Challenge — BRAND CULTURE
Why do some businesses need help to recruit, and others have hundreds of applicants for every job? How do some brands invoke zealot-like enthusiasm in their employees and others a lacklustre indifference? The answer lies in cultivating a vibrant brand culture.
- An uninspiring reputation as an employer
- Competitors are attracting all the top talent
- Need to improve motivation and engagement
- Employees don’t know what the brand stands for
- A poor on-boarding process for new employees
- Recruitment advertising is not working
A poor brand culture will be detrimental to any organisation. It can lead to high employee turnover, poor customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, a decrease in revenue.
A poor employer brand or reputation can make attracting and retaining top talent challenging. This can decrease employee engagement, productivity, and overall brand performance. A study in 2019 by Work Institute found that 28% of the workforce left their jobs voluntarily. Of those, 75% could have been prevented, and many departures were linked to factors related to employee engagement.
Employees who feel undervalued are likely to perceive their employer and brand negatively. Poor work/life balance and lack of flexibility can cause employees to become stressed, burnt out, and disengaged.
Leaders who do not embody the brand’s values and behaviours can create a disconnect between their employees and partners. Employees are also less likely to do so if leaders are not living and breathing the brand.
When a company merges with or acquires another, it can create an integration challenge. Pre-established cultures, values, and communication styles can confuse and cause siloed thinking among employees. The consequence is an inconsistent internal culture not aligned with the overall brand vision and purpose.
Five strategies for building a successful brand culture
Great brands work from the inside out. Improving brand culture can significantly impact an organisation's ability to attract and retain top talent, increase employee engagement and productivity, and drive business success. Engaged employees will positively impact customer experience and increase loyalty. The proof is clear; a recent Temkin Group study found that companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 26% in terms of customer satisfaction.
Uncover a shared purpose and values
A robust brand culture is built upon a collective purpose and shared principles. These elements offer employees a clear path to follow and ensure the brand resonates with the desires and ambitions of its customers. When a brand establishes a distinct and captivating vision alongside its core values, it can inspire and mobilise its workforce toward a united objective, fostering a more cohesive community spirit.
Patagonia is a perfect example of a company with a strong brand culture built around sustainability and environmental responsibility. The company’s commitment to its mission of “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” informs its culture and practices.
In his 2005 book “Let My People Go Surfing”, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, showcases how his approach to business promotes employee well-being as an integral part of its success. Many of its pioneering practices – flexible hours, work-life balance, employee empowerment, and values alignment are now commonplace in enlightened organisations. Other novel ideas, like environmental stewardship and support for physical activities, are yet to be widely adopted.
Define behaviours, recognition, rituals and cues
Without a framework of enactment, values will languish as well-meaning totems on the boardroom wall. So, to create a strong brand culture, brands must embrace the complete employee experience: the behaviours, recognition, rituals, and cues that bring those values to life.
Behaviours are the choices employees make that should align with the brand’s purpose and values. These include everything from how they interact with customers, celebrate successes, and act in a crisis. Recognition consists of programs that encourage and reward behaviour that supports the culture.
Rituals are recurring group activities that strengthen and embed relationships. They can be extensive, company-wide events like a summer picnic or more minor interests like a chess club. And finally, cues are the physical and behavioural reminders to help everyone remain connected to the future.
Google is renowned for its creative and laid-back work atmosphere, where employees are motivated to brainstorm fresh concepts and enjoy perks that support a healthy work-life balance. The company’s core principles, such as “Do the right thing” and “Focus on the user,” play a significant role in shaping its distinct cultural identity. By adhering to these values and others, Google’s workforce has fostered a deep feeling of unity and direction, reinforcing this through consistent actions, programs that celebrate accomplishments, regular practices, and established signals.
Nurture a team of brand ambassadors
Employees are the face of the brand, and they have a critical role to play in building a strong brand culture. By creating brand ambassadors, brands can tap into the passion and commitment of their employees and turn them into powerful advocates for the brand. Colleagues are often more influenced by their peers than by formal communications. Internal brand ambassadors leverage this influence to drive acceptance of new initiatives, changes, and cultural shifts.
Businesses can help their ambassadors in a variety of ways. Offer a digital platform for them to connect, share ideas, and collaborate easily. This platform could include discussion forums, instant messaging, document sharing, and virtual workspaces.
Create a hub with comprehensive brand guidelines, approved content templates, imagery, videos, and examples of successful brand implementation. This will ensure that ambassadors have easy access to up-to-date resources, enabling them to consistently represent the brand accurately and authentically.
And finally, implement a recognition and engagement platform where ambassadors can be acknowledged for their contributions, efforts, and alignment with the brand’s values. This platform can allow colleagues to express appreciation, share success stories, and provide feedback to each other.
Embed brand culture with a brand book
A brand book is a comprehensive employee guide to a brand’s vision, values, voice, and visual identity. It ensures consistency in brand communication and helps employees embrace the brand culture. Instead of strict manuals, brand books should offer engaging stories that encourage learning. They are hugely valuable for onboarding by providing a roadmap for embodying the brand, connecting the past with the future, and understanding its purpose and values.
To create a brand book or culture deck: Start by extracting key ideas from the brand strategy to build a framework. Gather stories from employees, partners, and customers that illustrate these ideas in action. Consider how the brand wins in the marketplace. Describe the preferred tone, style, and messaging guidelines and always include examples. Collaborate with relevant stakeholders to review and refine the content. Ensure the brand book accurately reflects your brand’s identity, messaging and culture.
Align internal communications and recruitment strategy
Effective internal communications are essential for building a strong brand culture. They should include everything from regular updates on the brand vision and values to business performance and decision-making transparency. Smaller businesses can start with regular newsletters and employee spotlights. Larger organisations can add virtual town halls, interactive workshops and discussion forums.
Recruitment advertising can help build a healthy internal culture by showcasing the company’s values, environment, and initiatives. Use real stories, visuals, and employee testimonials to authentically communicate the culture. Highlight work-life balance, diversity, growth opportunities, and more. Keep the messaging consistent across channels and gather candidate feedback to improve. This attracts candidates who align with the culture, leading to a cohesive and positive internal environment.
Start your brand culture project with a brand values workshop
A brand values workshop can help identify and clarify your organisation’s core values, align them with your brand’s purpose and vision, develop a shared understanding of what they mean, and create a plan to integrate them into the organisation’s culture and decision-making. The outcome can guide future branding decisions, attract and retain employees who share these values, and create a solid and authentic brand message.