One stark and undeniable fact is that people often confuse brands and organisational cultures. While some people place a brand ahead of an organisational culture, others argue that without the latter (organisational culture) a brand cannot survive. Notwithstanding the position you may take, it is important to note that there is a difference between a brand and an organisational culture.
Organisational culture plays a crucial role in shaping a company’s identity, values and actions, which in turn influence how a brand is perceived in the market. On the other hand, a brand can be considered as the company’s personality – communicated through its identifying mark, logo, name, tagline, voice and culture among other elements. Organisational culture can therefore be regarded as an element of a brand, albeit crucial.
It is also worth emphasising that some scholars strongly argue that the functions of a brand and an organisational culture are not mutually exclusive but constantly interact to influence the success or otherwise of an institution or brand.
Building a successful brand through the lenses of organisational culture must therefore be considered a powerful strategy that can differentiate a company from its competitors and create a lasting impact on customers, employees and other stakeholders. Here are some ways a strong company culture can help create a successful brand:
Establishing a clear mission and values: A mission statement and set of values that serve as a guide for the organisation’s decisions and actions are the foundation of a good corporate culture. Corporate decision-makers must pay close attention to how organisational culture and corporate brand values are consistent and congruent, how cultural change is managed, how to manage brands holistically and how to empower employees. These values give employees a sense of direction and purpose that resonates with customers and builds brand credibility.
Employee engagement and advocacy: A positive and inclusive culture fosters employee engagement and satisfaction. When employees feel Heard, Understood, Respected, Accepted and Valued (HURAV) (Lead-it Africa et al), they develop a strong connection with a company’s mission and are more likely to become brand advocates, promoting the brand’s values both within and outside the organisation. To become successful, a brand must put in place measures to foster employee engagement through meetings, durbars, etc. to make employees feel HURAV and help them develop a strong connection with the brand, which will then pave the way for them to champion the brand’s course as ambassadors.
Consistent brand experience: Organisational culture influences how employees interact with customers and deliver products or services. A culture that emphasises quality, customer-centricity and innovation will lead to a consistent brand experience, strengthening brand trust and brand loyalty. From marketing and customer service to product design and employee interactions, ensure consistency in how your brand is represented across all touchpoints. Consistency reinforces your brand’s identity and makes it more recognisable and memorable. Successful brands therefore strive to build consistent brand experiences that sets them apart from the competition. Ensure that your brand falls within this category.
Customer-centric approach: Closely related to a consistent brand experience is the customer-centric approach to managing a brand. A customer-focused culture prioritises understanding customer needs, preferences, and pain points. The customer-centric approach allows a brand to co-create and tailor its offerings and marketing messages to resonate with the target audience effectively. The more a brand fosters a lifetime journey with its customers, the more likely customers’ needs will be identified, well-understood and efficiently addressed, which will in turn give sufficient reasons for customers to remain loyal.
Measure and adapt: Building a successful brand through organisational culture is not an event but requires consistent, conscious effort. You must regularly measure the impact of your organisational culture on brand perception and performance. Gather feedback from employees and customers to understand how well the culture aligns with the brand’s values and if it is positively affecting the brand’s success. Be open to making the necessary adjustments and improvements. The ability to quickly respond to and/or evolve with changing market demands helps keep the brand relevant and competitive. Managing stakeholder feedback is therefore as critical as the success of a brand.
Brand storytelling, reputation and trust: Organisational culture often generates unique stories and experiences that can be leveraged for brand storytelling. Sharing these authentic narratives can create emotional connections with customers and strengthen brand identity. A positive organisational culture built on ethical practices, transparency and trustworthiness contributes to a strong brand reputation. Trust is a vital element in brand success, as customers are more likely to choose brands they trust.
Brand resilience: During challenging times or crises, a strong organisational culture can provide a foundation of resilience. Employees who share a common purpose and set of values are more likely to rally together and weather difficult or challenging situations, protecting the brand’s reputation.
External perception and differentiation: A positive and empowering internal culture often reflects positively on the brand’s external perception. Customers and stakeholders tend to have a more favourable view of a brand that is known for treating its employees well and upholding strong values. Besides, a well-defined organisational culture can set a brand apart from its competitors by offering a unique identity and value proposition. This differentiation can be a key factor in attracting and retaining customers.
Culture on culture: Culture on culture can be viewed as the process of social, psychological and cultural change that stems from balancing two cultures while adapting to an organisation’s prevailing culture. This can also be referred to as organisational acculturation. Culture on culture can further be described as a situation wherein the cultures of individual employees in an organisation tend to influence its culture or the brand itself.
These individual cultural dispositions may, in some instances, positively or negatively influence the behaviour of employees and their level of effort toward the brand. In such cases, brands whose employees exhibit positive energy are likely to experience a positive organisational culture and vice versa. Therefore, for a brand to succeed, measures must be put in place to encourage and maximise the positive energy within individual cultures at all times to ensure sustained growth.
To conclude, it is imperative to remember that a successful brand is not just about external marketing efforts; it starts from within the organisation. By creating a positive and purpose-driven culture, companies can cultivate powerful brands that resonate with both internal and external audiences, leading to long-term brand success.
The writer is a banker