Does your Culture match your Brand?
Remember when “authenticity” was all the rage in business marketing circles? Now, the “Great Resignation” is proving to those companies who didn’t get the memo that your culture must match your brand promise. Or else.
BS LLC has written a lot about the relationship between a company’s culture and branding. Why? Well, selfishly, because we’re a branding agency. Holistically, however, we’re also a strategy company. And let’s just get this out there in the open:
It’s very difficult to create great branding for a company whose culture doesn’t live up to the promises they’re making.
Yeah, we went there.
We’ve also worked with our fair share of startups, filled with genuine idealism, and a strong drive to understand how to serve their customers better. Those experiences for us as strategically driven creative professionals are just joyful. Everything coalesces. Insights turn into strategies, strategies turn into compelling tactics. Design and copy seems to create and write itself.
What do you do if you’re a mature brand but your internal culture, messaging, and marketing is misaligned?
First, clear the air, and ‘fess up
How do you know if you have a culture / brand mismatch? It’s pretty simple: if your customer experience and your internal work experience are out of sync, you’ve probably got a culture problem. And if you’re that misaligned, you most likely have a branding problem.
If your customers are returning products, leaving bad reviews, scaling back their engagements, etc., but your sales teams are thinking “we’re doing everything right!” That’s a mismatch. Conversely, you may have booming sales, but your HR department is working overtime to keep the labor force shored up.
Talk openly and respectfully to your customers and your workforce. Qualitative interviews at scale will reveal the pattern quickly: For example, customers know when you’re not walking the walk, even if they’re buying your product. But, if they’re “holding their nose while they buy,” that’s not a sustainable proposition.
Second, understand what “culture” really means
It’s a common misconception that culture is the same thing as workplace perks. “Jeans Friday” and foosball tables are outgrowths of success, but they don’t define culture.
Your company defines culture by how it gets work done. It’s your processes, and how they mandate people work together. Efficient, respectful workflows that factor in how and why your customers choose and use your products or services eliminate the previously-described mismatch. That’s what “walking the walk” is all about. Your workflows extend your customer service.
Third, define your values, and turn them into action
Why does your brand do what it does? How does it serve customers? What problems are you solving for your customers? Why is this work important or valuable to you, the people doing that work? These can be hard questions to answer because they’re often internalized; we feel the answers more than we can describe them. But describing them is an action that leads to shared clarity. Once you have shared clarity, you can define clear workflows.
Finally, does your brand need to change?
Once you’ve done this, look at your branding: does your messaging and your brand creative guidelines resemble this newfound focus? You may need to do some qualitative work with customers to see if it does. If you’re an established brand, you may be too close to it.
If all off this seems a bit overwhelming, we strongly recommend that you call us. We’re experts at looking at your profit formula, your sales incentives, your workflows, and can compare this to your brand voice. By eliminating the gaps, your authenticity will increase, your messaging will sharpen, and your brand will be stronger.
About the Author:
Sam Lowe conducts research to help build full-featured road maps and strategies for BS LLC clients ranging from hospitality to healthcare and manufacturing to high tech. He’s also delightfully addicted to 2-wheeled vehicles, classical music, and fine teas.