How To Achieve Brand Culture Program Success

Mark Di SommaAugust 2, 20173 min

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Andrew, a CEO from London, England who has this question about building a successful brand culture program.

We’re looking at ways to improve our competitiveness and cohesion internally. I’ve read some of the articles on BSI about brand culture and I wondered if you could tell me what we should be doing to ensure such a program is a success and what the various aspects of culture-building are that we should be incorporating. For example, how does this sort of work fit in with things like our current mission, vision and values?

Great question Andrew. To better understand why a brand culture program can succeed, let’s start with why these programs fail.

Change programs and rebrands have a high failure rate because people can’t change what they don’t know how to change. They need context – and they need to be supported by systems and processes that make that change attainable. If you’re merely telling people that things need to change you’re almost guaranteeing the change will fail.

It’s important that you work together to forge a new ambition based on your combined strength. Look to forge a new cultural framework based on that revised ambition, that merges the very best of your values and behaviors. That way, everyone in the organization must make some changes but the changes are based, at least in part, on ideas that feel familiar and on behaviors that they already know.

It’s also important to build the new cultural framework with the mission, vision and values that were agreed upon by the senior leadership team.

Aetna offers a good example of a successful program driven from top leadership. When John Rowe took over as CEO, he employed a strengths-focused approach that drew on a shared sense of concern, deep pride in the history and purpose of the company, and feelings of respect and dedication. In so doing, he accomplished what his predecessors had failed to do: shift the dial.

To achieve success you will need to employ several levers that are the foundation of successful brand culture programs. The Blake Project can help with each.

1. Culture diagnostic – know the culture’s strengths and weaknesses in order to tap the strengths and address the weaknesses.
2. The “critical few” behaviors – there needs to be a small number of clear behavioral change goals.
3. Employee pride and commitment – you must define ways to galvanize people around ideas that they can believe in. They can be universal ideas that resonate with everyone.
4. Informal peer networks and motivators – you must encourage peer-to-peer support and interaction.
5. Storytelling – story is used to explain how the culture will get to its destination and to reinforce pride and desired behaviors.
6. Cultural innovation – the opportunity to “lab” ideas and approaches within the organization before they are introduced to the culture as a whole.
7. Support targets – clear goals for the culture that complement the strategic goals for the business and that lay out the hard and soft objectives for people. These would extend beyond the HR goals to encompass how people are to be supported in order for the strategic goals to be reached. This would help your organization achieve more accurate cause and effects appraisals between people and the achievement of their business strategies.
8. Personal initiatives – people would have permission to try things out to see if they would work. Such programs could be in the form of a series of strategic challenges that are posted across the organization and that individuals can nominate a certain percentage of their working week to tackling. Individuals would be recognized for the scale of the problem they chose to address and the conversations they started as much as the actual outcomes.

You don’t fix what’s not working by doing more of it. That’s true of cultural performance; and it applies equally to how companies should approach cultural transformation for their brands.

We hope this has been helpful Andrew.

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The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values and brand culture workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Mark Di Somma

One comment

  • Judy Hopelain

    August 3, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Great article about the challenges that organization culture pose for rebranding efforts. In our model, culture is a key element of brand, and it does impose real constraints on what the brand can aspire to become. Your eight steps are helpful for orchestrating the change program.

    That said, the recent WSJ article about VW’s CEO’s internal challenges moving the brand and the business to an electric future is a perfect example of how culture can get in the way of alignment around a new brand vision.

    Even when the change agent is the top person in the organization, culture change is hard work!

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