What do you get when you combine company culture and brand values? A magical force called brand culture.
Brand culture is how employees interpret and embody brand values, and how that influences external-facing brand perceptions.
To understand the true power of brand culture, look no further than the incredible internal brands found at Southwest, Publix and Moz. We’ll use these examples to explore how marketers and leaders can strengthen internal values to make their company more competitive.
What is Brand Culture?
When most people think about company culture, images of in-office ping pong tables and paid vacation often come to mind. Brand cultures take these ordinary scenes of a corporate environment and infuse them with the meaningful influence of brand values.
You see, a corporate culture without brand values is merely a glorified attendance policy. It tells employees how they should act, but it doesn’t explain why those actions matter. Alternatively, a corporate culture infused with brand values gives employees purpose. It determines how people should interact with customers, and how conflicts can be resolved. It gives you standards to uphold; a mission to follow.
How to build a strong brand culture
The strongest brands in the world maintain a consistent brand culture that can be seen, heard and felt. But how do all these elements make your company more competitive?
Let’s take a look at how three of today’s leading brands cultivate a strong brand culture inside and out.
Southwest Airlines: hire and promote for your values
Southwest has long been lauded for their impeccable customer service, convenient scheduling and flexible flights. These are experiences people have when they encounter Southwest in the world, but it all starts with internal processes.
Southwest offers remarkable customer service thanks to a core internal goal: hiring the right people. According to Julie Weber, VP of People at Southwest Airlines, company values are threaded through every aspect of the hiring process. She adds that potential candidates are screened for three core attributes: a warrior’s spirit, a servant’s heart, and a fun-loving attitude.
These core attributes are clearly defined on every job description, and they’re what guide and inform employees through daily service, development and promotions.
Culture takeaways from Southwest:
Hiring and promoting based on company values is time-consuming and sometimes exhausting. However, it’s one of the best ways to align your internal brand values with a global workforce. Here’s how you can adapt your culture to emulate Southwest Airlines:
Define employee attributes
The best way to attract the right employees is to create a screening process that reflects your core values. If one of your brand’s core values is honesty, for example, you might incorporate truthfulness and transparency into your list of required employee attributes. Share this information across your job postings and hiring websites, so there’s no question what you’re looking for.
The hiring process can be tiring, and it’s easy to settle on a mediocre candidate for the sake of time. But, persevering through the rudimentary aspects of hiring is how you’ll find great employees. Ask candidates to demonstrate when in their life they’ve embodied your brand’s core attributes. Look for concrete examples from the past, not hypothetical wishes.
Maintain consistent values
A powerful brand culture requires you and your employees to live and breathe core attributes every day. One way to maintain consistency in this area is to review attributes regularly. You might host a meeting centered on what an attribute looks like on the job, offering examples and praise in the process. Getting the team together to discuss values keeps them top of mind and reinforces why they’re so important.
Publix Supermarkets: Treat employees how you’d treat customers
Publix is a family-owned, Florida-based supermarket chain seriously dedicated to keeping customers happy and satisfied. They consistently appears on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for List and they boast some of the highest employee retention rates in the industry.
The secret to Publix’s success? It all comes back to the famous saying: treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Working at a supermarket can feel like a means to an end. But the Publix management style emphasizes employee happiness by prioritizing their professional development. New employees have check-in meetings every 30 days for the first three months, and they qualify for a raise after just six.
Publix associates are also encouraged by the company’s internal promotion strategy, which helps match current employees with more senior positions that align with their goals. Lastly, all employees are offered valuation in the company after a year of working 1,000 hours, making it the largest employee-owned company to date.
Culture Takeaways from Publix:
Taking good care of your employees has lasting impacts on your brand’s reputation. It’s also the best way you can maintain a genuine, high-quality customer experience. Follow these takeaways for better employee management:
Consider employee ownership
Employee ownership options send a message to employees that they matter. This management structure also says that working with your company is more than just a job – it’s a tangible financial investment. With such a personal stake in a company’s success, this gives employees a genuine drive to work hard. The result? Happy employees and statistically lower turnover rates.
Prioritize employee needs and goals.
Cultivate a strong relationship between employees and managers, and establish a process for frequent communication. Frequent check-ins allow both parties to air their grievances and share their needs. Time should be used to garner feedback and understand individual goals, and create an actionable plan for growth.
Provide Opportunities for Growth
Providing opportunities for professional growth is another important way to help your employees feel valued. When you understand what your customers need, its easier to create promotion opportunities that they’ll feel excited about. Promoting people who work hard also sends a good message to other employees that hard work pays off.
Moz: Internal and External Transparency
When discussing how to establish corporate transparency, the Moz TAGFEE code is frequently used as an example. The TAGFEE code stands for Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic and Exceptional, and its used to establish brand values while guiding internal and external processes.
Consider this line in the online TAGFEE guide: “we will represent ourselves and our intentions honestly to our coworkers and to our customers.”
Moz’s transparency improves the corporate environment in multiple ways. From financial and partnership news at the corporate level, to simple honesty between co-workers, employees will always be kept in the loop. This commitment helps employees feel like they can be themselves and speak their mind.
Furthermore, this transparency promise has lasting effects on Moz’s external brand perception. Even when making a major software investment, businesses can trust that Moz is being clear and forthright with their intentions.
Culture Takeaways from Moz:
In the age of social media, people have more access to a brand’s practices, operations and intentions than ever before. Here’s how to improve working conditions for your employees while attracting loyal customers:
Define your values
Time and time again, you’ve heard about the importance of company values. But if you took a good, hard look at where your values are implemented, what would you see? One way to assess your brand values is to conduct a culture audit. Poll your workforce on company ideals, and see how they stack up. If people seem confused about what your company stands for, it might be time to define a stronger culture code like TAGFEE.
Listen to employees
Corporate transparency is a two-way street. If you want employees to understand your needs, you first have to understand theirs. This isn’t about listening to employee gripes or drama. Rather, its a way you can allow them employees to shape the culture. When employees feel like their voices are heard, it opens up a world of mutual compassion and trust that extends into the customer experience.
Share the good and the bad
From hitting a revenue milestone to acquiring a competitor, many companies are quick to share positive news. But how many companies let the world know when they’re at fault? True transparency requires you to be open about the good, the bad and the ugly. Sharing a mistake or misfortune shows both humility and grace. It also shows that you’re human, helping customers connect to you in a more authentic way.
A strong brand culture has lasting effects on the internal and external perceptions of your company. Looking at powerful brands like Publix, Southwest and Moz can show you how happy, value-driven employees make all the difference.