Aligning your brand, culture and customer experience

Alan Jennings

We’ve all had the experience of being in contact with an organisation or even a person, that presents it or themselves as one thing, as a presenting a particular level of service and experience … and then felt the disappointment when the presentation of the actual, is out of alignment with what was presented.

You may have felt this in restaurants, at hotels, organisations you deal with, over the telephone, even with people face to face.

A lack of authenticity in the brand and misalignment of the actual customer experience, from what was being sold or communicated, can make us feel a little dirty about it.

A misalignment of the ‘presented brand’ and the ‘actual experience’, that difference between what you were told or sold and what you experienced, can greatly tarnish our experience of an organisation or person. And as a result, the disappointment we may feel, can:

  • erode our trust and confidence,
  • reduce our affinity to the brand, and
  • lessen the likelihood that we will become advocates and supporters of that brand.

The reasons

There are so many reasons an organisations brand and culture might be misaligned. It could be that the brand was developed at the surface level, with little or no consultation with staff, clients and stakeholders and a lack of understanding of the culture of that organisation. It could be that the brand is outdated and no longer relevant to the organisation as it is today.  It may even be that the organisation wishes to be seen in a different light to that which is the reality… shiny and slick instead of old and outdated, friendly and welcoming instead of abrupt and matter of fact.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to acknowledge that the culture of your organisation, the way your staff or team interacts with your audience, the way in which you conduct your business and make decisions can have a massive impact in how people experience your organisation and how people experience and connect with your brand.

Remember

Your brand is a collection of perceptions about your organisation, formed by every communication, action and interaction (inside and out). It’s what people see and feel, when they interact with your organisation. It’s a collective set of expectations and beliefs, about what you do and how well you do it.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Management guru Peter Drucker is purported to have once said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Drucker believed that a company’s culture will typically thwart any attempt to create or enforce a strategy that is incompatible with that culture.

This is so very true. Whilst many organisations may try to tackle issues (that may, at their root, be problems or challenges with the culture of their organisation) through a change of strategy, sometimes involving a rebrand or a change to their brand identity… organisations need to be aware that their visual brand (their logo and visual identity) are there to support the brand and culture, not to fix it.

It’s not simply enough to ‘look’ progressive or innovative… empathetic, caring or person-centred…  organisations must express this and live these values within their culture for that brand culture alignment and positive client/customer and employee experience to thrive.

How do we brand to culture and purpose?

There are many ways you can work to align your brand to your culture and purpose. And whilst every organisation (and the challenges within them) are different, below are just a few things to consider when working to align your brand to culture:

  • Review – to work on your culture you must first know where you are at. Undertake a thorough culture review, including an audit of your organisation’s practices, behaviours, expressed values, strategic objectives, vision, beliefs, perceptions and how your brand resonates with employees. What is the real customer experience of your brand?
  • Dig deep – get in and dig deep. Working on your culture is not a quick fix, it requires dedication from all team members, support from the board and exec and buy-in from the staff.
  • Reflect –reflect on how your culture is represented in, and supported by, your brand. Is your brand personality, and voice (how you speak) an authentic reflection of that culture? Does it connect and engage with clients and staff alike.
  • Empower and engage – empower members of your organisation to take ownership of your brand, encourage them as ambassadors or champions of your brand and culture.
  • Celebrate and share – celebrate your achievements and instances where staff have affected change and made a difference. Share stories of success, or actions that align with the values and experiences you are aiming to present in support of your purpose.
  • Repeat – working on improving your culture and aligning brand to culture, is not something you just undertake as a once off, or set and forget. It’s a continuous process of engagement, training and working with your team to move forward.

Aligning your brand, culture and customer experience is an ongoing process, however, the benefits of aligning your brand to your culture and purpose are significant for every level of your organisation, inside and out.

Need some help?

Take a look at our other posts on this subject or talk to us.

Posted in Branding, Not-for-profit