Brand = Culture: How organizational culture can help your brand win

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Most people think that that Brand is what the Marketers do. And Culture should be left to the Human Resources department. But in reality, everyone is responsible for both Brand and Culture. Creating a Branded Culture might be a great chance for Marketing and HR to be working together, and find ways to involve everyone from the Brand. The new Brand Leader has to understand that marketing is more than just TV ads and more than just Facebook likes. Brand is about the experience that consumers walk away with. If I am going through the drive-through at 4am or on the phone with customer service or getting an email with a Visa “special offer” from the Bank where I have my Visa, I am in constant judgment of your brand.  

5 ways that brands connect

Brands are able to generate love for their brand when the consumer does connect with the brand. I wish everyone would stop debating what makes a great brand and realize that all five connectors matter: promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience. The first connector is the Brand Promise, which connects when the brand’s main Benefit matches up to the needs of consumers.  Once knowing that promise, everything else feeds off that Promise. For Volvo the promise is Safety, for Apple it is Simplicity and FedEx it might be Reliability. It’s important to align your Strategy and Brand Story pick the best ways to communicate the promise, and then aligning your Innovation and the Experience so that you deliver to the promise. To ensure the Innovation is aligned, everyone in R&D must be working towards delivering the brand promise. You don’t create a new brand promise based on what you invent.  If someone at Volvo were to invent the fastest car on the planet, should they market it as the safe-fast car or should they just sell the technology to Ferrari. Arguably, Volvo could make more money by selling it to a brand where it fits, rather than trying to change people’s minds. As for the experience, EVERYONE in the company has to buy into and live up to the Brand Promise. As you can start to see, embedding the Brand Promise right into the culture is essential to the brand’s success.      

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It starts with the Brand DNA

Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA. The Brand DNA (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”. The Tool I use to determine a Brand’s DNA revolves around the Brand’s personality, the products and services the brand provides, the internal beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and consumer views of the Brand. What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each section and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s DNA with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.  

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The DNA helps guide the Brand’s Management

The Brand DNA should help frame 1) Brand Plan that drives the business for the upcoming year or the next 5 years 2) Brand Positioning that connects to the consumer through marketing communications 3) Customer Value Proposition that links the consumer needs to the benefits of the brand 4) Go-To-Market strategy that frames the distribution and the selling process 5) Cultural Beacons that help define the brand internally through values, inspiration and challenge and finally 6) Business Results, with each brand offering a unique way that it makes money. Each of these six needs feed off the Brand DNA, look to the definition as a guideline for how to align to the brand.

When you begin to blow this out one step further, you can start to see where the complexity comes into play with each of the six areas have their own needs that should still feed off that Brand DNA.

 

The DNA sets up the Brand Values

Great Brand Leaders should be looking at the culture as an opportunity to win in the market place. No matter how good your promise is, if your company is not set up to deliver that promise, everything comes crashing down. The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising.

Managing organizational culture is very challenging. The DNA should provide an internal beacon for all the People in the organization to follow and deliver the brand promise. As you move along the Brand Love Curve from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and on to Beloved status, you need to make sure the culture keeps pace with where the brand is. 

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While the DNA can provide the internal beacon, it might not be enough to capture all the behaviors.  Brand Values should come from the DNA, and act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver upon the Brand’s promise. How do you want your people to show up? What type of service do you want?  How much emphasis on innovation? What type of people do you want to hire? What behavior should be rewarded and what behavior is off-side.  Having the right Brand Values will help you answer these questions. The Brand Values become an extension of what the Brand Leader wants the brand to stand for.

A great example of Brand Values is the Virgin Group of Companies defines what  each value is, but also what it shouldn’t be. I love that Fun means enjoyment but not incompetent and Value means simple but not cheap.

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The Right People leadership matters

Having values is one thing, but the other component of Culture is the right  people leadership.  Use the values to help people deliver upon the right behaviors, skills and experiences. Leaders must embody the Brand’s DNA and live by the values. Employees will be watching the Leaders to ensure they are living up to the words on the wall. Leaders need to believe that by investing in their people, the business results will come.  Better people produce better work and that drives better results. Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training. Too many companies are skimping on training and development, which is equivalent to cutting back on your R&D.   

Every communication to employees, whether in a speech or memo, should touch upon the Brand Values, by highlighting great examples of when employees have delivered upon a Brand Value. Leverage values, with inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness. The culture will only change when everyone makes the decision to make the change.  

Brand Leaders should look to culture as an asset to make your Brand Experience more powerful.  

 

To download a copy of this article and share with your team, you can find a pdf version at (good for airplane reading): 

Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising. We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype. Ask us how we can help you. 

 

Positioning 2016.112

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