I can be a sucker for a powerful television spot or a clever print ad. Built upon sharp human insight and with a compelling creative story, a good ad can make people think differently about a product, a company, an industry or even the world. It can even inspire people to behave differently.
But the world is changing. People are armed with smartphones in tow, able to quickly capture an experience they have with a brand (good and bad) and share it with the world. A brand’s every move – whether it’s an employee, a product or store experience – is on display for all to publicly embrace or scorn. Whether we like it or not, the world is quickly becoming more and more transparent.
Today, brands are defined less by what they say and more by what they do.
Companies have to do more than write smart ads to develop a positive brand perception. They have to also ensure that every single employee and every touch point with a customer or partner brings to life the brand and what it stands for.
Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G and author of the book, Grow, found that brand ideals drive the performance of the highest growth businesses. In other words, companies that are steeped in human values and stand for something more than product, are more profitable. He said, “It’s not what people buy, but what they buy into.” For example, Apple stands for a courageous, inventive, rebellious and intuitive approach to life. And it’s felt at every interaction with the company.
People won’t buy into a brand’s purpose unless it’s authentic to the beliefs and actions of the company. Consumers crave authentic brands where they can connect with a set of values, not just a logo or clever tagline. According to Craig Bida, EVP at Cone Communications, about 70% of consumers say, “Don’t tell me you’re perfect as a company, because I know you’re not perfect…But tell me where you’re going and where you are.” Authenticity is expected.
When you have an inspiring and authentic greater purpose, it can rally the organization and everyone it touches, including employees. A successful brand conveys a bigger purpose, making both employees and customers feel like they belong to something – part of something greater than just a computer or pair of stylish shoes.
Today, the culture of a company is far more important than a job that falls to human resources alone; it’s imperative to the long-term success of a brand and its business. The strongest brands are intrinsic to the company’s culture, demonstrating, rather than declaring, their unique point of view. The strongest brands are built on culture and then felt externally.
There are three crucial components of a company’s culture – its people, passion and purpose. The company’s values are the tie that binds. The soul of your brand. When fostered and fully embedded into the company, a strong culture then inspires an authentic external story, image and experience.
Done right, a culture-built brand will inspire people to take out their phones to share the good experience they just had with your brand.