Advisory Board Member Denise Yohn Explores Brand + Culture In New Series

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This post was originally published by Denise Yohn, Brand expert, author & Millennium Alliance Advisory Board member on LinkedIn.


Welcome to the Brand+Culture Series!

As I explained last week, I am participating in a pilot for a new offering from LinkedIn, “LinkedIn Series,” and will be posting bi-weekly on topics related to brand-culture fusion—the integration and alignment of external brand identity and internal workplace culture. I didn’t want to wait another whole week before posting again, since I thought some more background would be helpful to those of you who aren’t familiar with my book FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies

FUSION lays out a leadership game plan for achieving brand-culture fusion. While most of existing rhetoric on culture either overstates the importance of the trappings of culture (like wellness grants and unlimited vacation) or suggests that all companies need to have warm and friendly cultures where managers are nice and nurturing (completely untrue), I’ve discovered the way you build a healthy, sustainable, valuable culture is to ensure it is aligned and integrated with your brand. When you create an interdependent and mutually reinforcing relationship between how your organization thinks and acts on the inside and how it is perceived and experienced on the outside, you increase your competitiveness, you create substantive value for employees and customers, and you future-proof your business by developing an authentic brand and healthy organization.

How to Cultivate Brand-Culture Fusion

Moreover, by examining case studies, interviewing industry leaders, reviewing respected academic research, and drawing on my experience working with world-class organizations across a broad range of sectors, I’ve discovered specific ways in which brand-culture fusion should be cultivated.

First leaders lay the foundation for culture-building by identifying and clearly articulating a single overarching purpose and one set of core values of their organizations. Then they assess their organization and determine where the biggest gaps are between their existing culture and their desired one. And ultimately they take responsibility for leading culture-building. Even if implementing specific changes falls to the leaders of functional areas, the top leaders of an organization must initiate and champion them across the board. And they ensure all other leaders and managers are actively engaged in and accountable for cultivating the desired culture.

Five Brand-Culture Fusion Strategies

Then business leaders should implement specific strategies that cultivate a distinct culture that is fully aligned with their brand identity:

  • Organize and Operate On-Brand: Implement an organizational design and run your operations to give your organization the structure and processes necessary to operationalize your desired culture.
  • Create Culture-Changing Employee Experiences: Deliberately design and manage your company’s employee experience—just as you would customer experiences—so that every facet of an employee’s journey throughout his or her connection to your organization encourages and enables your desired culture.
  • Sweat the Small Stuff: Ensure even the most mundane or minute aspect of your organization advances and supports your desired culture—from its “rituals” (things people in your organization regularly do, from opening a meeting to participating in an annual event) and “artifacts” (things you create to commemorate or symbolize important achievements or events) to its policies and procedures.
  • Ignite Your Transformation: Use employee brand engagement tactics—stage employee brand engagement experiences, launch creative communications campaigns, and develop and deploy employee brand engagement toolkits—to kick-start the fusion process and then to regain focus and momentum when necessary.

The strategies above are for leaders who want to nurture brand-culture fusion by aligning and integrating their culture with their brand identity. They provide the path to achieve brand- culture fusion if your culture is less developed or defined than your brand, as I’ve found it is at most companies.

  • But if your culture is well established, you may achieve fusion by using it to shape or reshape your brand. That’s the fifth strategy, Build Your Brand from the Inside Out: Leverage your internal culture to shape your external brand identity, using your overarching purpose and core values to inspire external brand actions, such as new products or services or corporate programs with a positive social impact, that differentiate your brand.

Stay Tuned

More to come in the weeks ahead.

For now, I want to say thank you to all who have subscribed to and shared this Series! I see we already have a good start to the community here and I hope more will join, so please do use the “Subscribe” button to join and the “Share” button to share it with your friends and colleagues would be interested in this topic.

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