Project Jalapeño

Yesterday's "Cubicle Culture" column in the Wall Street Journal discussed how frequently companies confuse employees with catchy slogans intended to motivate them. Empty names like "The Big Event" and "Dare to Be Different" sound great when execs make them up, but often don't mean anything to employees. The article describes an old IBM slogan, "A Quarter At A Time," which was designed to improve short-term results, but was interpreted by a manager in this way: "I have a $14 million quota. That's a lot of quarters."

We've all seen this kind of stuff. Why does it happen?

Here's my take: Internal marketing programs are critical. A company can't create internal or external brand harmony if its people have conflicting views about what the company is and what it intends to be.

But, most companies don't take the process very seriously. They create slogans with no underlying strategic "genealogy," and then use clumsy advertising-influenced methods for communicating with their own employees. Any wonder why employees are confused?

So, is the problem with the general idea of internal marketing, or with the way it is typically executed?