Culture = Brand

Using your culture to define, guide, and build an authentic brand.

Diana Lillicrap 7.11.18

In order to help a company move its brand forward, one of the most important things we need to understand is the culture of the organization. What’s it really like from the inside out? What matters most? What are the norms, beliefs, and unwritten rules that everyone shares?

Every organization has a culture. And once you understand it, you can build an authentic brand experience.

Reality check

If you think of your people as the lifeblood of your organization, then culture is its soul. It’s the part of the company that you can feel in the way it works and the things it does. It’s what makes it authentic. It’s unique to your organization and it’s something you can’t feign or replicate—which is what makes it so valuable. Because your audiences are smart. They can see through fake experiences and false promises. Being real and true to who you already are is really your only option.

What makes you special?

Culture can be something that’s hard to define because it’s ingrained in your day to day work environment. It’s usually driven by leadership and the general tone they have set. Over time, it becomes the natural way that an organization and its people respond to challenges or create success. Some organizations have a culture of innovation (think 3M or Apple), others of great service (think Southwest or Zappos). Maybe it’s one of entrepreneurialism or competitiveness. Whatever it is, your brand should reflect it.

Not sure about the defining points of your culture? Take time to look, listen, and evaluate it. Ask yourself what drives us as a people? What do we believe? What can we count on? What do we value most and how do we show it? If you are honest about these questions, you will reveal the underpinnings of your culture. If you are struggling to see it, ask someone from outside your organization. It’s usually pretty easy to get a sense a corporate culture when you look from the outside in.

Addressing culture issues

You might discover you have a culture problem. Perhaps a disconnect between your vision and your management style. Or a sense that half of the organization has evolved while others are stuck in old ways. Unfortunately, a few bad apples or naysayers may be preventing you from reaching your full potential. Getting to the bottom of this issue is critical if you really want to find balance between culture and brand. The fix may be easier than you fear. Often, it’s about setting new expectations and modeling behaviors from the top down. If you can get leaders aligned with consistent behaviors, actions, and attitudes, others will follow or move on, leaving behind a more cohesive set of united employees.

Do what comes naturally

Once you understand or have created the right culture, then you can embrace it to strengthen your brand. We’ve all heard that a company needs to live its brand. It needs to follow through on promises, deliver experiences that match the expectations it has set, and stay true to its brand essence. The easiest way to do that is to build a brand that isn’t trying to be something you aren’t. Instead, you need to bring out the best of who you already are.

A clear and consistent culture can be a very powerful tool. It’s the beat every employee can march to. And it can lend itself to effective storytelling. Use it to frame the way you explain who you are and what you stand for. Capture and promote stories of real employees who are living the brand each day because of cultural norms that exist in the company. It’s what comes naturally. And it’s your brand at work on the inside of the organization.

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