use a red, black and white colour scheme because those were the colours the Nazis used.” That’s a highly individual response influenced by the clients’ nationally, age and experience.

A shift in colour makes a difference. Look carefully at the colour and branding of your internal communications because they can make a separation between ‘them’ (the world at large) and ‘us’ (your staff). Having a more subtle brand for internal communications can create a feeling of intimacy and belonging. And that’s the first step towards involvement and loyalty.


Further reading

Research by Color Communications Inc: