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Culture, the DNA of Your Brand

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When working through these BAM articles, it’s amazing how many words we use in our everyday exchanges with other brands and companies that are just a given. For example, this month, we’re starting to target our thinking around the impacts of brand culture - specifically, YOUR brand culture. 

Go figure, culture is one of those words we use without really thinking about what it means.

For this article, I’m diving into three points around why your culture is intrinsic to your brand’s DNA.

  • What is the definition of culture & the impact it has on our brand?
  • Briefly explain how brand culture is misunderstood.
  • How to create a unique brand culture.

Defining Culture & the Impact on Your Brand  

To get a baseline, we need to understand the original context to build off of and go to the dictionary. 

Culture(n): the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

  • the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization

When it comes to your brand, culture is everything.

Culture shapes you, as a person, and defines everything we touch. Every one of us impacts and changes the culture around us as much as we allow it to shape who we are at our very core. Culture is the connective tissue that links everything.

The same goes for your brand culture.

What is Brand Culture?

Brand culture is the way your brand's internal motives drive your company’s external output to influence decisions your audience makes as a client. It is the authentic line between believing in a certain set of values, and effectively showcasing the values in your messaging, products, customer service, social media, and more. It is the atmosphere that reinforces your brand’s vision and messaging. People feel the culture deep in their unconscious.  

Brand Culture Defines Your Company’s Alignment or Direction. 

Not just in what you’re selling, but how you’re selling it. Without a culture, you risk launching something your audience will find weird or off-putting. You may end up hiring the wrong people to work your front desk or back warehouse; you may even end up working with or for clients who are more trouble than they are worth.

Going deeper, the culture behind your brand is the greatest differentiator between you and your competition. Thousands of companies worldwide sell hamburgers, but no two do it the same way – the ones you hear about all of the time have a strong brand culture.

The kind of experience you have at Mcdonald's is different from what you get at Wendy’s or In & Out or White Castle. From the advertising to the packaging, from how you order to the uniforms your employees wear, from how cooks are trained to the kind of customers you attract – all of this is defined and reinforced by your culture.

How Has Brand Culture Been Misunderstood?

Like so many things, the idea of “culture” gets lost in the madness of buzzwords that surround every industry. Your brand culture isn’t your list of employee perks, or your Friday night office parties - those might be part of your company culture, but the brand culture - when done right - is what drives every intrinsic element of your brand. Otherwise, things can go off the rails pretty quickly.

Let's examine WeWork or the places like Google and how creating spaces and perks wasn’t actually enough to make a big enough difference in the productivity of the workers or for coworking spaces. In the beginning, it was a novelty, and many followed suit getting praise from everyone as this was a new idea, but time told a different story. Even though it was what the workers said they wanted. It cost lots of money and most of these “perks” ended up fading away into oblivion. In fact, in some co-working spaces, it created distractions from getting their work done. WeWork was an impressive vision, and some have blamed the failure on the CEO’s handling of the finances, but I think the truth started to make itself known and it was not what was needed and missed the whole point of incubating a co-working culture.

On a side note, years ago I heard a presentation on Google’s “open and close” work schedule and how this way of working led to the expansive growth of Google’s technology and service offerings. Since it followed the Pareto Principle it resonated with me, but I have not had anyone confirm the validity of this from the Google executives themselves. I would highly recommend you look into the “Open & Close” theory… it’s quite fascinating as there is way more to what I have stated.

Briefly surmised Google implemented a new format for the five-day workweek was dedicated to 4 workdays of supporting existing and one day to experiment at the expense of Google, but the workers were free to explore. The catch was that Google would own the rights to anything they created. This gave the workers a deep sense of purpose and resonated at the core of who they were. This was genius in my opinion, but as you can see… it wasn’t from any perks.  

Having a well-defined brand culture doesn’t necessarily mean you are fun or quirky or putting out trendy content. Rather, it means there is consistency between who you are at your core and how you engage with your audience. 

An authentic brand culture doesn’t necessarily mean you are creating messaging that works for the mainstream. It might mean you have “haters” and people who want to see you fail - this means you’re probably doing something right. Brand culture speaks to the people who need to hear it the most, and in the end, your audience will thank you for it. Likewise, without an authentic brand culture, your audience might not know how to engage with you.

Culture is the fibres that keeps the essence and substance of your brand together. 

How To Create A Unique Brand Culture

that is also in alignment with your brand

Your brand culture keeps you focused on what you are offering to your customer. A well-defined culture helps you answer the tough questions about what direction you should take your company in, the products you make, how you package them, who you hire, and who you do business with. If it’s not a culture fit, it shouldn’t happen.

On a practical level, a brand culture can be a cost and resource-saving measure. By knowing your brand’s culture you know what leads to follow, what products to make, how they should be packaged and delivered, and even the way you put together a social media post - all of this depends on the culture.  

From a more holistic perspective, knowing your brand culture lets you attract and retain the kind of talent who are as ambitious about your brand as you are, which means you will attract even more clients who are dedicated to working with and growing your business.

Brand culture isn’t built in an afternoon, but you start growing it the day you first establish your brand. This may be why it is so tough to build out a brand culture - you have to keep at it in the good times and the bad. 

When we work with brands - either establishing new ones or overhauling ones that already exist - we start with the same question: 

Who is your brand for and what does that audience look like?

Without thinking about revenue, think about why you are in the business you are in. There is a reason you set out to create your own company, launch your own products, and approach the market in your specific, unique manner.

Why is that?

You had a creative solution to a problem that existed and your approach to solving it is as unique as you are.

Knowing the internal drivers behind your brand is what allows your audience to connect with you on an emotional level. From the purpose your right audience engages, your culture is guided by three ideas:

Be Authentically, You: 

Trends are tempting. When a certain filter or song goes viral on social media, a wave of FOMO settles in, and you feel like you have to act to take advantage of the exposure. Look at all of those numbers and metrics! Should you do it? Does it make sense for your brand to do the Harlem Shake? Or would your audience shake their head in disbelief that you jumped on yet another trend?

Your brand culture keeps you in your aligned range (stay in your lane!). Anyone can follow the crowds like lemmings off a cliff. Your brand is built to be different - Be authentically you, and you will stand apart from the rest.

Consistency with your verbal/non-verbal messaging:

A major part of The Big BAM process is in the alignment of your vision and messaging. From how often you communicate with your audience to the type of language you use to convey your message, consistency is everything. The same goes for colours and image styles and how often you update your product or services.

In the life of your brand culture, consistency goes beyond establishing a routine. It gives your audiences something to follow and the chance to let them go deep into what your brand is all about. So many brands nowadays go for width versus depth - you can advertise to millions of people, but it is those who connect with your brand culture who want to go deep. Consistency is the shovel they’ll use to get there. All you need to do is give them a space to dig or a foundation to build off.

Be human:

A brand culture needs an avenue of connection - a way to link what you are doing on the inside to how you want it to be received and used by your right or aligned audience on the outside. Furthermore, how you make the connection needs to make sense in the grander scheme of your brand culture. From the social channels you use to convey your message to how your product is delivered - your connection is the consistent, natural or intrinsic way your audience finds you.

Do you host in-person events? Online seminars? One-on-one coaching? Is your product best delivered via a surprise drop or as a slow-burn pre-release? One brand will differ from the next, and your brand culture will define what these connections need to feel like.

Your culture is the intrinsic fibres that create an atmosphere to attract the right audience to your brand. It’s felt deep at the core of the unconscious design. It can’s be faked or masked long-term without revealing the true intentions.

  • Be authentic - just be you, and don’t try to copy others' success path
  • Be consistent with your non-verbal/verbal communications
  • Be human - genuine connection resonates deeply with us humans. It’s both chaos and order.

Still, feeling out of sorts about your brand culture? As I said, it’s not easy. The best you can do is *start* developing the culture today and watch as it grows and makes changes in the landscape of your industry. With The Big BAM process, we help you define the foundational elements of your brand so the culture has something to grow from. The better the foundation, the stronger and more unique the growth.

However, a FREE place to start is our Archetype Alignment Quiz that will help you determine your archetypal mix which influences your unconscious design where your culture stems from.

All of this could start today. Are you up for it? 

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