In the absence of people, there is no brand.
Every time I hear an advertisement, see a company’s tagline, read a website or brochure, I immediately think about the promise the company is making to its customers, and if the company has a culture of people motivated to consistently deliver on its promise. Like you, I’ve had disappointing experiences with brands and wondered how the CEO would react if s/he knew how customers were being serviced and treated. And, I’ve also had very positive experiences. The difference between the two lies in a company’s culture.
For example, a manufacturer cannot brand itself as “innovative” unless the CEO recruits and hires innovative thinkers and creates a culture where innovative thinking is encouraged and rewarded. Nor could a manufacturer brand itself as “easy to do business with” unless its people have a genuine desire to want to bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops to help internal and external customers. And, a manufacturer certainly cannot brand itself as a “leader” in its industry if the CEO doesn’t maintain a culture of people who are naturally competitive and driven to lead through collaboration and teamwork.
Leading brands don’t achieve their elite status through aggressive and expensive marketing campaigns. A company can spend millions on marketing, but if the brand is fuzzy, or if its people don’t deliver its promise, marketing does more damage than good because it exposes more people to an underwhelming or disappointing experience. When a company sees little or no value to marketing, a weak brand is often the reason.
There is a direct and unbreakable relationship between brand and culture. Consider that:

  1. A brand is a unique set of distinctions a company owns that make a noteworthy difference in the lives of its customers. Distinctions are not found in the products or services a company sells for one simple reason: Given enough time and capital, any company can duplicate what its competition offers. A company’s unique distinctions are best defined by the reasons the business was originally created, and what its employees are able to consistently deliver. These typically include things like innovation, thought leadership, technical aptitude, purpose and business philosophy.
  1. The quality of employees a company is able to attract has a direct correlation to the significance and strength of its brand. Top-performing employees are very discerning, and hence very selective about where they choose to work. For this group, a company’s culture will play a significant role in their decision to join or leave an organization. Top-performers want to work for brands of significance and purpose. Nice paychecks and benefits satisfy financial needs, but being a part of a strong brand satisfies employees’ much deeper needs to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  1. A company’s business (brand) strategy can only be executed by employees who share the same level of passion and determination for winning as the CEO. Grooming such employees requires building a culture of high-rewards in exchange for delivering on high-expectations and teamwork.
  1. If a CEO wishes for his or her employees to give their best every day, s/he must give them all the right reasons. Employees need and deserve six things from their employer:
  • To be challenged into a sense of accomplishment and achievement – If you’ve ever wondered why people waste colossal amounts of time playing games on their smart phones, it’s because the more they play, the more challenging the games become, leading to greater feelings of accomplishment.
  • Meaningful work. Employees naturally feel better if they know that what they do every day serves a larger purpose, and makes a positive difference in the company and people’s lives.
  • Strong leadership. Without it, employees will be lost, confused, and will not know if they are performing to expectations. Leaders have an enormous impact on a company’s culture.
  • Recognitionfor performance. This drills down to the fundamental need every human has – to feel important. employees only hear about failures or the mistakes they make, they won’t stick around very long.
  • Opportunities for personal and professional growth. If employees don’t feel as if they are growing through new challenges, opportunities for advancement, promotions and added responsibilities, they will become bored quickly and likely move on to new ventures.
  • Fair compensation. Enough said.

When I think of culture, I think of sports, and wonder how fans would react if half the players on the court or field really didn’t try very hard, or worse, hated their coach. Would the fans (customers) ever return to see more games? Would the players ever win any games? A championship or a Super Bowl? I think you know the answer.