Company culture has become the talk of the town when talking about corporations, mid-size companies, and startups. But culture is much more than ping-pong tables and comfortable chairs. We believe brands are built on strong, purpose-driven cultures. That is why taking care of your brand means taking care of your culture first. Because culture is brand.
The closer culture and brand remain together, the higher the chances of success for any organization. A well-built culture combined with an intelligent and transparent brand strategy will allow you to bring your brand alive for customers, employees, and partners.
Companies that invest in creating a strong culture are more likely to perform better, bounce back faster, and be more successful over time. But not only that, brand culture will also drive customer advocacy, attract talent that will add to your culture, and will build longer and key partnerships.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos once said: “Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like delivering great customer service, or building a long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers — will just happen naturally on its own.”
Culture demonstrates what kind of people your organization is made out of; tells your story, and shares with your customers what makes you get out of bed in the morning.
Building a strong and durable brand culture
This is perhaps the most important thing you need to do to ensure the success of your organization.
Purpose beyond profit
What really moves your company? Of course, we understand that companies need to make a profit in order to exist, but profit should not be the reason for the existence of your organization.
Purpose should take center stage in your USP. Douglas Atkin in his book The Culting of Brands: Turn your customers into true believers, recognize having an “ideology” as one of the most important steps in order to bring your brand to “cult” status.
Ideology for Atkins means that your purpose and values need to uphold. Your customers not only share your values and want to see your purpose fulfilled; they want your purpose to be theirs and vice versa.
Purpose needs to be the core of any organization, not an add-on.
Purpose affects the way employees see problems and opportunities; this allows them to search for new ways for the company to stay relevant, and to think about markets as ecosystems, which will bring innovation and new collaborations where the purpose is driving the projects.
Purpose also brings more meaningful relationships with customers. In this ever-changing world and with the constant advances in technology, chances are that every company might have to change what they do, or how they do it. Purpose-driven companies can promise their customers that even if everything changes, their values, and mission will not, this in exchange forges customer loyalty.
Since purpose tends to be something bigger than just what your company sells, then the growth opportunities are almost endless.
At the same time, the purpose is what holds a culture together. Purpose is what will get your team to wake up in the morning; in fact, 87% of executives believe companies perform best when they work for a purpose rather than for profit.
Remember culture comes from inside your organization and it radiates out. Don’t leave it for later. A purpose-driven brand-culture will keep employees engaged and their work will permeate your customers.
Taking a stand for brand culture
Neutrality is a thing of the past. Long ago brands were better off by staying neutral, not having strong political opinions, and keeping themselves on the sidelines of current events. Not anymore. Actually, not taking a stand might cause your customers to believe you don’t care, or even worse than your values are weak and flexible.
Even your stands need to be on-brand. A strong brand-culture will lead you to know when and how to make your stand, and what causes are truly aligned with your purpose and values.
Atkin’s list of recommendations to transform your customers into “believers” includes to contact and explains it as splashing your ideas onto the right people. A brand with a purpose-driven culture has a strong voice and its community wants them to speak loudly about the issues that concern that purpose. Your ideas have power, use them to build your community, amplify your message and grow your consumer base.
Remember that your customers are unique, it is important to listen to them and engage in what they find important. Seek a connection with them that is authentic, just as much as they want you to take a stand, they want that stand to be transparent and meaningful.
So much so that according to 5W PR’s Consumer Report 2020, 62% of millennials favor products that show off their beliefs. Brand-culture is exactly that, making sure that your product is showing off your culture: telling your story, values, and stands.
Take a stand. A unique stand. Don’t be afraid to differentiate yourself from the pack. Actually, if you have a well-developed brand-culture will not allow your brand to get lost in the sea of competition. If necessary create your own ways, language, and values.
Actions speak louder than words
Putting actions behind statements is a must. 88% of consumers want the brands they love to help them make a difference. Consumers today are action-driven, they want to be part of the change they so loudly desire. Millennials and especially Gen Zs believe that that change can only happen in collaboration with brands.
In order for brands to succeed nowadays, they need to take action and create value. It is your actions that your customers want to see, and it is in those actions that they will be looking for your culture. Brand-culture is what customers will experience when they get your product, from the customer service to the packaging, and the product itself.
Whether you are a “conscious brand” or an “innovative brand”, customers want to see your culture in action. A brand that takes action, is a brand that is constantly delivering on the promises it made to its customers.
One of our favorite Atkin’s steps is the Lovebomb. Atkin encourages brands to love their customers and to show that love. The same idea should be implemented into every action that represents your brand-culture; there is nothing wrong with showing your purpose and stands translated into powerful and meaningful actions.
Communicating how brand is culture
Culture is more powerful when it comes from the inside and radiates out. Culture is what your brand is all about. Don’t be afraid to show it.
Here are 5 easy tips on how to communicate your brand-culture.
1. Your culture is all about habits and traditions?
Then share them with your whole network, employees, customers, and allies, everyone should feel welcome to participate in your culture.
How about a “No-Shoe Policy” for a weird tradition? Gusto’s offices in San Francisco and Denver have small cubicles for both employees and visitors to leave their shoes before coming in. Gusto believes that no shoes will make everybody feel more at home, they even created comfy spa sandals and socks for visitors, so that they too can be part of this tradition that was born in the house where the founders started the company.
2. Your culture is all about achieving an ultimate purpose?
Then make it a regular thing to celebrate your milestones and achievements. Make sure your actions are transparent and that align with your brand.
Patagonia’s new mission statement is “We’re in business to save our home planet”, and their entire culture is based on it. They allow and encourage their employees to take up to 2 months off to volunteer in an environmental group of their choice.
3. Your culture is all about people?
Then get listening! Find easy and reliable channels of communication with both employees and customers. They know what they want, and you want to know what is important to them.
Put employees at the center of your company. Semco has an employee feedback approach, meaning leadership is constantly seeking feedback from employees, and they are regularly asked about how things should be done.
4. Your culture is all about values?
Live up to them. Let your community hold you accountable for the promises you have made. There is always room for improvement, and it’s the only way to keep moving forward and learning.
Porch.com believes that transparency is shown in their all-hands meetings, where everyone is invited, plans and strategies are shared and everyone has a voice. Transparency means disclosing how you do things, and sharing your failures just as must as your successes.
5. Your culture should be all about culture!
Before implementing anything new, designing a new product, hiring someone new, starting a campaign, go back to your culture. If it doesn’t match is never going to work.
Partnerships can be very tricky when it comes to protecting your culture. Sometimes sharing values is not enough; if your organization has a more horizontal structure and you want to partner with another company that has a very structured hierarchy, communication can be hard, and eventually, someone is going to have to give in. Reclaiming your culture after that is close to impossible.
Brand-culture is the north star of every organization, not only does it show you the way, it will keep you moving forward.