Brand Culture – The secret weapon in building business success

Gone are the times of just aligning your target market with a communications strategy that supports your brand positioning.

It’s all about the brand culture.

Brand culture determines the way your employees engage with the brand and consequently how they deliver customer experiences.

It’d be nice if you could bottle that entrepreneurial energy of the original company creators and share that spirited kool-aid with employees. It’s that consistent decision making with the brand’s core ideals that maintains the business vision and ultimately delivers a superior product or service to your customers. If everyone at a company understood that and embodied it, well the brand might just be unstoppable.

HR Magazine says that brand culture is the “unique blend of psychology, ideas, attitudes and beliefs informing brand behavior, influencing brand experience, and ultimately shaping brand reputation”.

If you need to be convinced on the power of brand culture to build business success, consider Zappos. Zappos is an online shoe retailer that became so successful that in 2009, after only 10 years, was achieving sales of $1bn pa and had been purchased by Amazon. It’s CEO since 2000, Tony Hsieh, would never have allowed that purchase decision to go ahead had he not secured a commitment from Amazon that the business asset he valued most, the brand culture, would remain untouched. Hsieh knew that the culture he had worked so hard to develop at Zappos was his secret weapon.

At Zappos one in one hundred applicants gets the job. Half of the interview weighting is focused on the candidate’s ability to do the job, but the other half is based upon the candidate’s ability to mesh with the Zappos culture. Even getting through the interview process is not enough.

Following the interview every new hire is required to spend four weeks of training, dedicated to the customer, in the Zappos call centre. During the training period Zappos will offer newly hired candidates cash incentives to leave the business. They use this method to “weed” out those who are less committed to the role and to the business.

Brand culture is more than just the cultural fit of your teams. It’s also about how employees work together. In 2015 Zappos did away with managers, replacing them with circles of self-organised individuals. These circles are required only to achieve their goals and balance their books. Everything else is up to them. The result is a vastly flatter hierarchical structure for the business which has increased focus on customer service, ensuring more nimble business responses by more empowered employees.

There are six main stages in the development of a winning brand culture:

  1. Define the brand culture – Flesh it out and make sure that is holistically represents what you the brand is and should be.
  2. Encourage and endorse that brand culture – Make sure it is clearly communicated to everyone in the business and that everyone understands it.
  3. Employ the right people – Create your own unique technique for determining culture fit in your applicants. Take Cuckoo for example, we have a fun survey for people to answer when they apply for one of our roles. This isn’t just to see whether they like Coke or Pepsi, it’s to see how they would fit into our Cuckoo team.
  4. Reward and recognize – Show your team their efforts to embody your brand’s culture is not going unnoticed and use them as an example to encourage others to do the same.
  5. Align all your brand elements – Don’t have any weak links. It doesn’t take much to spoil all the hard work you’ve done in creating your brand culture, it is important that every last element fits.
  6. Stick to it – Keep at it. Building a winning brand culture is not an overnight task. It takes time and it takes consistent effort, so be patient and stick with it (but also don’t be afraid to tweek as you go along).

At Cuckoo we salute the power of brand culture and enjoy working with business to translate their unique brand DNA into a brand culture strategy. Whatever stage you’re at in terms of brand culture development, call us and let’s start working on your secret weapon.