How do you get Employees to “Live the Brand”?

Think mantras (not manuals).

This series revisits the basics of branding and marketing by answering questions marketers, entrepreneurs and small business owners face when growing their business. I hope this series provides you with knowledge to think smarter and a nudge to make stuff happen.

How do you get Employees to “Live the Brand”?

Give employees a mantra to follow and not a manual to read.

Every retailer gives training sessions to employees on how to deliver customer service, which is another way to say, “living the brand” at the store level. Trainers for these sessions walk employees through a manual about the do’s and don’ts of living the brand through delivering “legendary customer service.”

However, manuals don’t inspire action. They are too long and too pedantic for employees to follow.

Mantras, on the other hand, are quick to read, simple to understand, and easy to follow.

The true school Starbucks way to getting employees (baristas) to live the brand was to give them two mantras to follow:


The two most important factors in delivering upon the brand to retail customers are having happy smiling employees and having a clean store. Starbucks research backed this up as customers said nice employees and a clean store were more important to them than the price of their beverage or the quality of the coffee.

In the early 90s, Starbucks instilled the “BE NICE. BE CLEAN.” mantra to give employees something to act upon with every customer. Every employee knew what was expected of them in order to live the brand: smile a lot and keep the store clean.

Long ago Starbucks instilled a “JUST SAY YES” company culture at the store level. The mantra asks employees to find ways to say YES and not NO to customer requests.

If a customer wants her Tall dark roast in a Grande cup… just say yes (and do it). If a customer wants her Grande Vanilla Nonfat Latte Extra Hot… just say yes (and do it even though you know the milk will taste burnt).

The advice here is simple: to help employees live the brand, give them a mantra to follow and not a manual to read.


#01 | How Should a Brand be Defined?
#02 | What’s the Difference between Branding and Marketing?
#03 | Is there a Difference between a Company Name and a Brand Name?
#04 | Does every Brand need a Unique Selling Position?
#05 | Do Consumers Really Feel Emotional about Brands?
#06 | How should “Brand Personality” be Described?
#07 | Are Taglines Important? Why or Why Not?
#08 | Are Logos Important? Why or Why Not?
#09 | Can a Brand be Built without a Large Budget?
#10 | Why is a Brand Style Guide important?
#11 | What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?
#12 | How Rigid Should a Brand Style Guide Be?
#13 | The Brand Style Guide is Built. Now What?
#14 | What Matters Most to Consumers: Brand, Price, or Convenience?
#15 | Does a Company’s Mission Statement Play a Role in Marketing the Brand?
#16 | How can Business Operations Support the Brand Promise?
#17 | How do you get Employees to “Live the Brand”?