THE WHAT & THE WHY
What is ‘Brand Culture’? Is it just another fluffy term plucked out of the heads of well-earned marketers? Actually, no. It proposes that “branding”, as it has been for many years, is not merely based on creating external (sometimes fictitious) brand images. It is an ‘asset’ which is developed from within the core of an organisation.
The theory is developed from both historical and current Anthropological socio-cultural research, building on the foundations of notable and influential cultural anthropologists such as Clifford Geertz, Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. It suggests that brands and corporations can operate in the same way that a human/social culture does. i.e. your brands’ internal culture is based on your collective values, how you do things and your commonly held beliefs and expectations. It defines your organisation and allows consumers to measure those values and beliefs against their own.
In today’s fast paced landscape, brands must be better from the inside out.
Your culture should manifest itself through all aspects of your organisation:
- in how your employees interact with one another
- the care they take in performing their jobs
- and the way they treat & communicate with your customers and the wider community/enivornment in which the organisation exists
When your employees are on board with your brand, it translates to a better and more consistent service experience, which in turn builds trust and loyalty both internally and externally. Culture can impact both consumer interactions as well as employee engagement and future recruitment of talent.
We’re all creatures of meaning and use different symbols and meaning structures to construct our own ever-evolving sense of self – who we are and why we’re here. Our cultures have given us the symbolic tools we need to create our own sense of identity. People are carefully considering the consequences of their actions, and they increasingly want brands to do the same. If a brand is successful in its culture, by being true and honest, and this resonates with the consumer, the consumer will embrace that brand as part of their own identity and use it as a way of expressing to the rest of the world (and to themselves) who they are and what they believe in.
For a long time, a company’s brand could get away with saying one thing and internally doing another leaving the consumer blind and naïve. Not any more! Organisations now operate in a world where consumers have an unprecedented view into a company through multiple media sources, especially via social networks. This in turn gives companies access to on-demand word-of-mouth from a larger audience than ever before.
Furthermore, culture forms a part of the whole internal brand of an organisation. Brand consistent behaviour supports the development of a coherent brand image. Successful corporate behaviour and internal communication supports the integration of individuals’ behaviour with the desired (overall) brand identity.
Still not sure why the development of an inclusive & open internal brand culture can impact your organisation? A Harvard Business School study conducted over 11 years identified three key statistics which proved that those companies with an informed and coherent culture outperformed those that didn’t:
- Revenues were 4.1 times higher;
- Stock prices were 12.2 times higher;
- Return on investment was 15 times higher….
.…Evidence that an organisation must figure out its core values and understand why, beyond the purpose of profit, it exists.
Essentially, a company must develop or unearth an ethos and a world view that it unquestionably believes in and then act accordingly in line with these. This will facilitate internal and external decision making, foster innovation and collaboration and attract the best talent (increasing your companys competitveness in your industry). Today’s workforce increasingly value meaningful work at organisations that have a good workplace culture and environment. i.e. L & D, transparent internal comms and flexible working.
SENIOR MANAGEMENT: WALKING THE TALK
However, senior management and board members need not be fooled as to their responsibilities. A successful culture requires the full support and participation from the top down. It is not solely the domain of the marketing department. Successful leaders must act as integrators between the elements of the overall corporate brand structure to aid in the development of a powerful brand image. They must facilitate employee brand commitment by acting as a role model and communicating in a manner which supports the desired brand culture and overall identity.
Remember though, the development of a well-defined and impactful culture is not done overnight. A strong culture endures over time, responding to changes in the environment and with the steadiness of self-awareness.
Who do we know that’s done this well? There’s a few brands out there that may jump to mind for many people: Johnson & Johnson; Harley Davidson; Southwest Airlines; Google – all brands that have invested in, and nurtured their internal brand cultures which is represented in their products, their customer service credentials and their communications.
One of the most impressive developments of brand culture, in my opinion, is the Nike SB brand. Nike were able to do what many companies fail to do, which is to downplay their overt marketing prowess and instead locate the SB brand within communities and subcultures of their target consumer segment.
With a brand that was targeting the skateboard market, Nike ensured authenticity of the brand through the use of a development team derived from legitimate skateboarding backgrounds:
- building their culture from the offset
- designing products desired by their target consumer
- aligning themselves with relevant influencers
- and ensuring their retail avenues were in line with the desired culture.
The brands ability to draw upon their core beliefs and values to create a central DNA have enabled them to become one of the top 3 selling skater brands.
Teviots’ culture wasn’t determined by senior management. It was determined by those that work in the company every day, and across every function and location of the agency.
The teams’ core task was defining a culture that resonates with everyone. The outcome of this process was to collectively come up with four key values that would drive our behaviours.
Before you ask…No we’re not perfect. No one person is and no one organisation is.
Maybe we don’t practice what we preach 100% of the time but that isn’t the purpose of internal cultures. The purpose is to have a desired goal and set on a path to reach it – which we aspire to. Whether you get there or not isn’t important. What is important is a brands ability to constantly be aware, communicate and encourage these values and stay on that path.
Teviot identified these four values with the aim of encouraging and instilling an internal culture desired, supported and driven by everyone who works here. Both employees and senior management are contributable to the overall brand image which Teviot is continuously driving and developing.
So…what does your company stand for?
Fancy a chat or think we can help define your culture, don’t hesitate to give us a shout
Check out the Employee Value Proposition work we did for the Carlson Rezidor Group