Five steps to improve brand culture
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Five steps to improve brand culture

Clever methods for getting your brand culture out there using social media.

Imagine a tribe of enthusiastic, authentic and credible advocates sharing your message and positively spreading your brand culture every day – that’s the reality for today’s leading social media players. They are skilfully and intentionally poised to ride the wave of a sharing culture so powerful it’s virtually unstoppable. So what factors are at work? What are the best brands in the business doing? And how can you join them and enjoy their exponential social success?

It’s often said that a brand is far more than a logo – and, of course, it should be. But not every organisation is taking their branding beyond skin deep to the extent that they are truly living their brand through their actions, systems and culture. In this article, we explore five ideas to help brands around the world to leverage the power of social media, and bring their message and brand culture into the public eye.

STEP 1: Create a focused communication strategy first

Counter-intuitively, successful sharing begins with introspection. What do you stand for? Your brand must have clarity of purpose and clarity on the position it will own in the mind of its target consumers.

The Coke brand faces extensive criticism for its high sugar content, but has enjoyed global success with its “Share a Coke” campaign – a viral and sales driving expression of its single-minded positive brand idea of “Open Happiness”. Knowing precisely what it stands for enabled what has become one of the greatest sharing cases. Coke wasn’t trying to promote a low sugar variant. It wasn’t trying to say: “We’re now healthy”. Instead, starting with a brand idea altogether greater than the product, it was able to apply the following steps to generate a near-legendary social sharing success.

Brand Team Action 1: Decide what is the core of your brand message.

STEP 2: Share the responsibility of spreading your brand culture

While setting the core brand identity is the role of the brand team, the role of sharing that with the world is too big a job for the marketing department alone.

Here, three thoughts rule:

  1. Colleague engagement: Actively engaging staff can transform your launch into an organisational-level motivator and team builder. This approach is used by Indonesian Healthcare leader Combiphar, which involves huge numbers of its staff in mass participation PR launch events for its health brands.
  2. Consumer engagement. This is the model favoured by charity awareness and fundraisers. Volunteer-hosted and socially-promoted coffee mornings from charity Macmillan Cancer Support are a good example, but surely the gold standard is still held by the globally shared ATS Ice Bucket Challenge.
  3. Celebrity engagement. The 22 Push Up Campaign for Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder hit global news in September 2016 when David Beckham joined in, completing his 22 push ups in the aisle of a private jet and on a grand piano, wearing just his underwear.

Brand Team Action 2: Decide who you will enlist to share your message.

STEP 3: Put energy into relationship building, not selling

If you are planning to share your brand culture, prepare to give, contribute, or improve. The key is for the drama to be on your positive values.

In its September Keynote, Apple welcomed its long-term partner Nike to the stage in San Francisco as it introduced the second generation Apple Watch. To sell you training shoes? No. To invite you to join its global NRC – Nike Running Club. You join the club. You become a part of the movement first. Nike knows where you’ll buy your shoes next.

Brand Team Action 3: Decide how you will bring people together or make them look or feel good.

STEP 4: Live it, be it, show it. Don’t just say it.

Gandhi said: ‘We must be the change we want to see in the world’. His words should echo loudly in the ears of brand marketing teams. Consumers on social media are quick to call out and attack any disingenuous or incoherent brand behaviour. Saying one thing and doing another is rapidly spotted when your brand life is playing out in the newsfeeds of thousands of consumers.

Across Asia, Anlene – the Fonterra-owned health brand – is trusted by millions of menopause-aged women seeking to boost their bone strength and stave off the threat of osteoporosis. But Anlene doesn’t just sell calcium-rich milk. The brand is on-message and on-culture with its awareness-raising, mass participation promotions: charity walks for thousands of women, and promotions that earn brand advocates pedometers to encourage women to go beyond product consumption into daily health-boosting lifestyle change.

In the UK, the longest serving mobile sector CEO, Ronan Dunne, encourages all his employees at O2 to engage with social media. He sets a clear example with his huge audiences on LinkedIn and Twitter. His teams follow his lead, spreading the word on the company’s many embedded CSR activities and charity engagements.

Brand Team Action 4: Decide what positive value/action/change your message will embody and share.

STEP 5: Courageously open up – be vulnerable, but never stop watching

When brands step into the social space, they relinquish control. This courageous step is the hardest of all. But it’s at the very heart of effectively sharing your brand culture. You will find your most engaged brand advocates will be those leading and sharing your brand locally. Let go, but never stop watching. Your fans will promote you, so champion them – but keep a careful watch for the trouble makers; it’s vital that you monitor social media conversations. After all, too many YouTube viewers now know that a certain airline smashes guitars.

Smart brand teams will consider potential consequence checks. While you can never predict every twist and turn of a campaign, some forward planning and common sense will help you to share your brand culture more effectively in 2016 and beyond.

Brand Team Action 5: Decide how you will express vulnerability and how you will monitor the conversation.

Sam Waterfall Founder and Expert Consultant Obvious Marketing
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