In the previous article, I talked about taking your team on the brand journey to set it up for success. Now we look at empowering your people ongoing over the long-term, as the amount of energy you put into this will have a direct influence on your brand growth.
A major element to a brand’s success lies in cultivating a rich ecosystem (culture and community) that people have a sense of belonging to and that they eagerly advocate for. This ecosystem comprises all stakeholders but begins with your employees.
So – you’ve introduced the new brand, there’s an air of excitement, but this will be short-lived unless you’re intentional in providing consistent knowledge, tools and know-how to your team so they collectively sustain and grow the new brand. A handful of people in a marketing department can’t control a complete brand perception, it needs to be something lived by everyone. The brand needs to be real and ‘alive’ inside and outside your organisation.
Here are a few things to consider in building a purposeful brand culture for growth over the long term:
Embed the right values
Embracing common or ‘expected’ values like integrity and collaboration may feel like the right thing to do, but these values aren’t always authentic, nor are they what you need to drive towards your purpose and potential. Different brands and aspirations are achieved through different values. We’re not all the same and embracing your unique values and strengths to build a distinctive brand culture is what will make your brand successful.
Say your company purpose is about ‘revolutionising the future of education’ and your brand promise centres around disruption, for example, then values of courage and invention are going to serve your growth and encourage a culture where people act boldly and apply ingenuity to challenge conventions. Values of ‘teamwork’ and ‘professionalism’ won’t get the same outcome.
If you want to produce the kinds of specific outcomes that will allow your company to embed its purpose and differentiate from others, you need to define authentic core values that cultivate the brand culture necessary for growth.
Reinforce the brand narrative
A clear narrative gives your brand a unified sense of direction. But in some organisations, internal and external communications are often mismatched. This can muddy the waters, and it threatens employees’ perceptions of your company’s integrity. Your team need to hear the same narrative that you communicate to the market.
It’s important to build and activate the brand narrative internally in a way that it comes alive for your people. Only then will they embrace the sense of ownership required to advocate for and grow the brand.
A client of ours has a brand story that defines them as ‘real partners in progress’ – they are about going further, being tenacious and actively moving towards potential. To reinforce this narrative internally, stories of progress from all over the organisation are captured and shared – from stories of employee triumphs and clients realising their potential to tales of ‘going further together’ with partnering organisations.
There are many ways to reinforce a narrative internally, from message frameworks, tangible collateral or storytelling videos to a hands-on CEO who spearheads the brand vision. The goal is to be consistent, focussed and purposeful.
Create unifying experiences
Brand culture initiatives are activities or experiences that aim to increase your team’s understanding of, and sense of belonging to your brand. It could be physically immersing your employees in the brand experience, setting up a workshop, inviting them to connect their own story to the brand or creating simple and memorable mantras. Some companies invest in deep employee training, with exercises, interactive tools and role-playing scenarios designed to embed the brand and demonstrate how it influences their work, day by day.
Branding is a powerful tool you can use to rouse motivation and performance. With a thoughtful approach, rebranding or repositioning can be the catalyst that reframes employees’ perception of your organisation, energises them on a new mission, and truly engages them in the future of the company.
Provide margin for exploration
Something I’ve learnt a lot more about recently is that for anything new to flourish in an organisation, it requires margin. You need to provide ample margin for ‘inefficient’ use of time – too much efficiency leaves no room for growth. So, plan for margin – set aside time for employees to explore and experiment with the brand. Maybe it’s a few hours every week or one day each month. Allowing this time will empower your team to not only find connection with and live out the brand but also explore new avenues for brand growth.
Consider a brand coach
A brand coach is an expert in brand strategy and culture, someone who can work with your team to provide brand leadership and guidance. Having someone who can contextualise your brand across the various areas of your business and help employees reframe initiatives, behaviour and communications to align with the brand can really accelerate efficacy and growth.
Businesses often need help breaking out of outdated brand behaviours, and a good brand coach can provide new perspectives and alternate actions that will ensure you embody your new brand and forge a path to transformation.
Building a strong brand culture internally takes time and patience, and it won’t happen overnight. With intentional and consistent effort over the long term, your brand will flourish.