When we think of a brand, we may think of the individual products a company sells, the stories it tells, or the causes it supports. But what about a company’s actions within its own walls? What about the culture of the organization – all of the actions, decisions, and interactions that take place among the internal team?
When it comes to culture and living the purpose of a brand, there should be no division between the internal and external. Simply put, your brand is your culture, and your culture is your brand. And, in an era of mass information and discerning consumers, companies that attempt to only superficially tell their brand story without actually living it, are sure to be caught.
A brand is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes or a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization. It’s the characteristics and qualities of a company’s values and culture that form the personality of a brand, and should be reflected in each employee.
Culture is a set of shared values, beliefs, and assumptions that shape the behavior of an organization. Culture creates a community and guides team members on how to make decisions, solve problems, interact with one another, and get things done.
The fundamental step in aligning culture and brand is understanding what your brand stands for and how each employee brings that to life. The passion that employees have for both customers and their colleagues is a key driver in how well culture and brand are aligned. If company culture is integrated with brand identity, employees are more likely to make decisions and take actions that deliver on your brand promise.
Organizational culture should be a foundational tool in every brand marketer’s toolbox, but it only works when brand and culture are aligned. Marketing professionals agree that a company’s perceived culture can affect consumers’ buying decisions. The fact is, culture can either support a brand’s story, or be a brand’s worst nightmare.
For example, a business that has an innovative brand that consistently pursues and delivers breakthrough products and technologies should have a culture that is imaginative, progressive, supports risk-taking, and values continuous improvement and inventiveness. For a company whose mission is to make a positive social or environmental impact and enhance people’s quality of life, the culture should be inspiring, thoughtful, transparent, and intentional. In other words, however a company is differentiating their brand, whether by service, quality, luxury, or another factor, they need to prioritize and incorporate those qualities of the brand into the company culture, above all else.
To bring company culture and brand into alignment, an organization must first determine how it wants the organization to be perceived and experienced by customers and external stakeholders. Once that is defined, you can begin to align the external brand with the internal culture by identifying and defining the type of culture needed to deliver on the brand.
Your organizational culture should be as distinct as your brand. There is no single right type of culture, just as there isn’t one best type of brand. It’s how you build, position, integrate, and align the two that makes a brand-culture combination successful.
When everyone in an organization is led by the same guiding principles, and the culture begins to be found in every aspect of your business – from the people you hire, to the way you interact with team members and customers/clients, to the way you operate within the business, you have achieved the powerful brand-culture alignment.