Saturday, October 1, 2011

Branding Learning vs. Learning Brand

Over the last few months as we have been developing processes for our company’s newly formed Learning Shared Services, we have had many discussions about branding and brands. We have pulled together workplace learning professionals from at least ten separate training departments that were operating independently within the company to create our Shared Services group. As you can imagine, we have quite a hodgepodge of looks, feels, and approaches to providing learning services to reconcile into something that can effectively serve the enterprise both globally and locally.

The team that I assembled to work on our project management and course development processes has had much dialog and debate around branding and brands. One of the first things we needed to do was to draw a distinction between the two - so we could define both for our needs - before we could move forward.

Branding Learning - We agreed that how we are Branding Learning is reflected in the look and feel of the learning materials we produce for Instructor-led, virtual classroom, and e-learning programs. It includes design and placement of logos, color schemes and the like on our materials and program communications. It is a subset of our Learning Brand. To address our branding issues, we took two immediate steps:

(1) Neutralize all old program branding in favor of common company branding guidelines, color schemes, fonts, etc.

(2) Develop a new “family of skins” for our e-learning programs and a standardized approach to creating instructor guides and participant materials for instructor-led training. (Note: special thanks to the elearning brothers for helping us to create the new skins.)

Learning Brand - Our Learning Brand is reflected in the image created by the experiences our learners and business partners have when they interact with us through classes, projects, portals and any virtually any place in which we have a presence. There are three things we need to work on to ensure the brand image we project, is the one we intend:

(1) Brand Alignment – We need to ensure that our brand is aligned with business expectations. Some questions we need to answer for ourselves are: What do our business partners look to us for? What do we contribute to the business? How do we impact business results such as growth and profitability?

(2) Brand Presence – We need to market our services and be visible when and where the business expects to find us. Some considerations here include: What channels are our learner and business partners most likely to use to engage our services? Do our marketing messages convey competence, relevance and credibility as a learning partner? Are our messages and offerings in synch with business needs? Is our branding consistent in all places in which the business will encounter us?

(3) Brand Experience – We need to match the expectations created by our marketing in the delivery of our services. Considerations here include: Are we consistent in our offerings? Do our learners get what they expect out of our classes and services? Do our services meet their needs? Are our e-learning programs consistent in quality, usability, and results achieved? Do we live up to “the deal” when learners attend our instructor-led or virtual classroom programs?

Whether you are operating on a local or enterprise level, these considerations are important to ensure alignment and the right positioning to support your business’s needs.