There is No Brand Without Culture*

Belief, passion, commitment, identification. People want to belong to something bigger than themselves. People want to stand for something that matters. People want to champion good over evil. People want to do the right thing.

In the supermarkets, consumers are choosing to pay twice as much for eggs from humanely-treated cage-free chickens because of their values, not because it’s a better egg. They do this because they don’t want to be the cause of any mistreatment of chickens (caged birds with their beaks clipped and all that). They don’t want to support such practices with their dollars, and they don’t mind spending more dollars to do so.

People are carefully considering the consequences of their actions, and they want brands to do the same. When a consumer connects to a brand that aligns with their most deeply-held beliefs and sense of identity, they are essentially both pulling that brand into their own world and entering the world of that brand. What’s vital is to create a world that the consumer can enter.

This is the idea behind Brand Culture. If you look at what Harley Davidson has done, they have created a rich body of meaning and embodied that meaning in a system of symbols and actions. Whether it’s just wearing an official Harley jacket or riding your hog to Sturgis for a week, there are a multitude of symbols, rituals, behaviors and objects that perpetually invite people to join the Harley Davidson Brand Culture. And Harley Davidson doesn’t even have to run the brand culture—it essentially runs itself. They just have to make sure the Brand holds up its end of the bargain and operates in keeping with the Harley ethos and worldview.

Branding today must be a company-wide initiative based on core values. A company’s performance in the marketplace usually starts with the internal dynamics of the company. And if a brand sprouts from an internal truth rather than a manufactured image, then the brand starts here as well—on the inside of a company.

Executive leadership must realize that branding is no longer solely the province of the marketing department. Companies must build a brand culture that is rooted in the heart of the organization and radiates outward as a natural set of actions based on a common ethos and worldview. This brand culture will not only unite employees in a common purpose and vision, it will also attract consumers and engage them in a deep and meaningful relationship that transcends the traditional marketing goals of brand preference and brand loyalty.[/vc_column_text]

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BUILDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BRAND CULTURE

Most people think that that Brand is what the Marketers do. And Culture should be left to the Human Resources department. Ask people how to develop a good corporate culture, and most of them will immediately suggest offering generous employee benefits, like they do at Starbucks, or letting people dress casually, as Southwest Airlines does. Rarely do people point to encouraging employees to disagree with their managers, as Amazon does, or firing top performers, as Jack Welch did at GE. But in fact, it’s having a distinct corporate culture — not a copycat of another firm’s culture — that allows these great organizations to produce phenomenal results. Each of these companies has aligned and integrated its culture and brand to create a powerful engine of competitive advantage and growth. Their leaders understand that a strong, differentiated company culture contributes to a strong, differentiated brand — and that an extraordinary brand can support and advance an extraordinary culture.Company culture is the fabric of your company. It’s preexisting whether you realize it or not and it exists among teams of two to 20,000. It is shaped by vision, values, purpose, and beliefs – and it starts at the top, with the leadership.

Company culture is the fabric of your company. It’s preexisting whether you realize it or not and it exists among teams of two to 20,000. It is shaped by vision, values, purpose, and beliefs – and it starts at the top, with the leadership.Culture is something that permeates through the entire brand, impacting employees, customers,

Culture is something that permeates through the entire brand, impacting employees, customers, vendors and partners. When purposefully developed, it has the power to build a team of motivated, fully vested and collaborative employees, and passionate, loyal customers. On the flip side, when culture isn’t built upon a foundation of core values and vision, the environment can become competitive, misaligned, disconnected, and disengaged.If your culture and brand are mismatched, you can end up with happy, productive employees who produce the wrong results. Without using your brand purpose and values to orient your culture efforts, you’re also likely to waste a lot of money. You may think you need to take extraordinary measures to attract and retain in-demand talent, like providing free lunches to employees, putting foosball tables and beer kegs in break rooms, and offering free gym memberships. As you try to one-up your competition in the war for talent, you’ll probably draw from a pool of perks and benefits that sound great but produce little more than a generic, fun work environment. And you may end up like social media software startup Buffer, which struggled to achieve profitability because its generous cultural practices, including offering vacation bonuses and wellness grants, ate away at cash flow instead of producing employees who were passionate about the brand offering and committed to developing on-brand innovations.

If your culture and brand are mismatched, you can end up with happy, productive employees who produce the wrong results. Without using your brand purpose and values to orient your culture efforts, you’re also likely to waste a lot of money. You may think you need to take extraordinary measures to attract and retain in-demand talent, like providing free lunches to employees, putting foosball tables and beer kegs in break rooms, and offering free gym memberships. As you try to one-up your competition in the war for talent, you’ll probably draw from a pool of perks and benefits that sound great but produce little more than a generic, fun work environment. And you may end up like social media software startup Buffer, which struggled to achieve profitability because its generous cultural practices, including offering vacation bonuses and wellness grants, ate away at cash flow instead of producing employees who were passionate about the brand offering and committed to developing on-brand innovations.With a single, unifying drive behind both your culture and your brand, however, you reap the benefits of a focused and aligned workforce. No one needs to expend extra energy figuring out what to do or how to act in order to achieve what you want your company to stand for in the world. Your human resources aren’t trying to decipher what skills and behaviors will be needed in the future, or maintaining performance evaluation systems that are out of sync with your values. And your sales and marketing departments aren’t working at cross-purposes, each with its own view of what success looks like. Organizational silos are bridged and disjointed initiatives are minimized because everyone is singularly focused on the same priorities.

With a single, unifying drive behind both your culture and your brand, however, you reap the benefits of a focused and aligned workforce. No one needs to expend extra energy figuring out what to do or how to act in order to achieve what you want your company to stand for in the world. Your human resources aren’t trying to decipher what skills and behaviors will be needed in the future, or maintaining performance evaluation systems that are out of sync with your values. And your sales and marketing departments aren’t working at cross-purposes, each with its own view of what success looks like. Organizational silos are bridged and disjointed initiatives are minimized because everyone is singularly focused on the same priorities.How can you tell if your culture and your brand aren’t interdependent and mutually reinforcing? A disconnect between your employee experiences and your customer experiences is a telltale sign. If you engage your employees differently from how you expect them to engage your customers, your organization is operating with two set of values.

How can you tell if your culture and your brand aren’t interdependent and mutually reinforcing? A disconnect between your employee experiences and your customer experiences is a telltale sign. If you engage your employees differently from how you expect them to engage your customers, your organization is operating with two set of values.If you want to consistently introduce new products and technologies to your customers, then cultivate a test-and-learn mentality among your employees and encourage them to experiment with the latest gadgets. If your brand is differentiated by the way your products and services look and feel, then infuse your employee experience with design and creativity. You can’t expect your employees to deliver benefits to customers that they don’t experience or embrace themselves.

If you want to consistently introduce new products and technologies to your customers, then cultivate a test-and-learn mentality among your employees and encourage them to experiment with the latest gadgets. If your brand is differentiated by the way your products and services look and feel, then infuse your employee experience with design and creativity. You can’t expect your employees to deliver benefits to customers that they don’t experience or embrace themselves.Your employees should understand what makes your brand different and special from a customer perspective. They should clearly understand who the company’s target customers are, as well as their primary wants and needs. They should use your brand purpose and values as decision-making filters and they should understand how they contribute to a great customer experience — even if they don’t have direct customer contact. If your people think they don’t play a role in interpreting and reinforcing your brand and that brand building is your marketing department’s responsibility, then your culture lacks brand integrity.

Your employees should understand what makes your brand different and special from a customer perspective. They should clearly understand who the company’s target customers are, as well as their primary wants and needs. They should use your brand purpose and values as decision-making filters and they should understand how they contribute to a great customer experience — even if they don’t have direct customer contact. If your people think they don’t play a role in interpreting and reinforcing your brand and that brand building is your marketing department’s responsibility, then your culture lacks brand integrity.To address these gaps and align and to integrate your brand and culture, start by clearly identifying and articulating your brand aspirations. Do you want your brand to be known for delivering superior performance and dependability? Or is your intent to challenge the existing way of doing things and position your brand as a disruptor? Or is your brand about making a positive social or environmental impact? Ask Why. Why do you do what you do? Where do you want your company to be?

To address these gaps and align and to integrate your brand and culture, start by clearly identifying and articulating your brand aspirations. Do you want your brand to be known for delivering superior performance and dependability? Or is your intent to challenge the existing way of doing things and position your brand as a disruptor? Or is your brand about making a positive social or environmental impact? Ask Why. Why do you do what you do? Where do you want your company to be?Once you know what type of brand you’re aiming for, you can identify the values that your organization should embrace. In the case of a performance brand, you should work on cultivating a culture of achievement, excellence, and consistency inside your organization, while a strong sense of purpose, commitment, and shared values is needed for a socially or environmentally responsible brand. When you have clarity on the values necessary to support your desired brand type, you can use it to inform and ignite other culture efforts, including organizational design, leadership development, policies and procedures, employee experience, etc.

Once you know what type of brand you’re aiming for, you can identify the values that your organization should embrace. In the case of a performance brand, you should work on cultivating a culture of achievement, excellence, and consistency inside your organization, while a strong sense of purpose, commitment, and shared values is needed for a socially or environmentally responsible brand. When you have clarity on the values necessary to support your desired brand type, you can use it to inform and ignite other culture efforts, including organizational design, leadership development, policies and procedures, employee experience, etc.How you operate on the inside should be inextricably linked with how you want to be perceived on the outside. Just as brands differ, there is no single right culture. Identify the distinct cultural elements that enable you to achieve your desired brand identity, and then deliberately cultivate them. When your brand and culture are aligned and integrated, you increase operational efficiency, accuracy, and quality; you improve your ability to compete for talent and customer loyalty with intangibles that can’t be

How you operate on the inside should be inextricably linked with how you want to be perceived on the outside. Just as brands differ, there is no single right culture. Identify the distinct cultural elements that enable you to achieve your desired brand identity, and then deliberately cultivate them. When your brand and culture are aligned and integrated, you increase operational efficiency, accuracy, and quality; you improve your ability to compete for talent and customer loyalty with intangibles that can’t be copied; and you move your organization closer to its vision.There are numerous ways to strengthen the culture within your organization, such as through making core values a part of your daily routine, and employee and customer recognition programs.

There are numerous ways to strengthen the culture within your organization, such as through making core values a part of your daily routine, and employee and customer recognition programs.To integrate it into the daily routine, some companies make core values into posters and put them up around the office, or start off every team meeting with a quick core values review. Keep in mind, core values take

To integrate it into the daily routine, some companies make core values into posters and put them up around the office, or start off every team meeting with a quick core values review. Keep in mind, core values take time to instill, and the more reminders -visual, audible, or otherwise – the easier it is to get your team bought in.

With employee recognition, consider going beyond rewards for task-related achievements. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your core values and purpose.

Truly meaningful values are ones that you can tell real stories about. When employees demonstrate core values, publicly recognize them for it and share the story of how they did it by. This will demonstrate your company’s commitment to your core values, give the employee kudos when deserved, and motivate the team to look for additional opportunities to fulfill them.

Culture will be a work in progress. It requires active management and implementation, and it’s completely up to the leadership to set it, reinforce it and make decisions based on it.

*This blog post has been curated and compiled referring inc.com , LiquidAgency.com , Beloved-Brands.com and hbr.org .