Authentic Culture, Authentic Brand

Authentic Culture Authentic Brand

Those entrepreneurs that neglect company culture and company brand do so at their own peril. Culture and brand are two sides of the same coin. Culture is the attitudes, expectations expressed through policies and procedures that boil out into action through service. Brand is the culture of your organisation from the customers’ perspective. Brand is how your customers see and experience your company’s culture when they buy your products or use your services.

Culture is your relationship with your employees and Brand is your relationship with your customers. Assisting companies develop authentic culture and brand over the past twenty years, the number one question I am asked is: Why all the fuss about culture and brand? What is the point of culture and brand? The answer hasn’t changed in twenty years – People buy trust first, product second!

The impact of that statement needs to fill your mind and affect every aspect of how you think about your business. Whether you sell a product or provide a service, your client will not interact with you (Buy your product or use your service) if they do not trust – First you (as a person and as a company); second they must trust the product or service that you provide.  Culture is like a gardener that prepares the ground for vegetable crops. He tills the ground and prepares it with elements that will improve the quality of produce. He uses manure (integrity), and fertilizer (consistency) to feed the environment that will host beautiful crops.  The gardener deals with bugs and disease in an organic manner, because he understands the desires of his customers and the impact his actions have on the surroundings.

Brand is represented in how the gardener advertises his goods. Informing the community that all his products are organic, he positions himself in the market as a ‘salad specialist’. He knows his customers like salad, and like the convenience of a ‘one-stop-shop’. And so he packages his product in a manner that meets his clients’ needs. His reputation for growing excellent products is well known, and his claim of organic farming has been proven through public testing and verification.

The public view this gardener with respect. He is seen as honest, as his claims are backed up. The community appreciate his efforts to accommodate them, and last but not least, they love his fresh and delicious salads on the table at dinner.  Through reliability the gardener developed a reputation that slowly forged lifelong relationships with his customers, producing an authentic brand bon from an authentic culture. This cannot be faked. A company cannot ‘pretend’ culture. The effort and preparation that goes into the ground shows in the quality of the gardener’s end product, and this cannot be faked.

Let’s imagine that one season the gardener is seriously affected by the economic situation and decides to cut costs by not preparing the ground; and does not feed the ground with manure or fertilizer of any sort. Do you think his customers would notice? The gardener doesn’t change his advertising or how he positions himself in the market, nor does he lower his prices to adjust for the quality change in his product. Do you think his reputation will be affected? How will clients view of the gardener change?

 It doesn’t matter how the gardener positions himself in the market through his advertising.  The people of the community will learn of his ‘shortcuts’. They will compare his products to previous seasons, or to other producers. Congruence between actual product, promised product, and behind-the-scenes behaviour produces authentic Branding. Authentic Culture is seen in the congruence between policies, stated mission and actual behaviour.

Either in our personal lives or in our company structures, the fact remains; we are the master of our own image! The view other people or businesses have of us is a product of the image that we have created. The impression others have of us or our company first starts on the inside as brand and slowly oozes out to those that surround us through our actions, reliability and reputation. This image (Culture and Brand) happens whether we consciously control and create it or if it happens by default. You have a culture and a brand, on purpose or by accident. Its best for your company that you construct your Culture and Brand on purpose.

Whether creating Culture or Brand, here are five tips to help evaluate the authenticity of your efforts:

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say: Do you say what you mean in your communication with clients or employees? Is your communication a simple expression of what needs to be said? If you say something other than what you mean, you will create expectations in your employees and clients which you have no intention of meeting. People will view this as deceptive. Mean what you say. Do what you said you will do. This will create a sense of integrity in the minds of the people concerned and fuels the image of reliability.
  • Be Consistent: Adding value one day a year doesn’t scream success! Nothing shouts “flash in the pan” like being inconsistent. Make sure you are consistent in applying policies when dealing with employees. Be prepared to repeat god service and walking the extra mile for customers. Consistence, good or bad, builds reputation. Manage that reputation by being consistent in all things.
  • Mission: Have you got a mission? Yes, great! No, well then I am not surprised that you are failing to be authentic in your company. Mission is the rail on which your identity, personal or company, runs on. Make sure that projects you tackle are in line with your mission. Evaluate the tasks that consume your time – do they take you away from your mission (de-rail you) or do they move you a step closer? Honesty in evaluating authenticity to mission is difficult, but it is crucial.
  • Values: If Mission is the rails on which our identity runs, then Values is the driving force, the engine that keeps us going. I wish I could adequately emphasis how important Values are!!! Critical! Especially in evaluating Authenticity. It takes no less than five minutes walking through a company property to determine how authentic they are in Culture and Brand. Values Statements are enjoying a lot of popularity in many companies at the moment, but sadly Values are misunderstood. Many companies purchase their Value Statements from Marketing Companies, and instantly set off a chain of events that will result in their failure.
  • Survey Authenticity: The simplest process to evaluate authenticity of Culture and Brand is to run a survey. That’s right – ask you clients, and ask your employees how closely your behaviour matches your promises. Correctly interpreted feedback can offer the manager, entrepreneur or the individual a wealth of information concerning the effectiveness and efficiency of both Culture and Brand.

The trick to evaluating the authenticity of your brand and culture will require you to be honest. No, really! Being Honest with yourself is essential to reaching a pure level of authentic culture and brand. If you care enough to evaluate the authenticity of your Culture and Brand, please don’t waste the effort through self deception. Pulling the wool over your own eyes is no guarantee that you will pull the wool over your clients’ eyes. The tale-tale signs of inauthentic culture will creep into the salad at the dinner table, destroying your reputation and killing any relationships that you have fostered.

Guard your image by laying the rails of Mission, by connecting with your true Values, being consistent in your efforts internally and externally. Culture is worth protecting and creating with intent as it will affect what you bank on a daily basis.

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