You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a cohesive brand, but without a matching company culture to back it up, your brand is just a series of symbols and colours. Company culture can make or break a team and as a result, affect your brand’s overall perception.
Brand perception comes down to one key thing: the customer experience. Whether it’s interacting with employees or following you on social media, your brand is the feeling your customers have right after interacting with you.
To make sure we’re on the same page, here are some definitions:
Brand: Forbes said it perfect – put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.
Brand Assets: logos, colours, fonts, tone and all the other things (like PR and advertising) that a company uses so people can identify them.
Company Culture: culture is the personality of the company. It’s how employees interact with each other, their managers and direct reports. A good company culture that aligns with employee’s personal values energizes teams to work towards a shared purpose.
The truth is that brand flows from culture, not the other way around.
Every organization has a culture, but does the culture contribute to achieving business goals, or does it hinder?
A company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. Everything else (products, strategies, marketing, even innovations) can be replicated, but the only truly unique identifiers are the values and norms of the organization – its culture, or personality.
So why should brands care about company culture?
- Good culture gives companies a competitive advantage.
- It heightens employee morale, which, in turn, makes more productive employees.
- It decreases employee turnover.
So how does it affect your customer’s view of your company? Let’s say you hear about a new clothing store that opened up in your city. You check out their Instagram page and get excited about their brand. You go visit the store and this is your experience:
Upon entering the store, you hear a “hi there” from behind the counter. The employee doesn’t leave his position from behind the counter while you’re browsing around.
Eventually, you ask if he has any more sizes in a shirt. He replies with a simple “no, sorry” and you end up leaving the store empty-handed.
This isn’t a particularly negative experience, but you’re probably not eager to return to that store again.
The employee was unengaged and not helpful. Your brand experience was lacklustre. The customer’s experience in your store and interaction with the employee can impact how they view your brand overall. Most of the things that cause an employee to be disengaged are easily avoidable. Things like micromanaging, lack of recognition of hard work and lack of respect are all things that can make even the best employees see their job as a clock-in/clock-out situation and affect company culture.
Now, let’s say this clothing store implemented the following company culture initiatives to match the brand and create a positive atmosphere:
- Thank each employee for their hard work at the end of every shift.
- This is a small thing that can make a big impact. I once worked at a restaurant and had a manager that always thanked me for working hard, even on crazy busy days where we both knew I wasn’t at the top of my game. She’d make sure I knew she appreciated my energy, and that made me a lot more excited to go back to work after a tough shift.
- Send out a regular internal newsletter featuring company news, outstanding employees, work-outfit highlights and other engaging information.
- This is a great place to showcase the company values and can include any industry news, updates or even shared interests like cooking or a sport.
- Have a company Pinterest board, closed Facebook page, or Slack channel for employees to post about shared interests.
- Clothing stores might encourage people to post favourite new outfits on Pinterest, for example. Offices can share favourite new industry-focused books. This might not work for every kind of business, but it’s a nice way to engage employees outside of work.
- Plan monthly gatherings like escape rooms or dinners to keep up employee morale.
- Care-free hangouts that aren’t related to work are just nice.
- For customer-facing businesses, create a monthly gift-card draw to the person with the best/most customer reviews.
- Instead of making employees battle for bigger sales, have them concentrate on giving outstanding customer service. Long-term customer retention is more valuable than a quick sale.
The store would then have employees who are excited to be working because they feel respected and part of something bigger. And customers will feel that too.
Now, let’s go back to our example but amp up the culture:
You walk into the clothing store. Upon entering, you hear a “hi there” from behind the counter. The employee walks up to you and starts a conversation, not focused on selling, but points to the cup in your hand and asks how the coffee is at that new shop down the street. You two chat for a little bit.
Eventually, he asks if he can help you look for anything in particular. You say no and he responds with “well I am happy to help if you need any suggestions. And be sure to check out the 30% off rack in the back.”
When you ask if there are more sizes in a shirt and there aren’t, he offers some suggestions for similar pieces in the store or to notify you when the size will be restocked. You put your name down to be notified and thank him for his help.
So, you left empty-handed, but you’re more likely to return to shop again because you built rapport with that employee. In both examples, the store could have a really stand-out brand assets and social media presence. But only in the latter example does the experience speak true to the brand story.