Five ways to create brand culture

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos once said, “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.”

zappos creates brand culture

But this begs the question: how do you get culture right? Give employees free lunch every day? Install a ping-pong table? Have more company-wide meetings? The best answer to getting culture right may be what some executives least expect: through their company’s brand.

Getting culture right through your company’s brand may be a surprising strategy to those who define a brand as a logo and a set of colors. But when you define a brand as a company’s desired reputation, it’s easier to see its potential to impact culture.

Like a domino effect, culture is most powerful when it comes from the inside and radiates out. When culture is powered by brand, that brand has the potential to become more than a driver of customer acquisition and business growth—it has the potential to become something that all employees rally behind because the brand gives them purpose.

In fact, there is nothing more effective than inspiring and engaging employees in a way that results in behaviors that align with the brand. Here are a few ways to infuse brand into culture so that they power each other.

1. Hire those who already embody your brand’s traits

What are the qualities you should be looking for when you hire? Look no further than your brand personality. And when interviewing, be sure to have the right filters with which to evaluate candidates based on brand traits. And when you make an offer, ensure it reflects the brand’s personality and voice too. There’s no better time to infuse brand into culture than during the potential employee’s initial contacts with the company.

2. Infuse the brand into the onboarding process and beyond

Continue the momentum of using brand to influence culture on the most exciting day of a team member’s life at your company—their first. Make sure they understand who the company is, why it’s here, what it does, and how things are done. Maybe your values and vision are displayed prominently on a wall or maybe they’re in a handbook you give to new employees. Either way, they should be both part of the physical workspace and also embodied by fellow employees. Culture powerhouse Zappos created a culture book filled with each employee’s ideas about culture, values, and more—and you don’t have to be an employee to read it.

3. Ensure the way you reward and recognize is tied to brand

It’s important to recognize those who live the brand and to reward them in ways that reflect its desired reputation. In the book, Achieve Brand Integrity: Ten Truths You Must Know to Enhance Employee Engagement by Gregg Lederman, Lederman says, “Employee behaviors that are powered by the brand strategy of the company should be what you encourage others to achieve.” Recently, a large hotel brand had an internal contest to create a new breakfast recipe. Not only was the winner celebrated for their creativity, but they were also invited to the hotel’s grand opening celebration themselves. The brand stands for engagement and spirit and it rewarded the traits it represents.

4. Make sure all communication is done in the brand voice

The brand has a way of speaking that reflects who it is and this voice should be consistently carried out, whether through internal communications or through external ones. That said, employees should never be talked at by the brand—rather they should be spoken with. To infuse brand into culture, the brand should be part of a continuing conversation—not a one-way lecture. Brand storytelling does not exist in a silo, only to be written by those hired to do just that. Often the best brand storytelling is unintentional; it’s created by employees who are truly invested in the brand and live it in their daily work.

5. Remember that actions matter more than words

You can’t be a brand that stands for fun, for instance, if you never give your employees a party—even if you always speak to end consumers with a witty voice. And if your company has a corporate social responsibility program, for example, don’t just talk about it, give employees a day or two a year to go out and participate in it—and have them sign up on their first day in the office. That way they will begin to live exactly what the brand promises from the very beginning.

What a company does—both internally and externally—is a lot more important than what it says. And when it does what it says it does, the magic of culture happens, driving both employee engagement and company growth.

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