When you think of iconic brands, you may think of companies such as Starbucks, Amazon and Apple. These brands tend to do well financially, but they also score high as great places to work and as authentic corporate citizens. They’ve discovered the magic mix of brand and culture that drives success and positions them as top global companies.
Fusion: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies
In her book Fusion: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies, Denise Lee Yohn makes the connection between a company’s external brand and its internal culture – and the value that comes when the two are in sync. The greatest brands, Yohn says, are built from the inside out.
Living Out Your Brand Values
I’m partial to the Southwest Airlines brand because it’s based in my home state of Texas, but I have also admired the company for decades because they have been so consistent in living out their brand values. The customer experience mirrors the employee experience, which is to have fun and care about people.
This kind of alchemy isn’t accidental. Organizational culture is driven from the top – a company’s leadership must prioritize alignment between external and internal experiences for the needed policies, procedures, behaviors and mindsets to prevail.
Southwest founder Herb Kelleher was highly committed to developing this kind of culture and he did it through storytelling. What he realized that many CEOs don’t, is that storytelling is engaging. When employees can see themselves in the brand and see the brand in themselves, living the brand becomes second nature.
Borshoff recently had the opportunity to work with a client who completed some intensive internal research on minority employees’ experience in the workplace. We were able to turn this data and information into compelling vignettes that were shared first with leadership, then the broader employee base. Through storytelling, we were able to give leaders the “a ha” moment they needed to move forward boldly with initiatives that communicated, “I see you, I hear you and you matter.” And when people feel heard, they are more likely to embrace the company’s business priorities.
Engagement Leads to Productivity
Gallup data tells us that 85 percent of workers are disengaged. A healthy culture leads to higher engagement, and higher engagement leads to higher productivity. It doesn’t take much to make the leap from higher productivity to better financial performance and, ultimately, higher customer satisfaction.
Yohn’s book not only makes the case for fusing culture and brand but gives leaders some practical guidance on how to do it. That guidance is rooted in developing and living out a storyline that defines your brand and what your company stands for. Savvy leaders then create strategies and roll up their sleeves to engage employees in the company brand in ways that are enduring.
Unfortunately, some leaders give up too soon and don’t reap the full benefits of a consistent and authentic storyline. In our experience, we see two areas where this breakdown typically happens.
First, many leaders get bored with the repetition of the culture storyline and move on too quickly to “the next big thing.” If you don’t reinforce your brand story over and over to your employees, they can become confused, distracted, or worse, apathetic.
Second, many leaders do not infuse the brand story in first-line supervisors and middle managers. If your front line isn’t as enthusiastic about the brand story as you are, employees will know and act accordingly.
In our experience, the most effective leaders are those who invest time and resources into culture and brand building, and in building trust across their companies through strategic, consistent communication.
In a world of shrinking attention spans, commoditized product categories and exponential change, the intersection of culture and brand is possibly the only differentiator in a crowded marketplace. As a leader in your company, how are you working toward a fusion of brand and culture?
Interested in using strategic communication to create intentional leadership at your company? Email me or call 317-631-6400 to chat!