five insights for creating a brand that adds value – part 4

Creating the optimum culture is central to creating the optimum brand and customer experience. Establishing the optimum culture involves:

  • Defining the optimum brand.
  • Defining and employing only the optimum people.
  • Motivating staff to perform optimally.
  • Providing the required direction and training.
  • Monitoring and fine-tuning the strategy.

Following are five tips for building a culture that brings a brand to life and, in so doing, builds the value of the brand and, ultimately, the value of the business.

  1. To maximise the value of a brand – implement a branding strategy.

A recent survey found that some 77% of executives in B2B businesses view branding as being critical to growth. The other 23% of the executives surveyed are almost certainly fools. It is virtually impossible in any business B2B or B2C to attract and retain the best people, maximise productivity, attract the best customers and margins, and maximise the value of any business without effective branding.

As discussed previously, there are, for most organisations, at least two brands:

  • Actual brand.
  • Optimal brand.

The target audience determines the actual brand. It is what they ‘say about you when you are not in the room’. The optimal brand is the ‘brand’ defined by the organisation and considered to best maximise performance and profitability.

Branding is the process of bridging the gap between the actual brand (as it is now) and the optimal brand (as the business would like it to be). Given that there is a huge gap in some businesses, a bran\ding strategy to eliminate them is almost always necessary.

This, in turn, will involve:

  • Creating a reality that supports the brand.
  • Creating the optimal culture to drive the brand.
  • Communicating well-crafted messaging consistently.

It will almost certainly involve:

  • Ensuring brand consistent staff are employed
  • Ensuring staff have the skills required
  • Ensuring staff have the KPIs, incentives and monitoring

There are alas still many businesspeople who believe that brands are created through advertising or external communication. While advertising may be necessary and social media and traditional media relations can be very helpful in branding, they are the last of several critical considerations.

INSIGHT – Define your optimal brand, research the actual brand, and then document a cost-effective strategy to eliminate the gap between actual and optimal.

  1. To build a brand inexpensively – leverage social media.

Research has found that some 91% of consumers believe that social media is a good and effective way of connecting consumers – making it an effective medium for building a brand. Research also found that 78% of consumers surveyed want brands engaged with social media communities.

Research has also found that 62% of respondents believe social media can unify people, while 52% want to connect with them through social media. Again, this suggests that social media is the ideal environment for building a brand, using social media to:

  • Develop the best possible understanding of the primary target audience, enabling the identification of areas where the brand messaging and features might be fine-tuned.
  • Communicate cost-effectively with members of the primary target audience on an ongoing basis to build long term relationships and maximise customer lifetime value.

Both of these potential uses of social media, in turn, open the way for collaborative brand development. This is why – Up to 80% of businesses use social collaboration tools for enhancing business processes. Collaboration can be a powerful tool for staff and target audiences to work together to develop a brand that meets the expectations and requirements of all audiences – thus maximising brand loyalty.

Social media is an essential and powerful tool in terms of getting brand messages out to target audiences. It is, however, an even more powerful tool for developing an optimal understanding of the target audiences – and an even more powerful tool for the collaborative development of a brand.

Central to doing this effectively is, of course, identifying the optimal channels and messaging. All brand related messaging needs to be customer-focused and consistent.

INSIGHTS – Use social media to build your brand. Use it to develop a superior understanding of the audiences collaboratively and then communicate with them.

  1. Build value into your brand – by building a culture that brings it to life.

Research by Gallop in the United States found that only 51% of employees are engaged with their job and employer. Indeed, 51% represents a majority, but it also means that nearly half (49%) are not involved with their job and employer. The same organisation found that the situation is much worse in Australia, with 71% of employees not engaged with their job or employer.

My question is – how well do you think those not engaged will perform in their job? I would have thought that to remain in a job, an individual first needs to engage with that job. Very low, I would have thought. I would argue that people who are not engaged and indifferent by definition will never achieve performance maximisation. More importantly for this discussion, what is the likelihood that an employee who is disengaged from their job and employer will do what is necessary in interactions with other staff, stakeholders, and customers to live by the organisation’s values and create the optimal culture?

 Investopedia defines corporate culture as:

  • The beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.

A great culture lies at the heart of every great business. The culture is what determines how staff will interact with each other, with customers and with other stakeholders. Most importantly, the culture of an organisation is what brings the brand to life. Ideally defined by the brand, the culture makes the brand real. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, the culture of an organisation comprises or addresses:

  • The vison
  • The values
  • The practices
  • The people
  • The narrative
  • The place

There is clear alignment between these factors and the elements of the brand, including vision, values, personality, capability, and positioning. This highlights the inextricable link between brand and culture.

INSIGHT – Embrace the power of culture and the importance of staff engagement in determining the capacity to create the optimal culture which brings the brand to life. 

  1. Build value into your brand – using culture as the foundation stones. 

In 2009 Amazon purchased Zappos for US$1.2 billion. Ten years earlier, Zappos had sales of just US$1.6 million. By any measure, and even taking into account the propensity of businesses to pay over the odds for online retailers in 2009, this valuation suggests that the previous ten years had been stunningly successful for Zappos. What is more, that success has been sustained since 2009. In 2020, Zappos is the world’s largest shoe store (albeit – online). Global sales in 2019 were US$568 million.

Behind the growth of Zappos has been Tony Hsieh. On many occasions, Tony has been asked to explain the success of Zappos. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • “At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.” -January 9, 2010, The New York Times.
  • “I made a list of the happiest periods in my life, and I realised that none of them involved money. I realised that building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy. Connecting with a friend and talking through the entire night until the sun rose made me happy. Trick-or-treating in middle school with a group of my closest friends made me happy. Pickles made me happy.”–from his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Profits
  • “We’re willing to give up short-term profits or revenue growth to make sure we have the best culture. In fact, after orientation, we offer people $2,000 not to work at Zappos. The ones who stay are right for our culture.”–January 7, 2010, Forbes 
  • “We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.”–November 15, 2010, The Huffington Post


In these quotes, Hsieh points to the importance of culture in developing a great business and a great brand. He is not alone in this regard:

  • “I think as a company if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
  • “Determine what behaviours and beliefs you value as a company and have everyone live true to them. These behaviours and beliefs should be so essential to your core that you don’t even think of it as culture.” Brittany Forsyth, VP of Human Relations, Shopify
  • “I used to believe that culture was ‘soft’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.” Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently

INSIGHT – Get your culture right, and much of the rest – including the brand will take care of itself. To build a great business – build a great culture. 

  1. Build value into your brand – only employ people who reflect the brand.

For most employees, income is a major consideration. That said, the vast majority are looking for more than that. Research suggests that 80% of potential employees are influenced by the brand of the business they are considering working for. At the same time, employers are looking for staff who will engage with the organisation and its brand. Research shows that such engagement can deliver a 21% increase in profit.

In his book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins highlights the importance of employing only the ‘right’ staff – not the best available – but the ‘right’ staff – those ideally suited for the job in question. He highlights the high cost of employing less than optimal staff. Further to this, Collins suggests that if a business cannot find the ‘right’ person – they should not employ anyone at all. The ‘right’ people will be attracted to the brand and will make an ongoing contribution to bringing that brand to life.

It is people and not promotion that brings a brand to life. This is evident to just about anyone walking into a Myer store and experiencing the lack of service or customer experience compared with those walking into an Apple store and experiencing the high standard of service and market appropriate customer experience. It is impossible to create the ‘optimal’ brand without the ‘right’ staff and attracting the ‘right staff’ requires an ‘optimal’ brand. Brands attract staff, and staff create brands.

Consultants and textbooks often talk about ’employer branding’ and the importance of the employee brand in attracting the ‘right’ staff. While it is important to have a brand that attracts the ‘right’ people, communicates that brand to the ‘right’ people (the employee target market), no organisation should have one brand for customers and another for potential employees. Great businesses have one brand, defined with all audiences (including potential employees) in mind. Great businesses also recognise that great brands are created by the ‘right’ staff who, in turn, are attracted by the optimum brand.

INSIGHT: When defining your brand, consider all audiences, including employees and potential employees. Then employ the ‘right’ staff to bring your brand to life.


Your brand is what target audiences say about you when you are not in the room. Branding is the business of creating the optimal brand, such that the audiences in question are saying what you want them to say. Effective branding requires a sound strategy.

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