Traditionally, employees have always held a lot of influence on the way brands are perceived, but never more so than today. The stakes are much higher, with the immediacy of being able to share an experience in the social media world, with just a few keystrokes equaling real-time tweets, reviews and rants.
A brand is the sum and substance of every experience customers have with a business. No clever billboard, touching TV commercial or cute YouTube video can measure up to the impact of real-world experiences someone has with a brand.
What this boils down to is that the most important target audience for any company is the people who have the brand on their business cards (or name tags, polo shirts and baseball caps). A healthy corporate culture will breed a wide audience of loyal fans, who will do more to bring in new customers, whether it’s via social media channels or good, old fashioned word of mouth.
The most notable example of a healthy corporate culture is Zappos. Tony Hsieh launched the company and focused relentlessly on culture. He rightly believed that brand and culture were two sides of the same coin. “If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff—like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers—will happen naturally on its own,” Hsieh said. He put his money where his mouth was.
Rather than instituting a fancy marketing plan, Zappos put a structured plan in place, including a hiring practice involving multiple rounds of interviews, an intensive four-week training program, and a stint for every employee (regardless of department or job title) fielding customer calls.
In an effort to ensure that everyone who clocks in at the company would truly buy in to its culture, Hsieh offered a $2,000 “bonus” to anyone who wished to quit during the training period. This translated to the 99 percent of new employees who stayed on board solidly demonstrating their commitment.
Before putting some of your budget toward an external branding campaign, consider whether your efforts might be better focused in the HR department, revamping your benefits package or bonus system. Be sure to nurture a culture that corrects (or rejects) employees who operate outside the brand promise.
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