Jul 1, 2011

Creating Your Brand Culture

When it comes to creating culture, people are your greatest asset. Companies exist in a world today where everyone (employees, customers and partners) talks about who and what they are, all the time. That’s why people and what they think and feel matter now more than ever before. The look of a company’s advertising, design of the web site, coolness of its mobile apps are all important, but not as important as the voice and the actions of its people [...]

Building a strong brand culture, then, starts with the people. The culture isn’t “owned” by the marketing team, it’s owned by the entire company — from the CEO to the customer service rep and everyone in between. And companies that nurture a distinct brand culture in the workplace will become a distinctive brand in the marketplace. Focus on developing your people and relationships and everything else will follow.

Because people are the starting point, the connection between the leadership in marketing and the leadership in HR is pivotal to brand culture success. The two have to work in concert to ensure the entire company is in alignment and pulling in the same direction.

Hire people to your culture rather than trying to fit your culture to an individual. Even if you have to pass up a rock star sales person who could affect the bottom line, it’s more important in the long run to protect the integrity of the brand culture by making sure the people who come on board are ones who truly fit in.

If employees are to propagate brand culture, they have to first understand the vision, history, philosophy and values of the company. To do this, some brands today are implementing new-hire training programs that are as long as four weeks. Even then, the training doesn’t stop at the hiring door. An ongoing program that keeps people aligned and focused on the brand’s values is crucial to sustaining culture in the long term.

The core values that speak to what a company is are meaningless unless they’re put into practice and everyone is on the same page. Unfortunately, most companies post their values on a plaque that hangs forgotten in the hall. What good is that? If management doesn’t commit to the values and they aren’t resonating with employees, they might as well be thrown away. Culture grows when companies find ways to bring life to their values in every aspect of what they do. What’s most important, though, is the alignment of those values throughout the company, from the CEO through the ranks. Strong culture comes about when there is a through-line, a common understanding and drive that runs through all departments.

Companies that have strong culture build it from the ground up. When people co-create the brand culture, they have a stake it in. The culture becomes more authentic and sticky.

When it comes to building brand culture, frustration is powerful. Why? Because frustration shows that someone — an employee, customer or partner — sees the potential for what’s possible but they’re feeling dissatisfaction because the company isn’t achieving it. Companies that embrace frustration can use it to gauge how aligned their teams really are and then take action to bring the focus back to the brand culture. Via Liquid Brand Summit 2011.