Poor brand culture at it’s worst not only affects morale, staff turnover and profits - it can lead to a full-blown PR nightmare. As brands such as Thinx, Nasty Gal, Uber and Amazon have recently found out, a disgruntled employee tweet or blog post has the potential to undermine your external brand identity and tarnish expensive marketing campaigns.
Whether you’re a global brand or a startup, creating an internal brand culture that aligns with your brand messaging isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. Here’s three lessons on successful internal branding from the best in the business.
1. Let culture drive recruitment
For e-commerce giant Zappos, fostering great brand culture starts at the very beginning. Candidates are measured against a 10 point brand values manifesto as part of a cultural fit screening. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh recently revealed:
“We’ve actually said no to a lot of very talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top of bottom line… Because we felt they weren’t culture fits, we were willing to sacrifice the short-term benefits in order to protect our culture.”
Those who make it through a rigorous value vetting then undergo a month-long training programme designed to train an outstanding customer services team. Taken by everyone from legal to design, this induction immediately puts into practice the core values of the brand. Culture misfits are also routed out with the company’s infamous $2,000 offer to quit after the first week.
Through its unique hiring process, Zappos not only creates a workforce aligned with their brand, it also strengthens its existing brand culture. Bringing individuals together around values such as ‘Create Fun and a Little Weirdness’ and ‘Do More with Less’ in theory minimizes personal culture clashes and creates more productive teams.
The results have been so successful that Zappos has even developed software to map company friendships and marriages that exist outside of work as a proof point of a content workforce.
The brand culture hack: Define it and get it right from the start. Employees should know what to expect from day one.
You might not have budget to offer a $2k exit fee and asking employees to get weird might just be an HR headache, but hiring according to a clear set of cultural as well as performance values minimizes risks to your brand identity and internal culture.
2. Learn to tell better stories
Nike has everything in place for its employees to channel their ‘Just Do It’ slogan; free gym classes, sports facilities, health insurance and physio check ups to name a few. But perks aside, a central strategy for upholding Nike’s exemplary internal brand culture is the company’s ‘corporate storytelling’ program.
Specialized senior execs turned corporate storytellers ensure everyone from VPs to store staff become well-versed in Nike’s stories ‘about people getting things done’. Starring the likes of Nike CEO Phil Knight and less known co-founders Bill Bowerman and Steve Prefontaine, storytelling isn’t just verbal but experiential; with trips to Bowerman’s coaching fields and the scene of Prefontaine’s crash.
These internal brand buy ins allow Nike to make its employees feel part of an inspiring dynasty. It does so by moving away from the rarified starpower of Serena Williams and LeBron James to more relatable characters; developing a more meaningful and loyal relationship between the employee and one of the world’s best brands.
The brand culture hack: Inspire loyalty with your brand’s own story.
From the moment new talent is on boarded and throughout their career, find creative ways to make employees feel part of the company’s bigger picture and history. The ideas and stories that inspired your business’ launch, growth or rebranding should be as appealing to the IT department as it is the CEO.
3. Sweat the small stuff
Google has long been the poster boy of nailing exceptional brand culture - consistently recognized as one of the world’s best brands to work for.
While it's undeniable that much of this success is down a ‘Googleplex’ worth of free healthy meals, haircuts, yoga, dry cleaning, on-site doctors, childcare and wifi shuffles to work, Google’s innovative ‘People Operations’ team - aka the HR department, is hugely responsible for Google’s internal culture and brand success.
Headed up by Laszlo Bock, People Operations is responsible for keeping employees happy and analyzing how their daily lives and long-term careers can be made better. This can range from determining the optimum length of a lunch queue for a socializing: productivity ratio, to measuring the creativity levels of diner booths versus conferences rooms. Other instances include an increased retention of new mothers by 50% after increasing paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 5 months.
Importantly, Google doesn’t approach its work culture as “set it and forget it”, so Bock’s team are involved with a constant and evolving process to keep up with the ever-changing needs of employees and the industry.
The brand culture hack: Go beyond the appraisal
Task your HR team to find ongoing opportunities where both the day to day and long-term career goals can be improved to increase employee well-being.
Arm your employees with the tools they need for your brand to succeed
You don’t need to be Google or Nike to cultivate better brand culture. Before developing a sophisticated strategy that can unify tens of thousands of people globally, make sure your employees have essential tools for brand communication and compliance.
Whether rebranding or looking for improved consistency, Templafy is an end-to-end solution to align all internal and external brand communications. From presentations to emails, the dynamic service ensures that your business looks, acts and behaves in line with the brand culture you’re creating at every touchpoint.
Templafy brings all brand elements, digital assets and best practice content right to where employees work on their documents and emails. So they never need to go rogue Googling for logos, images or text or using old documents from their desktop.
Brand managers and marketing teams can easily roll out updates across an entire organization in real time, meaning that employees have the confidence that their document content is always up to date.
Want to learn more about how Templafy can help build your internal brand culture? Speak with one of our team – they love talking about brand management!