How your culture can make your brand more competitive?

30 March 2023

Culture seems to be the foundation on which so much pivots.  Either it seems to be cool and fun (Patagonia) or toxic and destabilising (DVLA).  Even some commentators tried to call out Silicon Valley Bank as a woke culture, more focused on diversity & inclusion than sound financial management.

But culture shouldn’t simply be seen as an environment in which to work and do business, but as a brand advantage – helping to sharpen the brand promise, deliver for customers and showcase the best of what you can do.

Amazon is of course one of the prime examples.  Culture is a competitive advantage.  Since day 1, Amazon has adopted a day 1 mentality in its business – a characteristic which again is not simply environmental but shapes the way people think, work and collaborate.

Law firms (and we’ve worked with a few recently) increasingly sell their services not simply on the basis of one person’s expertise, but how a team of complementary expertise combines to deliver for a client.  Culture becomes a way of working and delivering, successfully.

Over a decade ago, Nationwide were one of the first organisations to feature a gay couple in their advertising.  The idea for this came not from the marketing dept., but from the LGBT employee network – and they played a key role in the depiction and authenticity of the campaign as well.  This wouldn’t happen if you didn’t feel you had a voice.

Ritz-Carlton has a long history of (over-)delivering for customers, to fulfil their mantra of ‘guests for life’.  We hear of managers and assistants going way above and beyond to respond to customer needs – whether it’s a left-behind teddy bear or a forgotten dress.  This is a culture that inspires its people to meet the unexpressed needs of its customers, very intentionally.

You can see in these examples, cultural characteristics that may be termed as ‘agility’ (Amazon), ‘collaboration’ (law firms), ‘voice’ (Nationwide) and ‘autonomy’ (Ritz-Carlton).

But the meaning and outcome is so much more than a few sterile words – and this is where values and behaviours can’t rely simply on a few words or vanilla statements; the most successful businesses have a culture that isn’t simply about the environment or a nice place to work, but feeds the needs of clients and inspires and energises its people.



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