Obtaining perfect alignment of culture and brand is a moment in time—the gauge is a moving target, and like a pendulum it sways to the left and right continuously. The point is, once you achieve what feels like the perfect balance, it shifts.
Maintaining a culture aligned with brand requires constant effort to keep it in sync. So if this is what you are hoping to achieve, remember it is not a road trip you can cross off your bucket list—it’s a journey for the life of your organization.
So how do you get started? Let’s begin by reviewing some travel tips. It is not always going to be easy, so you need to be prepared for some tough terrain. As CEO, you don’t need to do all of the driving, but you do need to lead the charge and keep the journey on track.
It will take you longer to get there than you think. Employees need to understand that this is not a passing phase—but rather an important strategic shift. This is also not a shoestring endeavor. It will require ongoing resources: time, training, communication and celebration, even at the expense of short term profit.
Define your brand
What is your brand? You need to know what “living the brand” means for your organization. If you are not sure you have a clear brand position, start with a brand discovery…it will be well worth it. Your brand is already alive within your organization—it is a part of its core. You just need to uncover it. Defining the brand and making it the company’s primary focus helps clarify for employees what is brand behavior and what is not.
Conduct an employee survey to determine what beliefs exist within the organization that will either help you, or hinder you, in achieving the brand culture you are seeking. What will emerge from this survey are alignment gaps that will need to be addressed. Employees want to believe their company has a meaningful purpose. They want to know their job is important. They want to make a difference. Employees need to feel a sense of pride and ownership in what they do and they want to understand their personal connection with the company’s brand and its customers. When this exists, there is a natural excitement and passion for their work because it has purpose.
Conduct an organizational assessment to determine how brand is being conveyed at every touchpoint within the company. Again, what will emerge from this assessment are brand delivery gaps that will need to be addressed. Employees who interact with customers on a regular basis will play a lead role in delivering the brand, but it will require all employees to adopt brand behavior in order to truly deliver the brand effectively. It has to become a part of the company culture to succeed. We want everyone in the company to speak and behave in ways that create the kind of customer experience your brand aspires to deliver.
What long-term delivery requires
Delivering on brand for the long-term requires CEO priority, organizational structure and ongoing communication and monitoring. The importance of brand-focus needs to remain top-of-mind. It must constantly be reinforced by the CEO. To become a part of company culture, brand delivery needs to be woven into the company’s operating procedures—including hiring for the beliefs and core values that drive the desired brand behaviors. Senior leadership needs to have the authority to make changes or remove any barriers that prevent employees from delivering the brand promise to customers. Financial as well as strategic decisions will need to be made to continue to deliver a high impact brand experience as technology and social patterns change. It will take an internal team to monitor brand delivery, manage associate training and plan the celebration of successes.
When culture aligns with brand, customers notice and become more likely to interact with your company and recommend it to others. The best time to start the journey is now.
Read more by Kelly Borth.