Branding 101: Company Culture

This is part 3 of Tim’s series on branding. To read the other parts, click here. 

What came first? Brand or Company Culture?

When I first wrote that question, I honestly had to step back a moment, scratch my head, and question my sobriety.

Then I realized, Brand and Culture are symbiotic parts of a larger whole; Brand can influence company culture and company culture can influence Brand.

Let’s look at an example of this scenario

This example concerns a grocery store in my neighborhood. This particular grocery store uses the inviting tag line: “where there’s a helpful smile in every aisle.” It’s catchy and has the emotional element of welcoming, friendliness and support.

I was doing my weekly shopping and standing in line to check out. When it was my turn to check out, the cashier said in a very flat tone “Did you find everything okay?” and before I could answer she asked “Paper or plastic?”.

She systematically passed each item over the scanner and only looked up long enough to say something to the person sacking my groceries. I stood there and thought, this is not a very helpful or friendly experience.

Normally, I leave feeling very good about my experience at HyVee. I get all the help I need in the trenches of the aisles, but at checkout time, it’s usually hit-or-miss.

As a consumer, I believe HyVee’s culture is about employees taking pride in their stores. As an employee-owned company, they are invested in customers having a positive employee interaction that helps to counteract the unavoidable stressors of grocery shopping.

However, in this particular situation, the opposite happened.

I felt like more of a burden than a benefit. I felt as if all the positive interactions, which there are almost every time I go to HyVee, were null and void. The experience actually (God forbid) made me consider going to a store that has a self-checkout!

Luckily, I had to go back the next day and pick up a few other items. I went to the same checker. She was so much more engaging and pleasant.

So culture and how employees respond to the environment can have a direct impact on Brand.

What can you do to help cultivate a Brand-building company culture?

Stay close to your employees. Sit in meetings and don’t say a word! Just listen to how they interact with one another. Listen to their stories about customers and coworkers.

These nuggets of information will help shed light on what your company culture looks like. Then it’s time to ask the hard question: “Does the present culture influence the Brand in a positive or negative way?”

Next time, we’ll talk about what it takes to keep your Brand consistent throughout advertising and marketing messages. 

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