Companies establish contact with the outside world according to their particular vision of the world, their values and beliefs, and their own culture. The latter is a factor directly linked to the way of being and doing the organization, which must be shared by all its members. This translates into a set of unique facts perceived internally and externally, which differentiate one company from another and serve, on the one hand, to cohere it internally and, on the other, to position it in the environment.

In this sense, the brand culture gathers its true essence and permeates it throughout the organization and to the outside. It is truly responsible for transmitting the purpose of the brand and creating the emotional bonds necessary for the survival of any business. Brand culture is more than just an expression of the brand, it’s an expression of the people who work for the brand and their shared beliefs.

 

What is brand culture?

Today it is necessary to humanize the relationship between brand and people on a maximum scale and at all levels of companies, both externally and internally. In the past, employees were brand ambassadors. Today, employees are the brand and the brand is the business.

The company’s culture permeates people through brand culture, and refers to the set of factors linked to an organization’s way of being and doing that are shared by all its members. These factors translate into unique facts perceived internally and externally, which differentiate an organization from others and serve to position it in the environment and cohere internally.

 

Aligning Brand, Purpose, and Culture: Your Competitive Advantage

Brand, purpose, and culture are three pillars that underpin the equation of business success. They are not the only elements involved, but without the alignment between them, it will be very difficult to survive in the world that is coming to us. Or that it’s already here.

Today it is no longer enough to simply “have” a purpose. No matter how good your team is, it will be impossible for them to take you into the future without a clear vision of where they are going. In the same way, no matter how good your brand strategy is, and even if it is perfectly designed, it will not achieve success without having a team of committed people who can bring it to life.

Brands are nourished by their values in the creation of their purpose, thus building emotional connections with those who feel the same way and share the same vision. They can be strengthened through purpose, as long as they can frame that purpose frames the roadmap, what they offer, and how they deliver it. The purpose should permeate everything, and it’s not enough to tell nice superficial stories.

Culture is responsible for defining behaviors that reinforce the brand’s being and purpose. It’s like the heart of the system. If the heart is strong, the body responds well and can deliver that feeling to the outside. If employees share the organization’s purpose, they have an easier time conveying it to customers, thus increasing their engagement. Just think about how you are served in an Apple store versus the attention you receive in many other establishments.

 

Total Alignment

Brand culture is a very powerful thing that needs to come from the inside and radiate outwards. Promoted by the company’s management and sponsored by all departments, where marketing and human resources play an essential role in external and internal dissemination.

There is no doubt that how you operate on the inside is directly linked to how you are perceived on the outside. When the brand and culture are aligned and integrated, greater operational efficiency is achieved and the ability to achieve loyalty – internal and external – is improved with a series of intangibles that are truly exclusive and cannot be copied.

 

What HR Can Learn From Marketing

    • Segmentation: Marketing departments know very well how to segment customers, as well as the benefits of achieving it. HR can apply internal segmentation and adjust its employee value proposition (EVP) based on different position levels. In the same way, you can innovate in your segmentation as an employer brand, improving and personalizing your messages.
    • Technology optimization: Marketing departments have often been the first to introduce new technologies to connect with customers. Now is the time to apply these learnings to strengthen relationships with employees and attract talent.

 

What HR Marketing Can Learn

    • Build Relationships: Although it may seem like a paradox, in the digital age, relationships between people count more than ever. HR knows better than anyone how to strengthen them, and how certain messages affect derived behaviors. The collaboration between the two can make it easier for marketing to provide extra psychology to connect emotionally with customers.
    • People come first: The marketing area was born to sell a product to the market. The HR product is the company itself and its people, their strategies have been built based on well-being and productivity. All marketing departments claim to put the customer at the center, but reality shows that most are far from it.

 

Brand Culture Management

Poor management of brand culture can have serious consequences, as well as jeopardizing the cohesion of positioning. Think of it as a fantastic tool to build commitment, agree on a management philosophy, motivate staff, and facilitate socialization. If internal messages about beliefs are unclear or misinterpreted by employees, then the company’s positioning will also be confusing and misunderstood by customers.

Strategic positioning is inevitably linked to culture which, as we saw, emanates from values and purpose. Consequently, it should be able to evolve to reflect any changes that affect its environment, although this is not so simple. There is therefore a great paradox: it is difficult to change the culture of an organization, while flexibility and speed of adaptation to new environments are essential for the survival of any company.

To manage this change, it will be necessary to:

    1. Identify what kind of culture the organization needs
    2. Measure the existing culture to identify the gaps between the current and the desired one
    3. Decide how to close those gaps and repeat the process periodically.

 

Types of Brand Culture

Culture types differ from crowded brand archetypes, such as the hero, the wild card, or the sage. While archetypes can be useful for creating a narrative and tone of voice, culture types are strategic ways in which brands compete and position themselves against each other. They are a starting point on which to build a differentiation. For example, Patagonia falls under the “conscious brand” type because it is characterized by its sustainability purpose, while Apple is a “brand innovative” type given its pursuit of constant improvement.

The work of specialist Denise Lee Yohn leads to the conclusion that we can find 9 types of companies according to their brand culture:

Some of these types of cultures overlap and some characteristics are, or should be, embraced by all brands. Each of the nine types is identified by two main characteristics. The first is your benchmark, i.e. the standard by which your brand is positioned. A disruptive brand like Virgin is all about challenging the leader in every category, so the benchmark for the Virgin brand would be to be the leader of the category. The second characteristic that sets it apart is its tone and the way the brand behaves or expresses itself.

Once you identify the type of brand you have or want to create, the next step in aligning the external brand and the internal culture is to identify the type of culture needed to deliver it. Differences between brands are strengthened across different types of cultures. If you want to position your brand as disruptive, for example, you need to cultivate a culture that embraces risk-taking so that your team is inclined to act boldly and break market conventions.

As part of this process, you need to determine the core values that underpin the culture you want. Brand values are the cornerstones of culture. They reflect what’s important to the organization and, if used correctly, shape your team’s attitudes and behaviors. Detecting what the values are and formally describing them is the first step so that they can be shared.

 

Activate a brand culture program

If you have invested part of your resources in creating a brand, and in identifying your own culture, you should not overlook the importance of activating it effectively. A brand culture activation program should include these 5 steps:

 

  1. Diagnostic Research

The research should identify the brand’s DNA and provide the insights needed for its activation. It must also contrast how the brand is experienced inside, what the current climate is, detecting strengths and areas for improvement.

  1. Key Behaviors

The values that build the essence of the brand must be distilled and translated into behaviors that can be activated by employees. Depending on how the brand’s personality has been defined, activation can be translated in one way or another into a map of key behaviors.

  1. Internal Alignment

It is necessary to infuse what the brand represents inwardly. The challenge lies in the fact that on many occasions the essence and purpose of the brand do not coincide with the beliefs and behaviors of the internal team with which the brand comes into contact. It’s about getting the brand and culture to work in alignment and working as a single force within the Organization. The Employer Value Proposition (EVP) is a key tool to achieve this and secure engagement.

  1. Ensure consistency

The brand has its way of doing and speaking that should be consistent across all touchpoints, both internally and externally. Make sure they speak with one voice. Harness the power of
storytelling
to explain who we are and how we act.

  1. Activate Engagement

When you get employees to share branded content, you multiply their engagement and exponentially increase the impact on the outside. The combination of the effect of brand ambassadors and social selling is an excellent tool to attract customers.

One more aspect: Measure your efforts

Logically, it will be necessary to control and measure the effectiveness of the actions that have been carried out. To do this, once some KPIs have been identified for the program (work environment, talent retention, and attraction, corporate vision, etc.), it takes the pulse periodically and corrects all those necessary deviations.

 

Shared Beliefs, Multiplied Results

A culture with strong shared beliefs increases employee engagement. When values align naturally, employees tend to have more energy and persist in overcoming obstacles. They may also find it easier to set the right priorities, which in turn facilitates good performance and success.

Also think that when people care about the work they do, the teams they work with, and even where they work, not only are they more productive, which is perfect for the bottom line, but they’re also simply happier in their day-to-day lives.

Finally, remember that actions speak louder than words, what the company does is much more important than what it says.

 

 

Carlos Puig Falcó

CEO of Branward