During childhood, we've all heard Cinderella's tale. She meets the Prince, she runs away, she looses her little glass slipper. So the Prince sends his guards to try the slipper to every young lady in town. The problem is no one could fill in the shoe. No lady could fill in the promise.
Sometimes we find companies that take their marketing to such an extreme that they end up disconnecting their marketing message from what they are, the identity they reflect with their product or service offering so that when customers get to the company there is a deep disappointment. Ads are created by Agencies who imagine the ideal message to attract new customers, but they never step in the company to meet and understand the people that are at the core of the client's organization. There is an enormous gap between the promise in the marketing message and the actual product or service delivered.
I believe the key to solving this problem is going back to leadership and corporate culture.
In previous columns here, (see "Organizational Culture meets Porn" and "It's the Culture, Stupid!") I've identified five leadership roles needed to create and make the corporate culture thrive. These are setting up a dream, a vision, for the company; taking care of people and organizing them so that they live according to certain values; communicating and connecting ideas, emotions and actions to what they really are; establishing a decision-making system that empowers every person in the organization to move towards the dream respecting core values and behaviors; and finally, creating and actively managing the corporate culture. Through these roles and activities certain emotions are created, such as a sense of purpose, passion, hope, trust, pride and other positive states of mind. And it is through these emotions that both individual and group performances get boosted, multiplying results.
What happens if we replace the words "leadership and culture" with the word "brand" in above paragraph?
This is the message you get: "A brand needs to provide a vision, a dream. A brand needs to genuinely take care of the people, with a promise of values, and keeping those values. It needs to communicate, to create connection and then connection builds trust, both through ideas, emotions and actions; a brand drives a decision-making system that pursues the dream, respecting the core values and behaviors. And through those propositions or actions, a brand generates emotions like pride, sense of belonging, passion, hope, trust and other positive states of mind."
The corporate culture is the heart of your brand; and a brand builds culture.
As Americus Reed -- Professor at the Wharton School -- says, your brand loyalty becomes identity loyalty. For customers of companies like Apple, Harley Davidson or Nike, the choice of the brand is part of who they are! This is why they don't switch that easily, because it would mean changing their identity. And what about employees of these companies? Well, it is the same thing. The brand becomes part of who they are, so they would rarely switch to work for the competition for, say a 15 percent or 20 percent salary increase!
What are the implications for your organization and mental framework? You need to think about employees and customers as the two ends of one integrated ecosystem. They both share the same brand identity; they are both fans, only with different roles. When you look at it from the inside, you call this corporate culture. When you look at it from the outside, it is branding. There is a correspondence between the way they feel and the way they look at the brand, and a consistency of who they are and how they behave. When companies describe themselves in a way they are not, the one thing you can expect to occur is customer disappointment. The same thing as with the Cinderella tale happens: the shoe matched the true inner heart of a princess, and that's why the shoe would only fit her foot.
Therefore, are you communicating who you really are? Are you communicating a promise that you actually deliver? Does your brand fit you like Cinderella's glass slipper? Your corporate culture has to be the heart of your brand. If it is not, you should work on it before your competitor does and takes away your customers and employees alike.