How Your Values Can Lead To Your Organization’s Success (pt. 3 – Brand)
“Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time. Sometimes it will be ahead, other times it will be behind. But brand is simply a collective impression some have about a product.” - Elon Musk
The dictionary defines brand as “a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product.” Said another way, it’s the things that people from outside of your organization use to identify you. Surprise! It might not be what you think it is!
In part 1 of this blog series, I wrote that the success (or failure) of an organization begins with the values that it’s built upon. It’s critical that these values are the foundation upon which its culture is placed. A successful organization’s values should rarely, if ever, change.
In part 2, I wrote that your culture needs to be built upon the foundation of your values. This culture can and will change due to external forces such as customer demands, technology, etc. However, it should always be rooted in the organization’s values.
In this part of the blog series, I’ll write about your organization’s brand. A lot has been written about brand, but I want to make a simple observation. Culture is the way that the people within your organization feel about it. Brand is the way that people outside your organization feel about it. Every organization has a brand whether it’s defined or not. Heck, every person within an organization has a brand! For this blog, let’s just address the organization’s brand.
What defines an organization’s brand? Lots of things do. Quality of the product, innovation, reputation, quality/level of service, etc. Every one of these factors is dependent on one central thing – the people within the organization. A really cool logo and an awesome website do not make a good brand. You need good people too! These individuals are the face of your organization and they can make or break you.
What you’re looking for is the “carryover” of your culture into your brand. I’ve seen some organizations that create their brand first, then make the culture fit into it. I feel that this is backwards. Your brand should reflect what your culture is, and your culture should be based on your organizational values. When you define brand first, it’s like trying to build a house before it’s foundation has been laid or even having the blueprints drawn up.
Another problem occurs when culture and brand do not reconcile with one another. This is where people inside and outside the organization think differently about it. Let’s look at these scenarios.
Positive Culture vs. Negative Brand – This happens when you have a strong, positive culture but the outside world doesn’t see things that way. Here’s an example. The office of one my clients is located on the second floor of a building. They buy a lot of office supplies (mostly paper) and they get weekly shipments delivered to the office. They order their supplies from one of the big national office supply stores. On more than one occasion, their delivery person mentioned how hard it was for him to deliver heavy paper boxes up the steps and that they should be ordering less paper or get more frequent deliveries in order to make his life easier. Now I’m sure that this organization prides itself on customer service. I’ve used them myself, and have always received good service. I’d bet it’s part of their culture. However, this company’s brand, in the eyes of my client, is negative. They’re even considering changing suppliers…all because of one employee! People in your organization need to understand that they are the face of your organization. They are your organization in the eyes of the outside world.
Negative Culture vs. Positive Brand – This happens when you have a negative culture but the outside world doesn’t know about it. Let’ pretend that you work for XYZ company. I move into the house next door to you. In the small talk that we make as new neighbors, I discover that you work for XYZ. I’ve heard great things about them so I ask if they have any job openings. Your response to my question begins with the words “Well let me tell you what it’s like to work for those bums…” and you go on to tell me about the working conditions there (Remember I defined negative cultures in part 2 of this blog series). This might not be the way that others feel about working there, but it’s the what that you feel and you're telling the world about it. The way I think about your organization's brand may have just changed based on what you just told me. I was considering applying for a job there, now I’m not.
In part 1 and part 2 of this blog series, I wrote about how organizational values define its culture. As I close this entry, we can conclude that people living out the culture of the organization will help define its desired brand. In my next post, I’ll write a summary of how values, culture, and brand will lead to your organization’s success or failure. If you’re interested in taking a look at your organization’s culture, please send me an email (email@example.com).