I’m often asked whether it’s possible to build brand culture within a business or organisation. The short answer is “yes”, but it’s better if it’s nurtured rather than created. And it must be genuine.
You can’t fake “culture”, which is, quite simply, the way everybody within an organisation thinks about the brand and how they live it.
These days most people get the concept of “culture” in a corporate context, and I think we can thank the HR community for some of that. But it’s surprising how many people don’t get the “brand” bit.
When I talk about “brand”, people often assume I’m a graphic designer or an ad agency – they don’t understand that brand is really the reputation that sits behind a brand. But they get it when I say that brand is all about image, personality and culture.
If you want to try to create culture you must be incredibly diligent and have a long-term approach, which is why big corporations sometimes get into trouble. They bring someone in for 18 months to try to build a culture, then there’s a change of the guard and someone new comes in and they lose track.
It’s much simpler to define the culture you already have then tweak it as required. Ask your employees what they think about your organisation and how they think it is perceived. Ask your colleagues, clients and regular suppliers for their honest opinions. And think about the clients you tried to get but failed.
When you don’t win a tender, it means that someone else did. Sometimes it’s all about price or an inside running; at other times it’s because the decision maker saw something in a competitor that they didn’t see in you.
When defining your brand culture, take particular note of the values you have that set you apart.
When you’re clear about how you want to be seen, and therefore how you need to behave, write it down in a clear and objective way that tells everyone the story.
And display it proudly! I have clients who include a brand identity document at the back of every tender and it works incredibly well.
The important thing about brand culture is that it helps you chart your future. Each time a decision has to be made about the next steps you can simply look back and ask “is it in line with what we stand for, with why we are in business, and with what we want to achieve?”