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Standing up vs. standing out: how to harness the power of culture

We’ve all seen Simon Sinek’s amazing TED Talk about leading with the “Why.” And if you haven’t, pause right here and go watch it. Then come back and we can continue. Ok, good, you’ve seen it. It basically talks about why you’re in business – not the money part, but the mission part. It’s what you stand for, what you believe in and how your brand builds products or services based around those beliefs. While that’s a simplistic view of a complex matter, it also touches on one of the most critical components of brand success – culture.

Many companies try to categorize culture as employee perks such as video games, happy hours and 24-hour chefs/massages/yoga masters. While those do go a long way for creating a fun environment, culture is something that is rooted much deeper than a deep-tissue massage. It all starts with setting a vision that your team will not only embrace, but bring to life.

Setting the vision

Many companies understand the basics of what it takes to make a profit. The tricky part they face is balancing that with their goal of making a difference. Our client, Enterprise Holdings, does an amazing job of empowering every employee to make a difference in the lives of their customers. Their philosophy of “We Pick You Up” is more than just a positioning statement, it’s an ideal that talks about going above and beyond. They do that for the employees with training programs and incentives, becoming more family focused in their approach to business. They not only share the values that are most important to them, they hold themselves, and every decision they make, to those values. If you want to learn more about how Enterprise was able to activate their culture and turn it into more than $19B in revenue, check out the book, “Driving Loyalty.”

So what’s your vision? Is it to be fiercely innovative? Or maybe it has something to do with the level of quality and luxury you deliver? Whatever your vision is, you need to make it clear, and get your entire company to live it, breathe it and embrace it.

Empowering your internal champions

After you’ve set the vision and your team is on board and excited to live it, it’s time to empower them. There is no greater asset your business can have than an excited and empowered employee. Take Zappos for example. In order to facilitate stronger relationships with customers, they removed call time targets (trying to wrap up a call in x amount of minutes) for the reps. That means genuine conversations can take place, and natural relationships can be built. They also give them discretionary spending for WOW moments – a chance to go above and beyond for any customer. On one occasion a woman who was going to return a pair of shoes forgot to mail them back because she had a death in the family. So the rep actually sent her flowers. When your vision is clear and your employee is empowered, these moments become the norm, and not just the exception.

What are you doing to empower your employees? Do they have the authority to go above and beyond for customers and clients? Are they trained the right way to truly bring that vision to life? Once your employees are empowered, it’s time to get the customer to feel your vision first hand.

Amplifying your external advocates

You’ve most likely heard the term “Brand Promise.” That’s the position your advertising conveys based on the vision you set. It can manifest as a tagline, a campaign or however you normally communicate to your clients and customers. Apple, for example, has brought their vision of being a tech rebel to life through many campaigns, including Think Different and the Crazy Ones. This becomes less product focused and more promise focused – allowing customers to share a deeper sentiment that goes beyond the purchase. This shared vision between brand and consumer creates true advocates. And in today’s marketplace dominated by word-of-mouth and social influence, having advocates on your side is a must.

Apple isn’t the only one who does this right. We’ve helped all of our clients translate their vision into a true brand position. For Resorts World Bimini, we turned their vision of unmatched luxury into a brand promise of “Break Free” that resonates with guests who want more from their getaway than the typical Caribbean resort. Our focus on lifestyle vs. amenity was the key to connecting with a different type of traveler and having them genuinely advocate for our brand on social and digital channels.

Is your brand promise a reflection of your vision? Is it something that resonates with your customers? Does it give them a reason to spread your word? While this is the trickiest piece of harnessing culture, it’s the one that literally translates into dollars. So it’s critical to get this right.

Standing out is easy, it just takes a clever campaign. Standing up as a company based on your culture, well, it may be harder, but it’s what truly creates success. When your vision is clear, when your employees embrace it and your customers feel it, that’s when you create something much more than just marketing —  but a true movement. And that will last far beyond any single ad ever could.