A brand is far more than an engaging visual, clever phrase, or even well-defined value proposition. Brand perceptions emerge from operations as well as products and services. Business culture is at the heart.
Business culture can be a competitive advantage when purposefully defined, communicated, nurtured, and aligned with the strategic business plan. Culture power is organic to an organization. Whether customers interact in virtual or bricks and mortar settings, your company’s culture – beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors – can make or break your financial performance. Some beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors foster opportunities, strengthen relationships, and improve results, while others are a source of disconnect between what you say about your business and what people experience. That’s where business culture and brand identity intersect.
Business culture is communicated through:
- Service operations
- Physical facilities (if you have one)
- All employee behaviors
- Processes and transactions
- Sales and marketing materials
- Presentations and proposals
- Contract negotiations
- Fulfillment of contract deliverables
- Telephone etiquette (including on-hold and voicemail messages)
- Web content and interactivity
- Electronic communication (social media, e-newsletters, e-mail).
Many companies spend millions of dollars on branding campaigns, but brand identity is not only the job of the marketing department. According to Donna Anselmo, CEO of BOLD Marketing Solutions, Inc. and author of Marketing DeMystified (Mc-Graw-Hill, 2010), “Powerful brands are integrated and cross-functional, involving employees at all levels of the company in pursuit of excellence. When employees are kept in the loop and understand their impact on the brand, they are more likely to align their actions and results with company goals.”
Companies can build strong brand culture by addressing:
- Behaviors – decision-making processes and hierarchies, job descriptions and degrees of formality
- Communication – style, frequency, formality, and vehicles
- Beliefs – mission, goals, and standards of ethical and acceptable behavior.
- Business structure – organization of work through teams and individuals, department / division responsibilities, and compensation, incentives and bonus plans
- Business performance – criteria and measures, performance management programs, productivity planning, accountabilities and interactions.
People’s beliefs about and experience with your business determine their decisions to buy from you again and recommend you to others. Don’t leave this to chance. A business with a service culture and a believable brand identity is not an accident or serendipity. It’s the result of strategic, conscious decisions to ensure profitability and sustainability.