To build a stronger culture, begin with the brand. This is especially true if your company serves the business-to-business (B2B) market.
While consumer products can rely on advertising, promotions and PR to drive customer purchases, the sale of considered B2B purchases always involve people on both sides of the buying transaction. As such, employees’ collective behaviors (culture) shape how customers experience the brand.
Over a combined 60 years, I and my colleague and co-author, Joe Bannon, have worked with B2B companies to connect their employees’ behaviors to the company brand and the customers it serves. As we’ve watched successful brands being lived out in the marketplace by their employees, we’ve identified “Five Foundations” that distinguish strong brands from their less accomplished competitors.
The Five Foundations are:
1. Consistency. Strong brands behave and appear to all audiences in ways that uniformly adhere to a central set of guiding principles. Strong brands don’t appear and behave in ways that are self-contradictory.
2. Credibility. Strong brands can be counted upon to make realistic promises, stated and implied and live up to them. Credible brands don’t make claims or promises they cannot deliver, nor do they pretend to be something they’re not.
3. Desirability. Strong brands appeal to what people want, speaking to their wishes, dreams, longings and aspirations. They don’t focus on or pursue things they believe are important at the expense of what customers want.
4. Uniqueness. Strong brands behave and appear in a distinctive and special manner that is unlike others. They don’t copy another company’s way of being.
5. Do-ability. Strong brands can be executed and the company possesses the capabilities, resources and resolve to create and faithfully sustain the brand. They don’t waste time, energy, people and resources on efforts that they can never expect or hope to achieve.
Viewing your company brand through the lens of the Five Foundations can identify weak areas the competition may exploit. While almost every brand will meet some of the criteria, success is contingent on meeting all five of the foundations at the same time.
Think about a brand that delivers twice the reliability and performance of the market leader, but costs 50 percent less. Desirable? Sure is. Unique? Absolutely; no one else would dare go here. Credible? Not so much. And Doable? Highly doubtful, if not impossible.
Among the Five Foundations, it is “do-ability” that is most likely to undermine a brand’s success. You can have a brand that is consistent, credible, desirable and unique but, if it is not doable inside your company and in the marketplace, it is virtually guaranteed to flounder.
Getting the brand grounded in the Five Foundations is a step one. Next, companies must get employees to commit to the brand, effectively moving it from head to heart so that it is reflected in their day-to-day behaviors. Many companies do a good job of informing people about the company brand via newsletters, presidential videos or town hall meetings, but they fail to make the head-to-heart connection. To move a brand rooted in the Five Foundations from head to heart, employees must:
Hear it. A company’s people must be exposed to the brand and what it stands for.
Understand it. Employees need to know what the company brand stands for internally and to its customers. Research can go a long way in helping people understand a brand and its meaning to customers. Don’t hesitate to pull out the data that backs up your brand’s foundations.
Believe it. Employees need to accept the brand and trust that what supports it is true and valid.
Communicate it. Employees must be able to communicate the brand in their own words, not relying on a slogan or mission statement. When people use their own words, their passion for the brand comes across to others.
Live it. Brands are lived out by employees’ words and behaviors. Collectively, these words and behaviors represent a company’s brand and culture.
When a company’s brand is rooted in the Five Foundations, its people are aligned with the brand and can express it to others through their words and behaviors, the brand becomes a “people-powered brand”.