For service brands, the people who interact directly with customers are the key to building the right brand experience. People are the “fifth P” (after product, place, promotion, and price) that determines the line between products and services. A product, broadly defined, is anything that doesn’t require an immediate human element for its delivery: a can of soup, a computer, a CD. If it needs a human to deliver it—a restaurant meal, a parcel, the news report, or a concert—it’s a service.

How a brand’s people communicate with clients and fulfill customer expectations, as well as how they are trained, dressed, groomed, and rewarded for their work, is crucial. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the human element of a brand, especially a service brand.

Such brand “ambassadors” can be found in many places. They attend to passengers on planes, trains, and bus lines. They greet customers at the entrance to a store. They work as bank tellers and as counter staff at shipping offices. They visit places where prospective customers can be approached for a few minutes, such as trade fairs and shopping centers, but also less likely places such as city parks and nightclubs.

Ambassadors for special product promotions are often dressed in creative outfits that emphasize key visual elements of the brand in a way designed to catch attention. Because they are worn for relatively short periods, and during special events, they can afford to look unusual or even outrageous. The everyday uniforms of service personnel, on the other hand, tend to be more conservative and need to take comfort and mobility into account. It is important that the brand is recognizable to customers, and that they perceive the person to be a dependable part of the brand—perhaps even a figure of authority.

But it takes more than the appropriate clothes to make a person truly represent their company’s brand. They also need to assume the proper outlook, the proper talk, the proper smile, the proper knowledge to answer questions and solve customers’ problems. All of this is accomplished through personnel training, an area that was once the sole domain of corporate Human Resources departments, but is now coming more and more under the oversight of branding and marketing departments.

Aside from training employees in how to talk, walk, and respond to customers’ needs, companies need to communicate regularly with employees, to keep them abreast of news that affects the company, and to provide them with the latest insights and knowledge on how their work benefits the brand. As the company gets larger, the importance of internal communication grows. It is not hard for a company of 50 people to get together and hear their boss give a talk. For a global company of thousands, this is physically impossible. One way is for top managers to talk with middle managers, and middle managers to talk to the rank and file. Another way is to share information via written communication such as internal newsletters, e-mail, and intranets.

Each of these methods has its drawbacks, but a savvy brand manager will take the time to employ them to their full advantage, encouraging communication to ensure that every employee understands the way his or her job, however routine or unglamourous, has some impact on customer experience, and therefore on the brand.