“Authentic brands don't emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does...” ― Howard Shultz
A brand is more than a logo, name, tag line or slogan. It’s the experience that prospects, clients and customers live while engaging us. There are ways to get buy in from employees and performance that not only encourages others to perform, but utilizes these employees as ambassadors promoting the business externally. It is employee enrichment through cultural meaning. Authenticity is key. Think Whole Foods.
First you need a dream. Personifying the culture you want also means committing to a (loftier) version of whatever personal policies manual you have. It has been my experience that companies who embark and embody the collective spirit process (pursuit of the dream) get better results. While conventional manuals are ever so important to meeting HR best practice methods, if executed correctly, the dream can have much more impact than any policy driven mandate.
It is a way of life, the dream; an expectation and delivery of the coolness factor in the work environment, purposed for the new employee and the outer community. The dream can be documented and utilized within a performance management strategy if positioned accordingly. Think bike shop employee being active in the local amateur bicycle race scene, or music store employees performing or teaching lessons. These are endorsements to user groups, audiences recognizing credibility and seeking cultural connection to the products or services that the employees sell. Authenticity is what our customers are looking for. The more front and center the dream, the better connection to your employees, prospects and customers.
When determining the dream, it is important to identify what's going on in the business. The life cycle of every company requires cultural improvement at some point. Some cases are worse than others and most have conflict stemming from poor alignment. Alignment problems often come about from a lack of trust on how and when to express oneself; if it is accepted, if it is encouraged, feared, subject to retaliation. The best performance plans comes from within, the worst come from the top, from fear. Fear comes from people not understanding one another. I will try and explain...
There are reasons Baby Boomers are considered more conventional than the Millennial. They are a product of what happened during their lifetime and also what was passed on to them from their parents, the Silent Generation. They consider themselves differently and are looked at differently. They think that their work ethic is measured by the number of hours worked vs. the importance placed on productivity by today's standard. They also think that close personal relationships are crazy important to getting results (this I live by). Loyalty too. These values are significantly different than folks 25 or 30 years younger working in the same organization, often the Millennial reporting to the Baby Boomer or early X'er.
The less conventional Millennial has different values. This group, having grown up with cell phones and computers all of their lives, want instant gratification and prefer that everybody wins and gets recognized. They feel entitled due to parenting styles of the Late Boomer or early X'er. This group searches for the individual who helps them achieve their goals and wants open and constant communication, ongoing and when they want it. They need fulfillment and prefer to work together with peers. They want to work when they want to work. They work to live rather than live to work, unlike the Boomers.
The Gap has to be assessed, exposed and managed. There is hope.
In consideration of the Gap, the people and the dream then become the necessary components of the Cultural Brand Strategy found in some of the hottest companies out there, Google, Whole Foods, Virgin, Apple; companies committed to attracting employees who get it. Regardless of the age (or generation) of the employees, declaring the dream is putting forth first the commitment to collective personality and second the authentic presence of how, together, they enhance the community. This is important to customers even though they might not consciously reflect upon it during the buying process.
And while the brand certainly always includes the logo, color palette and slogan, these are only basic creative elements that convey meaning. Instead, the brand lives and breathes in every day-to-day interaction with anyone connected to it.
The people and the dream are a companies biggest asset. A solid Cultural Brand Strategy then includes:
- the images necessary to frame the look and culture (unique to the marketplace) and able to be conveyed in all media types.
- the messages delivered consistently on websites, social media platforms, brochures, signage, product identifiers, proposals, training materials and sales campaigns, email and uniforms, salutations, hello's, goodbye's.
- the Dream; purpose and message transparent to all stakeholders, prospects, clients, customers, their parents, children, competitors, vendors, lenders, employees and anyone in community.
- the style, pride and delivery of how employees interact with customers; body language and broadcast of excellence (living the dream).
- a distinguishable reference to how our customer’s opinion of us stacks up versus our competition.
- a significant community presence outlining altruistic, ethical, moral and world-focused endeavor specific to the customers appeal.
- a clear understanding of who our customer is and what makes them think the way they do.
I think the development of a Cultural Brand Strategy can happen at any time in the course of business. Usually at a point of conflict or at the collision of process over innovation--the inability to grow horizontally because of too much process. Cultural change requires an open an honest inventory of the Executive team; a loosening of the ties to fit in a little better with employees. Which often fits in a little better with customers. ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout.