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When we think about culture, we think about HR departments who coordinate culture related projects and value determining group activities. However, culture adds more value than it is often credited for, also for the marketing department.
Let’s say you believe that there is some value in culture, but that it is not that important for your company. Let’s even say that you do not care about internal atmosphere or how productive your employees are. Let’s even go so far to say that you believe that, as long as everybody just does their job, there is no need to really worry about culture. Even then, even if you do not care about these internal factors, then there is another reason why you should worry about your culture: it directly affects your branding as a company, and could either be beneficial or detrimental.
Yes, you’ve read it correctly. Culture, an internal challenge, will determined how you will be perceived externally. Let’s do a thought exercise. Think about a random company you’ve ever been in touch with. How did you perceive your interaction with that company? Positive? Negative? And what shaped that interaction? Was it the designed marketing message on their website? Their advertisements? Or was it the interaction with their customer service-, helpdesk-, or sales representative? More often than not, our opinions of companies are shaped with how we interacted with individual employees. How those respective individuals interacted with us is heavily dependent on how the internal culture and values are set up. For example, a company whose culture is shaped around serving customers will most likely have employees who are more pleasant to interact with, as consumer, as opposed to a company whose culture is shaped around following rules. This is, in a nutshell, why culture also matters for your branding.
But how does this work in practice? How can you set it up and what do you need to do to improve your branding?
In core culture is a mixture of individual behaviours and values. These behaviours and values get translated into how people act and the sum of all these actions is what we call culture: how people behave and interact with each other. It seems therefore that culture is pretty much determined and that there is little that you can change. This is partly true; you cannot fully control culture and it sometimes grows organically. However, good behaviours and values can be stimulated and bad behaviours and values can be discouraged. So, you cannot steer culture as much, but you can nudge it in the right direction (Do you want to read more about the power of nudging? Read this article). This means that you can mould your culture towards the desired internal driver which aligns with your external message. For example, the marketing message: “we are service champions” should align with the internal value “being service minded”. Easy right? Wrong. Adjusting culture is hard. It is a time-consuming process and the people involved are often stubborn and hard to convince.
Turning the idea upside down, you can also see how internal culture will affect your marketing message. If you have toxic values within your culture, this will also translate in how your image will be conducted outwards. For example, if rules come first and customers always come second, then your customers will notice this when they interact with the people within your company. So, although culture and marketing seem worlds apart from each other, they are actually closely related and interconnected.
If you still believe that this is all ridiculous, then think back about the thought exercise. Think about how your perception was shaped, who was involved and what they did. You can deduct their actions back to motivations which are shaped by behaviours and values. That is culture.
Getting it right
What happens when your culture is actually aligned with your marketing message? Well when culture and marketing interlock and supplement each other, that is when you utilize culture to its fullest extent. The result is often noticeable in increased customer satisfaction. Depending on your culture, marketing and goals, it can either: drive sales and/or improve service and/or expand operations and much more. Culture can motivate your employees to go above and beyond and to reach goals which seem unachievable. As your employees feel part of something that is bigger than themselves and the message that your brand displays, they can create something bigger than just the sum of their efforts. Does this still sound a bit vague and fuzzy? Forbes has ranked 50 companies with a great culture (read more here). What do we see? In the top 4 there are 3 companies (Microsoft, Zoom & Google) which are extremely successful in their industry. This is, in large respect, thanks to their outstanding culture which motivates their employees in a positive way. Their stimulating culture increases collaboration, customer satisfaction, service, but most importantly: the growth of the company they are working for.
So where do we stand? Well, firstly it is important to repeat the mantra: culture eats strategy for breakfast. The importance of culture cannot be overstated enough, not only for your internal atmosphere but also for your external brand. HR herein has to play a more central and steering role within a company and not just “that office where they do the administration and stuff”. CEO’s and directors have to be made aware of this as they need to give HR a more central role. You see that this already happened at companies with a thriving culture. Now how to set it up is more difficult to explain, mainly because it is entirely dependent on the situation and environment of your company.
If you want more information on how to unlock the power of culture for your company, then get in touch with us and see what we can do for you!