Responsible brand culture by sector
- 28 October 2016
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Where does it make a difference?
There are sectors where a responsible culture is necessary just to do business, and others where it isn’t so critical. Where does it have the most impact?
Brand culture matters. As Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental, says: “Brand culture centres an organisation and makes its heart beat. Without a good healthy brand culture an organisation is just a shell. Without a brand culture that appeals externally, an organisation is already diluting any marketing efforts it undertakes. Without a brand culture that appeals internally, the ethos for a positive workforce will be diminished. It is essential.”
He adds: “For an extreme example, just take a look at Sports Direct. With the company facing so much trouble, particularly at the Shirebrook location, its brand culture must be under strain, and that is affecting the business.”
Yet for marketers making decisions on the allocation of perennially scarce resources, it is important to understand how much time and budget they should be allocating to building a brand culture. Just how important should brand culture be to you?
People living the brand culture
Most obviously, brand culture matters if customers interact with your employees. This is the case in both B2C and B2B, as the two very different examples of Direct Line and Baxter Freight demonstrate.
For the past 30 years, the insurance market has become commoditised and extremely price-oriented, making it intangible in consumers' minds and, therefore, extremely difficult for marketers in the sector to build genuine brand loyalty. This was the challenge faced by Mark Evans, marketing director, and his team at Direct Line Group – it was one they chose to tackle with brand culture.
He says: “We realised that the market had become fixated on price rather than on an insurance firm’s ability to ‘fix’ claims. So, Pulp Fiction’s infamous fixer character Winston Wolf became the centre of our ad campaign. But we needed to underpin this with a ‘fixing’ culture.
He continues: “This brand culture has been transformative not only to business performance, but also to the pride that people have in the brand and themselves. We are now awash with stories of how our employees have acted spontaneously and emphatically to fix our customers problems, sometimes in very unexpected and imaginative ways.”
For his part, Ian Baxter, CEO and founder of SME Baxter Freight, believes that brand culture has played an integral part in taking his firm from a standing start 12 months ago, to delivering thousands of shipments every month currently. “We’re competitive, reliable and ethical. These things matter, but people are also critical to our business.”
He continues: “Good relationships are at the absolute core of what it is to do business well. When people visit us, we are often complimented on how friendly everyone is. This isn’t just because we have selected a disproportionately friendly group of people to work here – it’s because people react to how they’re treated, and we’re passionate about treating people well.”
Delivering the brand promise
So, what of those products and companies where people sit further in the background, such as component manufacturers and providers of raw materials? Still, it is hard to think of scenarios where brand culture is not important. Product marketers rely on retailers and their staff to present their brand in the right way. Equally, the most intricately woven brands can be undone by revelations of inconsistent culture in the supply chain, in tax arrangements, in environmental impact, and so on.
Brand culture may matter to differing degrees, and it may be given somewhat differing treatments, but it matters to every business. There are moments in a brand’s life when it matters more; for example, at its inception it is vital to get brand culture right and, whenever a company faces major change, brand culture can play a vital role in bringing employees and customers through what is often a hard process of reinvention.
There are few marketers who can turn a blind eye to brand culture and escape the consequences. As Evans at Direct Line concludes: “A brand's promise has to be delivered in every single interaction that a customer has with it, in order to avoid dissonance between the expectation that advertising creates and the reality. It is only through the consistent and obsessive delivery of a brand culture that a brand can both lead and disrupt its market.”
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