Workplace Engagement was one of the three overarching themes of the BMA14 Conference in Chicago last week – which was surprising, since the Business Marketing Association (BMA) is dedicated to promotion and education of Business-to-Business Marketing, not Human Capital.

Time and again, speakers referred to defining and promoting brand values and brand image internally to strengthen employee engagement. Two other themes – everything is mobile, and bringing emotion into the marketing message – also align with current employee engagement trends.

Employee Engagement

A range of speakers demonstrated different approaches to brand-aligned engagement within their organizations.

USG, a building products manufacturer, described their program to use the rollout of a new brand as an employee engagement opportunity during the economic downturn. Jim Metcalf, Chairman and CEO, described their inclusive process. A few days before the brand launch, USG brought together employees from all levels of the company at the USA Olympic Training Camp in Colorado Springs; after two days of brand-focused workshops and training with Olympians, they returned to their business units, fully energized to act as new Brand Ambassadors. In Metcalf’s opinion “The brand starts and ends in the corner office” and should be foundational to the growth of the  company.

AON’s Andrew Miller described how they are leveraging their brand sponsorship of Manchester United to promote well-being in the workplace. Miller defined well-being as Physical + Emotional + Social + Financial, and cited an AON Hewitt study that a 1% increase in employee engagement predicts a 0.6% increase in sales.

“Ignite Employee Passion” was the entreaty from Betsy Henning of Aha, as she shared examples of companies using CSR and volunteering as an engagement tool. HP’s “Matter to a Million” program gave each of their employees a $25 credit to spend on a micro-finance project on Kiva. Within 6 months, 30% of their employees had used the credit, with a total spend of $2.8 M. Betsy also cited Patagonia, 3M and Levis as companies that used social causes and volunteering to connect to employees’ personal values, reinforcing the brand loyalty of their teams.

Everything is Mobile

The new CMO of Facebook, Gary Briggs, emphasized the growing ubiquity of mobile. The average smartphone user in the US checks their device 150 times per day; the number of visits each day to Facebook from a mobile device recently exceeded the visits from desktop. Mark Zuckerberg has implemented a “Mobile Team = Every Team” philosophy, and now expects all new feature ideas to be pitched as a mobile tool, not desktop-based.

Considering when a potential customer is thinking about your product (or incentive program), Briggs highlighted the positioning of several brands; Coke, who want to be in front of a customer “at the moment of thirst”, Google at the “moment of search” and now Facebook at the “moment of the moment”. He asked the question – what is your company’s “moment”, when you need to be in front of your internal or external customer.

Emotion in the Message

Are we sharing our brand message via every possible social, digital and traditional channel? Are we tracking likes, follows, shares and comments? As everyone becomes more focused on data and delivery channels, many marketers are losing sight of the message itself. Teresa Poggenpohl of Accenture and Tim Washer of Cisco were amongst the speakers who reminded us that emotion and humor are still critical elements in delivering a memorable and compelling message. “Connecting” is still a personal, emotional event, despite the ease with which social connections can be made online.

Gary Vaynerchuck, author of “The Thank You Economy” gave a passionate and energetic keynote, showing the potential of one-to-one connections through social media. Although social platforms encourage mass communication across broad networks, Gary emphasized the value of using these channels to connect with one person at a time. He gave the example of a prospect for his consulting business who tweeted frequently about the St.Louis Cardinals; Gary engaged directly with him over their shared love of baseball which – over time – lead to a face-to-face discussion and a multi-million dollar contract.

Engagement is Marketing

Throughout the BMA14 Conference, mixed in with the discussions of advertising metrics, sales strategy, and social media, it was clear that the basic drivers of brand marketing are closely aligned with the goals of improved employee engagement. Connecting employees to the brand values, creating an emotional appeal, and leveraging the utility of mobile devices, are all key to a successful employee engagement program.

[Note: This article was originally published at http://www.DittmanIncentives.com – please visit for more articles on Engagement and Incentives]

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