You may have heard of brand values, brand promise, and even company culture — but what is brand culture? One of the most important terms to define when you’re establishing the “DNA” of your company, brand culture is the lifeblood of your organization.
While the exact brand culture definition you get may differ depending on who you ask, most experts agree “culture” in the branding landscape is the fundamental structure of the company.
The term refers to the promises, expectations, and goals which drive each company. Your brand culture is your ethical compass as a business, the way you organize your priorities, and even how you deliver meaningful experiences to employees and customers.
While brand culture is frequently overlooked in the race to bring a company and it’s product to the market, it can be a fundamental aspect of differentiating your business. Today, we’re going to be defining and exploring the details of brand culture.
What is brand culture? Your brand culture definition
Let’s start with the basics. Brand culture is the DNA of your company, and the values responsible for governing every brand expression, customer interaction, and hiring decision. It’s the culture defined by each company in which the employees live, following the core guidelines of the company to deliver unique experiences to customers.
With brand culture, you infuse the “soul” of your brand throughout your business. At every level, every person is focused on a specific set of goals and expectations. All employees work in tandem to reach specific goals and convey the “culture” they’re building to the outside world.
With good brand culture, it’s easier for companies to highlight a specific purpose, and use that vision as guidelines for day-to-day operations. Instead of the brand being a public image projected outwardly through marketing to customers alone, it becomes something built and conveyed from the inside out.
The company capable of fostering a healthy brand culture can attain business goals in a structured and strategic way. Employees are driven and motivated by shared passions, and consumers develop feelings of loyalty based on affinity with the culture they see represented in the company’s activities.
Why do companies need brand culture?
For some business leaders, it’s easiest to think of brand culture as the spiderweb holding all of your people and processes together. This web connects your team and drives them towards shared outcomes.
It’s also the solution you can use to ensnare potential customers, wrapping them up in a set of values which ensure long-term commitment and loyalty.
A healthy and balanced brand culture is visible to the customers and industry in the form of every brand expression, from email marketing strategies to social media shares.
Brand culture shows through in your customer service levels, the services offered, the quality of the products, and even the day-to-day activities of your teams.
Not only does brand culture bring your team together in shared purpose, but it improves your relationship with customers too, standing as a testimony to your brand’s purpose.
If your brand culture matches the values and expectations of your target audience, you’re more likely to attract repeat clients and advocates.
According to experts, around 83% of millennials (the biggest buying group) want companies to align with their values. When modern clients buy from you, they’re not just purchasing a product or service, they’re acquiring something to further strengthen the image they want to share with the world.
If your brand culture is built on positive values, your customers will want to be associated with it.
Just look at Apple for example. The company’s culture is built around ideas of innovation and consistent growth. Employees are defined as “Geniuses”, given the power to enlighten customers, and constantly enrich their skills.
Getting involved with a brand like this allows customers to present themselves as forward-thinking, pioneering, and unique.
The benefits of a good brand culture
Though it might seem complex at first, brand culture is just another way to define “who you are” as a company. The concept revolves around the idea that brands can have a rich identity, representing a set of shared attitudes, experiences, values, and meanings.
The company with a well-balanced brand culture is more likely to become a leader in the industry because employees are more strategically and emotionally engaged in every operation.
Indeed, while cultural branding focuses heavily on connecting your company with the demands and innovations of the wider landscape to attract customers, brand culture is a little different.
With brand culture, you use your fundamental values to keep and attain brand promises on extrinsic and intrinsic levels.
For instance, intrinsically, employees are motivationally driven with recognition and rewards, helping to guide their activities, and ensure the company can achieve overall business objectives successfully.
Internal operations and business operations in a company with strong brand culture are highly process-led and strategically driven. Brand culture allows the company to follow clear rules and objectives in a transparent manner, applicable to all team members.
This structured internal experience bleeds out into the wider image of the brand, helping to attract new advocates from the company’s target market.
Benefits of brand culture include:
Attracting like-minded people
The ability to attract like-minded people is a significant advantage of brand culture. This applies whether you’re trying to attract potential customers, investors, shareholders, or employees.
By showing the values and guidelines which drive your company to the world, you encourage engagement and community.
Through an effective brand culture, you develop an environment where people are motivated to work for you. Brand culture is often a key part of attracting high-quality talent to your team. If you want your staff to be passionate about what they do, brand culture can help to ensure this.
Dedicated and passionate employees often evolve into ambassadors over time. These are the team members who commit themselves to boosting brand awareness with support for your marketing strategy, testimonials, reviews, and so on.
Ambassadors help your company to grow with minimal investment.
Successfully developing your brand in the modern world means differentiating yourself in a way important to your target audience. Demonstrating authenticity is extremely helpful in ensuring long-term sales and commitment.
Just as company culture can help to attract committed employees, it can improve your chances of reaching dedicated customers too. The better your brand culture, the more consumers will want to be associated with it.
How to build brand culture
Having an effective and well-developed brand culture is a wonderfully beneficial thing for any business. If everyone in your company believes in the same values, and works to achieve the same goals, you’re more likely to achieve results.
Additionally, since all of today’s employees want to do work they believe in, brand culture also helps to foster an environment capable of attracting top talent.
In most cases, building a strong brand culture is a process which starts with the business owner or founder. This individual needs to be the biggest advocate for the company, capable of demonstrating what the brand is about through carefully-chosen campaigns and activities.
Here are some helpful steps to get you started:
1. Define your brand culture
You can’t champion a specific set of values and goals in your company if you don’t know what your organization stands for.
The first step in building and maintaining a strong brand culture is defining the crucial facets of the brand, from the core strengths and values to your unique selling propositions, vision statement, and business fundamentals.
If you’re not sure where to begin looking for brand culture, sit down with your team and ask yourselves what the most important components of your company identity should be.
Do you want to be associated with innovation? If so, investing in the latest tools and technology may be a good idea.
If you’re looking for a culture built around ethics, consider how you ensure employees and customers are treated ethically.
2. Encourage and endorse your culture
Once you’ve outlined the core attribute, goals, and traits of your company, the next step is sharing them with everyone on your team. The brand culture you define needs to be constantly endorsed and encouraged, so team members can begin forming habits relevant to your chosen culture.
Your underlying culture may even form a foundation for the entire management of your company.
Start by writing a statement about your brand culture, and what you want it to be.
You might say:
“Our brand culture is focused on creativity and innovation. We encourage and champion ideas, no matter how big or small”.
Share this statement with your business leaders and encourage them to demonstrate the values they want to direct the company in everything they do. For this example, this could mean leaders hold meetings where everyone has a chance to share their ideas and be rewarded.
3. Build the right team
Creating an engaged team around your brand culture is easier than you’d think. Encouraging and endorsing your brand culture on a day-to-day basis will help to guide staff towards making decisions which match your internal values.
However, you should also be looking actively for employees who embody the traits and values of your brand.
Provide your hiring managers and HR department with clear guidelines to follow when they’re picking new people for your team. This will help you to find and employ people who share the same goals as the company overall.
Just be careful to ensure your commitment to brand values doesn’t lead to repetitive hiring. You still need to focus on diversity and inclusion to ensure you’re getting perspectives from different environments.
Just try to focus on a specific set of values underneath a variety of skills.
4. Reward and recognize cultural champions
Even if your brand culture seems simple on the surface, it can take time to implement fully into your team’s day-to-day operations. Some of your staff members will embrace the culture you want them to showcase with relative ease – others might struggle a little to understand what they should be doing.
A good way to encourage constant growth, is with rewards and recognition.
Rewards should always be distributed among people who demonstrate the core values of your brand culture correctly. Whenever you see someone on your team embodying the culture you want to develop, ensure their work is highlighted and recognised throughout the business.
5. Work on your brand elements
Once you have a strong idea of your brand culture, you can begin to build on your brand assets with the guidelines you’ve created. This means exploring everything from how your logo and brand colors convey your identity, to what you’re saying with your brand language and personality.
Corporate and brand guidelines should be formulated and documented, guiding the marketing and sales department, design agencies, and vendors every step of the way.
Above all else, make sure your brand consistently sticks to the promise you’re making through your brand culture. Authenticity and consistency are crucial to ensuring an effective brand culture.
Developing brand culture: Making culture work
The steps above will give you the initial guidance required to define and build your brand culture. However, you’ll still need to work consistently on making your culture an inherent part of your organization.
No matter how simple or complex, your company culture will be a dynamic concept – something which evolves over time based on what you learn about your business and audience.
It’s also something which requires constant optimization and work. Company culture can happen almost naturally with the right employees, but brand culture demands careful strategy and guidelines.
To ensure you continue to successfully develop brand culture, follow these steps:
1. Train extensively
For brand culture to thrive, it needs to be something your employees fully understand and implement into their day-to-day routines. Internal training can help with this.
Start by referring to your brand guidelines to highlight the kind of guidance your employees are going to need to operate according to your expectations. You may need to offer one-on-one guidance on how to use the latest technology if you want your culture to be about innovation.
Once you’ve determined what kind of training is necessary, look for the ambassadors in your workforce who can help to guide the rest of your team. Your brand culture ambassadors are the people who naturally embody a number of your values and desired character traits.
These people can give the rest of your staff someone to look up to.
2. Create dedication from purpose
When training your team and implementing brand culture guidelines, don’t just focus on how your strategy is going to help you convert more customers or attract a wider audience. The best brand culture comes from a commitment to a shared purpose – something your people can care about.
The TOMS company was created with the “One for One” concept at the heart of its brand culture. This is a business model designed to deliver a pair of shoes to a person in need every time shoes are purchased from the wider brand.
TOMS has now delivered millions of pairs of shows to children around the world.
TOMS has extensive literature both on its website and in its internal employee documents, to help introduce people to what the purpose of the company really is. Speaking extensively about what they hope to accomplish gives TOMS a direct statement of intent teams and customers can get behind.
This purpose creates commitment from employees, while attracting consumers.
3. Think big (but relevant)
When developing a brand culture, it’s important to think carefully about what the core values of your company should be. Ultimately, the concepts underpinning your brand culture should be broad enough to attract a wide range of employees and customers.
As an example, you’re not going to inspire a lot of passion from a culture built on the idea of repairing local streets around your retail location.
However, you can take a larger idea and take it in various directions with more focused routes. For instance, the core of your company culture might be “community experiences”. You may get your teams invested in delivering amazing, experiential interactions both internally and externally.
If your culture is centred around experience, you can:
- Get teams involved with gamified training sessions and fun team building sessions which achieve important goals, while driving excellent outcomes for your company.
- Host pop-up shops and experiential marketing activities which give your customers a chance to interact with your company and see your commitment to excellent service.
- Go above and beyond to ensure amazing customer experiences with dedicated business apps, excellent customer service strategies, and an easy-to-use website design.
On a smaller level, your company can get involved with initiatives which convey your brand culture. This could mean investing in public or community efforts designed to make life easier for people in your town and city (like repairing roads and pot holes).
Is implementing brand culture difficult?
The diversity of brand culture, and the fact it’s so difficult to define on a comprehensive level can make it seem like a complicated idea. When you get down to it, however, your brand culture is simply the honest, human, and emotional elements driving your company’s development.
While all brands want to make money and grow over time, they also have other ambitions to consider. The best companies have purposes and values making them special.
Starbucks doesn’t just want to sell coffee, it wants to create an artistic, creative and comfortable experience where people can share a community environment.
Starbucks employees are given the freedom to be artistic in everything from their barista techniques to their use of marketing materials. At the same time, customers are encouraged to get involved with the brand culture by creating their own coffee mixes and experimenting with flavors.
Everyone has a part to play in making the brand culture a success.
A great brand culture might start with your employees and internal values, but when it’s implemented correctly, it becomes a natural, dynamic, and almost living concept, influencing everyone who connects with your company.
Brand culture is connective, capable of strengthening the bonds between team members, keeping staff engaged, and attracting new customers on a wider scale.
Creating your brand culture
Creating your brand culture is just like developing any part of your wider brand. The more you understand your company, what it stands for, and your target audience, the more successful you’re likely to be.
Work with your team on making values clear, and you should find your organization’s culture grows naturally over time.
Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.