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How to develop a brand culture within your global enterprise

Employees cheering in an office
in Finance and Insurance, Oil and Gas, Retail and Ecommerce

Many organisations rightly focus their brand efforts externally, tirelessly coming up with marketing initiatives that win over new and existing customers. However, internally, that same enthusiasm, passion and investment can often be lacking. This can create something of an oddity, namely that everyone working together for the benefit of your enterprise may not be bought into what it is you do.

This is hugely problematic because you depend on your workforce to not only win over and retain customers, but to also help shape a powerful image of your brand that you would expect them to be committed to. Or, one better, so supportive are they with your organisation that they are, in effect, brand ambassadors, who help to further sell and promote your products/services. If your own employees can’t appreciate that, then something is amiss.

As such, businesses need to focus more on developing a brand culture that encourages and rewards their employees who are engaged in the company and who live, breathe and dream the values and ethos by which it stands. Implementing such a change at any level is not without its challenges, but the bigger your organisation and the more dispersed your workforce is, the harder it is going to be. In this article, we take a look at how you can begin to make that shift.

The internal brand shortfall

In its 2014 State of the Consumer report, Gallup noted that “a strong brand promise is a differentiator [that] can quickly become meaningless to consumers if it is not backed up”. In other words, employers need to be able to give substance to what their company does and get this across in the most effective way.

However, as it observed in its paper, business leaders are failing to deliver training to ensure that their staff are up to this job – only little more than a third of employees (37 per cent), for example, said that they agreed with the following statement: “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.”

If that knowledge or insight is absent, it will, consciously or unconsciously, manifest itself in some way. The damage may not be severe, in that you continue to win new business and boost your revenue, but still, if it is achieved without the full support of your workforce, there is something bittersweet about your successes.

Develop a vision

Recognising that you have a shortfall here is an important step in aligning your employees with your aims as a business and getting them to appreciate the importance of a workplace culture that is brand focused. The short of it is that if members of your staff can’t get onboard with this, then they should reconsider whether they want to be part of what it is you do.

Here is a case in point. Directing his attention to all employees, Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos, who is known for being a pioneer of organisational infrastructure, said you need to “think about what you would be so passionate about that you would be happy doing it for ten years, even if you didn’t make any money from it. That’s what you should be doing. I like to say chase the vision, not the money”.

A business, therefore, needs a vision, a blueprint that reflects what it is, what it believes in and what it expects. While your company values will, of course, be entwined with your brand image, they are nevertheless distinct. They are, in a marketing sense, devised to resonate with your internal audience and not your external audience. So, for example, values such as “sharing knowledge”, “having a positive attitude” and “being a team player” are all conceived with your “internal segmentation” in mind. The sentiment behind them will be lost on external audiences.

Make it universal

Now this brings us onto an interesting point. While your intention may be to deliberately exclude your customers from certain aspects of your brand, you may inadvertently ostracise or overlook certain teams/divisions of your global workforce by failing to consider the bigger picture.

Much in the same way that you have to market your brand with cultural sensitivity in other markets other than your domestic one, you have to conceptualise and translate your company’s in-house values so that they are nuanced enough to make sense to international elements of your business. And, importantly, this has to happen without losing the core meaning that is intended to be shared by all.

“As companies in almost every industry stake a large portion of their growth plans on global expansion, the precision and consistency with which they approach talent management capabilities, HR policies and leadership development must increase,” explains Accenture in an article titled How to Manage a Global Workforce.

“Attracting and retaining skilled workers, stabilising the labour force in a new market, increasing productivity, structuring an organisation so that credible and competent leadership is placed in the right locations, fashioning a culture that is consistent but also accommodates local differences – these are now the activities and competencies that are critical to success.”

Everyone working together for a common goal

The right talent is no longer enough for forward-thinking companies. The individual has to also be the “right fit”. Think of it this way, your employees are more than just a cluster of individuals responsible for carrying out certain functions within your company. They are, as Virgin founder Richard Branson has said, “key assets”.

To be a better enterprise, to be really inclusive on a global scale and to be a leader in your sector, you have to have a workforce that is optimised and more than just capable of doing their job. They have to be really inspired by what it is your business is trying to do. That enthusiasm is not just infectious – to all stakeholders – but it’s also transformative. It provides you with added value, the benefits of which are enjoyed by everyone.

Developing a brand culture is the solution. A shared sense of identity, a genuine appreciation for the values and ethos of your organisation and a commitment to its success, now and in the future, that’s the kind of environment any international business should be looking to invest in.

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