In today’s highly-competitive world filled with savvy consumers and a whole lot of noise, a company’s brand is its most valuable asset. To capture the hearts, minds and loyalty of your most important customers, the brand experience – that is, all the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that your brand elicits, must leave your customers feeling good. After all, when it comes down to it, a brand is simply what people believe it to be. So how do you get customers buzzing about all the magic that is your brand? It all starts inside your walls with your company culture.
Designing a culture that matches your brand
Branding expert Scott Bedbury explained in his book, A Brand New World, that brands are like children – they have the potential to thrive if given the right home environment. For a brand to succeed in the outside world, it must first do so within the organization itself. Creating an inspiring, positive and engaging company culture for your employees that aligns with your brand promise is crucial to its success. Employees must believe in it, value it and live it every day in their work. Simply put, if your employees don’t think your brand is the real deal, why would customers?
Achieving the right environment for your brand is not always easy – especially in the modern business world where “home” could mean 20 different locations around the globe. But if done right, the benefits to your brand and your company are long lasting.
Here are three tips for building the best home for your brand.
Rally your people around a shared purpose.
When your employees walk through your “doors” (physical or virtual) each morning, they should know why they are there. Yes, we all need to pay the bills and save for retirement. But there’s a deeper reason why your employees chose to work for your organization in the first place. The job market is hotter than it has been in years, unemployment is at a mere 4%, and today’s candidates have a choice. In whatever way your organization is seeking to impact the world, that is its purpose. And today, more than ever, it’s important for your employees to know it.
Your company’s purpose should serve as its guiding light, providing the stability needed to weather inevitable storms. It should also seek to unite your people, giving them a shared reason to do whatever it is they do, no matter what part of the business they serve, or where in the world they serve it from. A company’s purpose provides the foundation for its vision, mission and values and must be defined in a way that is both consistent and meaningful to all employees. That is, keep it simple, ensure it’s authentic and make it actionable for every single employee.
When employees believe in the “why” behind their company, they make a deeper connection to what they are creating, building or selling. That connection fosters a higher level of commitment, loyalty and fulfillment among your people, which in turn, produces happier employees focused on achieving the right results. These employees will go the extra mile to deliver an experience to your customers that fully aligns with your brand promise.
Give your people the opportunity to live your brand every day.
Authenticity is key to the success of any brand. With so much information at the disposal of today’s consumers, they can spot a fake a mile away. Companies that say one thing and do another behind closed doors run the very real risk of losing a customer’s trust forever.
So how do you bring your brand to life across your organization in a way that is genuine? AirBnB, known for global connection and belonging, gives each of its employees an annual “coupon” worth $2,000 to travel the world. With its focus on adventure, Patagonia tells its employees to drop their work and go surfing when the waves are good. Nike gives its people access to onsite fitness facilities that offer every sport imaginable. These employee experiences map back to what it is each brand stands for…what it is they want their customers to think and feel about it.
Of course, grand gestures like those aren’t always realistic or feasible for every business out there…and they don’t need to be. Opportunities for brand engagement can take shape in many different ways, big and small. It could be a company ritual that supports the behaviors and mindset that represent your brand. Toyota employees are trained to ask “why” five times when tackling a problem to be sure they look closely at the underlying cause. Or maybe it’s ensuring that your workplace design well reflects what you’re all about. Brands that are known for innovation, for example, should have the type of physical workspaces that encourage creativity.
In whatever ways you bring your brand’s spirit to life inside your organization, be sure they are true to your brand values and are consistent across all parts of your business. And remember to start at the top with your leaders. They are always being watched, and they set the tone for the rest of your organization.
Celebrate the behaviors that define your brand.
Recognition is a powerful thing. It taps into one of our most fundamental human needs and pushes us to deliver on our potential. No surprise that it’s an extremely important business tool today. According to a study from the O.C. Tanner Institute, 78% of employees who are recognized are more engaged, as compared to 33% of employees who are not recognized.
To get your employees interacting with your brand in their daily work, you must recognize the behaviors that uphold it. Zappos celebrated one of its employees for breaking the company’s internal record for longest customer service call (10 hours, 43 minutes!). At Zappos, there are no time limits on customer service calls. Its focus is solely on developing a strong relationship with the customer. In a world obsessed with efficiency and speed, Zappos is showing everyone, inside and out, that its brand promise isn’t a hollow façade…it’s the real deal.
Recognition programs can and should employ a blend of techniques that, together, best suit your culture and support your brand. But for any program to have true staying power, leadership must be involved. Their buy-in and active participation is critical to its success. That means full alignment across all levels of leadership, and a commitment to both education (of expected brand behaviors) and celebration (of those behaviors at play). With your leaders front and center, employees will get the message that your company really cares about its brand promise.
If you want to change the way people perceive your brand, start by taking a look inside its “home,” your company culture. When your people believe in the magic that is your brand, it’s easy for your customers to believe in it too. Looking to boost your employee engagement strategies and internal communications? Let’s talk (firstname.lastname@example.org).