Management academic and guru Peter Drucker once noted that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast. He was right! The right strategy is of little value if the organisation lacks the culture to implement that strategy. It is only when the organisation has the right culture that it is able to develop the optimum strategy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the advertising but the culture of a business that creates its brand.
- 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 communicate 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.
- Build value into your brand – employ staff who will bring the brand to life.
If you are to bring your brand to life, you first need to recognise that your staff will do this job. The last blog in this series addressed employing the ‘right’ staff – staff who can bring your brand to life. This blog addresses the importance of engaging the ‘right’ staff, retaining them, and getting the best out of them. Research suggests that 71% of executives believe employee engagement is critical to research and has a role in:
- Increasing productivity
- Improving morale
- Reducing absenteeism
- Delivering better customer service
Engaged staff also bring the brand to life – understanding and embracing the consistent behaviours and never exhibiting behaviours that are not consistent with the brand. Only engaged staff will create your brand by bringing your brand definition to life. Engaging staff can be facilitated by:
- Ensuring they understand the vision and the expectations it creates
- Ensuring they understand the core values and the expectations they create
- Ensuring they understand the brand personality and the expectations they create
- Providing the education and training required to ensure staff have the requisite skills
- Provide the incentives needed to ensure consistent behaviour of all staff
To live your brand, staff must first:
- Understand the brand and its implications for their behaviour
- Have the skills to exhibit optimal behaviour consistently
- Be incentivised and provided with feedback
If staff are not engaged with the brand, they will not live it, and if they don’t live it, it will not exist.
INSIGHT – Employ staff who can live the brand and put in place a strategy that engages staff and begins the process of extracting full value from them – to bring the brand to life
- Build value into your brand – retain the staff who maximise productivity.
Great brands are built by the ‘right’ people (as suggested in previous blogs in this series) who are fully engaged with the business and its brand. More often than not, great brands are created by long term employees – the ‘right’ staff who are involved with the brand to the extent that they choose to stay with the business for the long term.
The benefits of long-term staff are numerous and include:
- Reduced recruitment costs
- Lower training costs
- Retention of intellectual property
Long-term staff are also better placed to understand, embrace and live the brand – providing the customer service and customer experience promised by the brand. Retaining the best staff requires:
- Employing the right person in the first place
- Providing a clear and engaging vision and leadership
- Maximising the level of engagement with the brand
- Maintaining attractive remuneration packages
- Monitoring staff and providing feedback and training
Critical to retaining the right staff is a brand that reflects the values, personality, and capabilities of the staff member concerned – making the working environment one they feel proud of, rewarding and a pleasure to work in. Ideally, staff members need to feel pride in their employment, and nothing will inform this pride more than the organisation’s brand – ‘what people say about it when the owners of the brand are not in the room’. Vision, values, personality and positioning are as important to staff as they are to purchasers.
Research suggests a ‘perpetual cycle’ here – with the staff bringing the brand to life by living it and -bringing the brand to life, helping to attract, extract full value from, and retain the right people.
INSIGHT – Once you have the right staff and they are fully engaged, put in place strategies that will ensure that staff who live the brand stay with you as long as possible.
- Build value into your brand – establish a continuum.
It has been suggested that a brand has nine broad objectives:
I would argue that the first 5 of these objectives simply serve the achievement of the last four. As such, it might be argued that a brand has just four ultimate objectives:
- Build equity in the brand and, therefore, the business
- Facilitate and increase in market share and, therefore, sales
- Boost margins by increasing the perceived value of a product
- Create a loyalty that drives the lifetime value of each customer
The ‘brand-culture continuum’ is a model for demonstrating the inextricable link between brand and culture. It has but one objective:
- To create the culture that will bring the optimum brand to life to build equity, facilitate market share, boost margins, and create the loyalty required to maximise the lifetime value of every customer.
This objective is achieved by embracing the brand definition as showing the way and the culture as ensuring the journey is completed successfully – with this one objective being achieved. This objective cannot be achieved without recognising that culture and not advertising bring a brand to life and ensure that all of the objectives listed above are achieved.
INSIGHT – Address fully using culture to bring your brand to life and maximise market share and the lifetime value of each customer and prospect.
- Build value into your brand – reinforce the continuum.
It has been suggested that bringing a brand to life involves eight strategies:
Realise the importance of brand
- Take inventory
- Funnel and simplify
- Brand identity
- Implement internally
- Implement externally
- Protect and maintain
I would argue that there are, in the simplest terms, two critical stages in creating a brand:
- Defining it
- Living it
Ideally, defining the brand involves working co-operatively or even collectively with the primary target market to define a brand that will maximise all of the objectives discussed in the last blog in this series. Living the brand involves creating a culture that can bring the brand to life.
Defining the brand involves:
- Defining the audience
- Understanding the audience to be targeted
- Defining the brand according to the expectations of that audience
Living the brand involves creating a culture by:
- Employing the ‘right’ people
- Engaging and incentivising staff
- Monitoring and providing feedback to staff
This is all part of one strategy – the branding strategy. The branding strategy involves defining the brand and then bringing it to life.
INSIGHT – Understand and embrace the brand culture continuum, recognising that the brand defines the culture, and the culture brings the brand to life.
- Build value into your brand – Develop one team.
The key to great branding is bringing the brand to life by establishing a culture where all staff always behave in a manner that is consistent with the brand. It has been suggested that there are ten do’s and six don’ts involved in creating a great culture:
- Set clear goals
- Communicate the goals
- Promote diversity and inclusivity
- Allow for humour
- Prioritise respect
- Strict zero-tolerance policy
- Employee recognition
- Employee feedback
- Encourage employees to work through lunch
- Reschedule one-to-one-meetings
- Retain the wrong staff
- Limit learning opportunities
- Hire for cultural fit
- Tolerate poor managers
To me, creating the optimum culture involves:
- Defining the brand
- Bringing the brand to life
Bringing the brand to life involves:
- Attracting the right people
- Engaging the right people
- Retaining the right people
It should be apparent from this that delivering the optimum brands requires the marketing team (defining the brand) working with the human resources team (creating the culture) working together as one team. While the marketing and human resources teams will have many very different responsibilities, they should ideally work as one team when it comes to branding. Making this one team approach even more important is the importance of the brand to the HR team’s efforts to attract and retain staff.
INSIGHT – To create and benefit from the optimum brand, have the marketing and human resources teams work together to define and create the optimum brand and culture
The culture-brand continuum is the key to effective and sustainable branding. While management might define the brand, the culture brings the brand to life cost-effectively. The Culture – brand continuum is the most effective pathway to building a sustainable brand the consistently adds value to the brand and the organisation more generally.