Business Columns & Blogs

Leaders recognize that brand and culture are two sides of the same coin

Linda Clark-Santos
Linda Clark-Santos

This month we begin a series devoted to a hot topic: culture. We will examine what drives culture and how culture is connected to brand, values and strategy.

First, let’s look at the connection between brand and culture.

Brand is marketplace cachet. More than a logo, a tagline or an advertisement, brand is everything that attracts customers and clients. Though a main driver of brand is the quality of products and services, it is also shaped by many other factors: the reputation of the company itself based on its community involvement, its corporate responsibility, its leaders, its response to crisis and success. One might say it is the dating profile of a company — showing its best self to the external world. Brand is essentially shaped by the customer experience.

Culture, on the other hand, is all about the employees — their attitudes, their beliefs, their behaviors. Culture is about how work gets done and is rooted in what employees believe is right and good. Employees learn what is acceptable by watching their leaders. For example, if the brand is predicated on customer care, but employees don’t feel valued, the all-important link between brand and culture is broken. Culture undermines the brand.

Therefore, alignment between brand and culture is critical. Too often companies pay attention to their brand but neglect to see the role culture should play in support. Ideally, the culture should operate in service to the brand and vice versa. Anything less borders on hypocritical, and can lead to employee cynicism and disengagement.

So how do you strengthen the connection between brand and culture?

First, recognize that your brand not only attracts customers, but is also the leading edge in attracting talent. The right workforce will demonstrate attitudes and behaviors that enhance your brand. Find the right talent, ensure they fully understand your expectations, and they will deliver on your brand promise.

Second, understand that listing your core values on your website and employee communication is not sufficient to affect employee behavior. The actions of your leadership speak more loudly than words. And again, alignment is critical.

Finally, explore what really shapes organizational culture. That will be our topic next month.

Linda Clark-Santos, Ph.D., has extensive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors.