As a leader in an organisation, you can help influence the collective behaviours of your organisation. Let me re-phrase that.
As a leader in an organisation, you do influence the collective behaviours of your organisation.
Whether we formerly do it or not, as leaders we are directly connected to how those around us behave as they do their jobs.
Behaviour is a tricky subject. We all behave differently and yet somehow brands are expected to behave in one consistent way. A brand’s audiences expect consistent experiences – be that whether they speak to you on the phone or walk into a store. These experiences though are all reliant on staff behaviour. Brands are built on people.
How best can you influence behaviour? By building a brand culture.
“The culture of a particular organisation or group consists of the habits of the people in it and the way they generally behave.” Collins Dictionary
So – what is your culture? Why do your employees come to work for you and not for a competitor? Why do your clients like to spend time with you? How are you going to be successful? What makes us different? How will your team behave in an unexpected situation?
All of these questions and more rest on your brand culture. Building a brand culture is a crucial area to focus on for growing and established businesses.
Heres some top level tips to building a great brand culture:
Define your why
Everyone knows “what” they do. Most people know “how” they do it. But if you can’t explain why you do what you do then you are missing out on a key part of motivating your team and your audience to invest in you. This is the same with brands. We don’t just buy from a brand. We join it.
As an example of this consider the last time you bought running trainers. If you were like me you wanted to get fit. You stand at a wall of trainers in a store. Somehow Nikes “Just do it” resonates. This communicates their ‘why’ – to help me achieve my goal – to get fit. I believe it because of the brand narrative I’ve witnessed since I was a teenager in every billboard magazine ad and TV slot where Nike has featured. Their “why” resonates with my “why”. I buy their trainers. In fact, I’m willing to part with more cash to purchase their product over competitors. Why? Because I want to join what they stand for – not simply buy some foot-ware. I believe.
Discovering and articulating your brand “why” is crucial for creating a great culture because when people join your organisation you really only want those who also share the same belief. This is at the heart of creating a brand culture.
Discover your values
Flowing from your “why” is the company values. These values are the over arching principles that guide your teams when they are performing their work. Why are values important? Because in today’s fast paced world we can’t cater for every eventuality in our staff training. Having clear values which are understood means that should you place a team member in a situation which has been un-scripted they have some guidelines of what is expected of them, as one of the brand’s representatives.
As with the brand “why” defining your “values” is part of creating a great culture.
Once you have defined your “why” and “values” you need these to disseminate down to your teams. SO how best to do this? Initially, you may wish to have a “brand launch” – typically you could communicate a new brand identity and look for the company alongside the newly clarified brand culture. You could make it an occasion inviting clients to thank them for their support so far or perhaps simply unveil your strategy in a team only event.
After an initial launch every opportunity to communicate and remind your teams of what it is the brand stands for should be taken. These could become part of your personal development plans (how are you going to live our values by doing your role? What habits have you introduced to help you remember and live our values?). The “why” or the “values” could be printed on walls in staff rooms or be printed onto posters to be displayed around warehouses. The key thing is to not let people forget the governing principles of the brand.
When you hire new people the best people will be the people that believe your ‘why’ and already hold the brands values as their own personal values. These people will be the best fit to help reinforce and maintain your culture.
Consider this advert which was posted by Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. He ran this in the London Times newspaper to try to recruit men for one of his expeditions:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success”
Notice he focuses on connecting with people who believed the same as him. People who longed for adventure and exploration. In a clever way, it was not about what they could do. He did not write “Men wanted for an expedition. Five years experience minimal. You must be familiar with sea navigation and be able to tie a sailors knot.” No – the ad was about why they will do it. Tragically Shackleton’s expedition went terribly wrong and it ended up with his crew being stranded for almost two months. Amazingly nobody died. Moral and discipline were maintained. This was not chance. Shackleton surrounded himself with people who shared his ‘why’ as shown in his recruitment adverts.
So – when you recruit don’t just look at what the candidate offers. You can always teach skills. Consider why they want the job and why they get out of bed in the morning.
Once they are employed ensure that in their induction the company “why” and “values” are reiterated so that they can understand and take these guiding principles in order to live them.
Your why and your values should be authentic. They should truly reflect how your business is and aspires to be. Therefore they should be able to be lived. No. They have to be lived. Brands which say one thing and do another will be found out. Staff will become disillusioned. Customers who buy into the “why” to find it was all a lie will walk. One only has to think back to the recent tax probes to see an example of this.
As a leader in your business, you will need to begin to make decisions which are governed by the values set. How you celebrate success. How you dress. How you do business. How your office looks. What you say and do and how you structure your marketing initiatives all needs to be authentically structured around why you exist and what you value.
So – there you have it. Five key steps to creating a brand culture. Good luck building yours…