Brand is the outward expression of an organisation’s DNA while its corporate culture is the internal demonstration of those qualities. Simple enough to define, but while the corporate world has been talking about organisational culture for years, the emergence of brand as a discussion point in the executive suite is relatively new for many companies.
Certainly, commercial giants such as P&G and Coca-Cola live their brands on a daily basis, but within those companies with a less iconic image, brand has traditionally been left in the hands of the marketing department – often without input or relevance to the extended corporate team. But, in a competitive marketplace, managements now concur that differentiation is critical to survival and that a strong brand can help cut through the clutter of advertising, social media and other messaging that has become the norm in the 21st century.
However good the product, however creative the communication, success will come not just from marketing differently from other companies but from the implementation of a strategy that encompasses ‘care’ as its watchword. Attention on the customer and his requirements should complement thought for colleagues, protection of the environment, consideration of values and social responsibility — and conversely, care not to cut corners and compromise on principles that underscore corporate culture.
Implement this and it will help any company stand out among in a hyper-competitive marketplace. The new ‘power couple’ inside the best companies now involves a collaborative partnership between marketing direction and an HR overview.
Essentially, with this corporate structure in place, your brand becomes your culture, your culture defines your brand. The theory might sound as if it was dreamed up in a brainstorming session in the marketing department, but proof lies the customer experience.
In a world where everyone is now bombarded by advertising, websites, mobile apps and more, ultimately, it will be the type of experience a team colleague or a customer receives that builds a brand’s reputation. Among companies which have embraced the connection between brand and culture is Zappos, a shoe retailer that was acquired by Amazon in 2009.
According to CEO Tony Hsieh, Zappos is all about happy employees and happy customers and he said four attributes are key to that mindset:
* Perceived control – People don’t want to feel like they’ve lost control.
* Perceived progress – People need to feel like they’re making progress.
* Connectedness – Having strong social ties.
* Vision – Being part of something bigger than yourself.
“We’ve actually passed on a lot of smart, talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom-line but if they’re not good for our culture then we won’t hire them for that reason alone,” he said. “The reverse is true too. Even if a person is great at their job - even if they’re a superstar at their job — if they’re bad for our culture we’ll fire them for that reason alone. And performance reviews are 50 per cent based on whether you’re living and inspiring the Zappos culture in others.”
It’s a philosophy that has been embraced by many top names from Microsoft to Marriott, underlining the fact that the benefits of a positive corporate culture are not restricted to any particular industry sector.
Microsoft complements its business-focused culture with an initiative to create a work/life balance among its employees – to that end, it introduced across multiple teams and businesses in the Gulf, the idea of having a visible Work-Life Balance Charter prepared and signed by the whole team. This set the principles that the team feels would assist in raising awareness of some of the key issues impacting on an individual’s work/life balance.
Another corporation renowned for its people-centric corporate culture is Marriott International, consistently named in Fortune’s lists of most admired companies and best places to work. If a member of staff receives a commendation for service excellence from a customer, this is endorsed by the award of a Certificate of Excellence from Marriott’s Washington headquarters, emphasising that culture of staff appreciation.
The conclusion reached by all these organisations is that they cannot be special, distinctive and compelling in the marketplace unless they create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace.
— The writer is head of corporate brand management and communications at Majid Al Futtaim, UAE.