Brand Culture: Leadership, Inspiration and Business Growth
Traditional business wisdom says that investments in R&D increase competitive advantage. But consider that companies studied for overall performance—including profitability—are far more likely to be those that invest in a culture of innovation rather than R&D spend. These are among the findings in Strategy&'s Global Innovation 1000: In 2011, the seventh annual study of the world’s 1000 largest corporate R&D spenders focuses on the link between business strategy and culture, and their effect on innovation and financial performance. The key finding: culture is key to innovation success with a strong link between companies whose cultures strongly support those innovation and higher profit growth. From another perspective, Christopher Matthews writes for Time Business with similar findings in an article in Times Business, entited: "Future of Retail: Companies That Profit By Investing in Employees." Matthews cites the work of Zeynep Ton, a Professor of Operations Management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Her research has shown that by underinvesting in their employees, retailers are making their operations much more inefficient, and much less profitable. In a paper she published in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, she writes: “Highly successful retail chains such as Trader Joe’s supermarkets and Costco wholesale clubs not only invest heavily in store employees, but also have the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors.” So how can organizations build a brand culture strategy that enables innovation, growth and profit? We see the following key areas of development:
- Begin with a brand culture strategy: crystalize the leadership vision, to be transferred to the organization and the people who make it happen. The internal brand story and key messages need to be clear, concise and available to everyone. This requires regular updates and reinforcement as the business and strategy evolve and as organizational knowledge and experience grows.
- View all departments and functional areas as part of the brand culture and as contributing to innovation and business performance. And, as culture is about contact and interaction, the backbone will be communication, along with the platforms and forums that deliver the information and enable interaction.
- Business literature has long told us that people are the organization’s biggest asset. Workers drive performance at the many points of customer delivery, and need up-to-the minute tools and information to do their best work. They need cloud or intranet platforms, tools for chatting, collaborating and reviewing customer intel. They need content management systems (CMS) to be able to add to company websites, microsites and blogs. They also need to see and keep up on industry trends and marketplace news as well as best practices for their area of responsibility.
- People working within the business have more first-hand knowledge of customers and other users than anyone else. They should be the ones to talk about it, socialize about it and reflect their expertise. A brand culture program will need to determine all the functional roles that touch the customer, and empower them with access to social media and company’s owned media. They will need access to the key messages, and be tasked with publishing content and interacting with users interested in what their organization provides.
- Systematic process and platforms to capture and share customer success stories. Use cases, case studies and success stories serve to illustrate what the companies does well, and where employees can go for examples when discussing in their own customer interactions.
- High performance brand cultures are more than just connecting to and communicating with customers, users and markets. They are about open information, empowerment, supporting rapid failure and testing, and decision-making delegation. All of these things are reinforced with digital communication tools and clear brand experience communication guidelines.