Branding and the Learning Function

October 31, 2018 4:12 PM | Lovina Akowuah (Administrator)

Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger Tresha Lovell Program Manager at Johnson Controls.

Often exceptional training, produced by hardworking Learning and Development professionals, is under utilized or not used at all. Some have argued that Learning Management Systems are the cause; the sheer amount of content and lack of ‘user friendliness’ makes it difficult for learners to find the training content needed. Others have stated that they simply are unaware of the training resources available to them. Both arguments have merit and may also be true. However, the root cause for the arguments is the same: Learning and Development needs a positive ‘brand’ association within the organization that both excites and creates tangible value for learners. In the study, “Incentivizing Training: The Role of Corporate Marketing,” it is reported that “73% of respondents agree that L&D communication need to stand out more and 63% respondents agree that the L&D brands within their company should be more focused” (Training Industry). Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream, describes the power of a positive brand this way: “ A great brand raises the bar—it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it's the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness, or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you're drinking really matters” (Annand, “Branding the Learning Function”). As with consumer products, a positive, strategic brand for the Learning and Development function can increase the perceive value of the team’s contributions to the overall success of the organization.

When attempting to sell a new product, marketing campaigns are typically waged via various communication mediums to convey the product’s value to the intended audience. Learning and development professionals should do the same when launching new training solutions to generate interest. However, marketing strategies alone will not guarantee that learners will take advantage of the new solutions, as Brevetta Hassell notes in her article, “Is Your Organization’s Learning Brand Effective?” (Hassell). The Learning function may lack a reputation for being a business partner to the organization: “To be more strategic in marketing their function learning leaders should begin by assessing their department’s brand” (Hassell). Bravetta Hassell provides further commentary given by J. Hruby, Vice President of sales and marketing at Fredrickson Learning, “every learning organization has one. ‘The question is, is it the brand you want?’” (Hassell). By understanding their current perceived value (or lack thereof), learning functions can begin the process of either rebuilding or enhancing their current reputation within their organizations.

To accomplish this, it is vital that input about your performance is actively solicited from others outside of the department. Hassell summarizes the process by doing a 360 evaluation of the training function and its perceived responsibilities with stakeholders throughout the organization: “…gauge the current brand standing by: soliciting feedback from key business partners, monitoring learner and leader experiences and processes within the function and taking an objective look at the customer-friendliness of its products and initiatives” (Hassell). Once gaps are understood, learning leaders can then begin crafting a plan to change the perception of their department within the organization.

The next step centers around building positive brand image within your organization. To create an effective brand, it’s necessary to understand what a brand is and how it can impact the Learning function: “…a ‘Brand’ is what creates an image, generates instant recall, and talks about a uniqueness while creating differentiation… A Brand brings in context and credibility in L&D initiatives such that employees start looking at them as impactful and functional solutions” (Gautam, “6 Marketing Skills For Learning And Development”). Learning leaders need to ensure they are aware of the long-term, short-term business goals and ensure that what they offer aligns to providing tangible solutions to reach those objectives. This will ensure alignment with stakeholders when trying to position learning as a partner that can service teams and improve the organization’s performance.

As learning leaders continue to look for ways to prove their value to their organizations, they must first be honest with the value of the contributions their team has made to date and their reputation within the organization. Once these leaders make the necessary changes to position their teams as valued business partners, they will gain the respect of their business stakeholders and invitations will be given to join other business leaders in crucial conversations that determine the organization’s future. From there, a domino effect will ensue as training’s value is touted, not just by the learning team, but by those they serve.


- Hassell, Bravetta. “Is Your Organization’s Learning Brand Effective? Chief Learning Officer, Chief Learning Officer – CLO Media, Inc. 5 July 2016,

- Annand, Preethi. “Branding the Learning Function.” TD Magazine, ATD, September 2012,

- Gautam, Amit. “6 Marketing Skills for Learning and Development.” eLearning Industry, eLearning Industry, 24 August 2018,

- “Incentivizing Training: The Role of Corporate Marketing,” Training Industry, Allencomm, May 2016,

About the Author

Tresha Lovell is a Talent Development professional with over 7 years of  corporate learning experience. After starting her career in IT and business development, Tresha transitioned into training and development and has used her ability to design and implement learning solutions in various organizations, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual and SoftwareONE. Tresha's experience includes delivering training for complex technology solutions, systems, and consultative sales methodologies. A proven communicator and presenter, Tresha's passion is to equip both individuals and business leaders with the skills needed to uncover and fulfill their purpose.

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