Culture, a way of life! (Part 1)

Whenever I come across the word “culture”, my Social Studies definition quickly leaps to mind. Even in sleep, that simple definition is cast in steep on my mind and with ease I will proudly rattle out the words, “The way of life of a group of people.” Similar to how I can easily rattle out the definition, that’s how companies equally treat their organisational culture. They simply speak of culture and yet its real meaning is not fully understood and applied. It’s just another “chew and pour moment” and not an “understand and apply” moment.

Personally, I should be able to go to any organisation, identify something unique about it and see employees living out those laid down values of the company because each and every employee believes in the shared vision of the company. Recently I attended an Amazon Web Services (AWS) event in Ghana and the words of Bijal Nagrashna has stuck with me since, A company becomes the people it has,” and “The product is the product and the culture is the next 100 products. This concise statement is weighty with meaning on the importance of culture to any organisation.

Branding and culture are like bedfellows in my opinion. They move hand in hand. You cannot therefore have a brand without having culture as the basic building stone. On the hand, having a strong culture which is easily identifiable and unique can create a certain level of brand awareness with customers. Basically we are faced with the chicken and egg question once again!

Leviticia Watts in a Forbes article touches on how a company can achieve competitive advantage by combining the branding strategy and the corporate culture. Failure to do so could affect the internal culture and employee retention and morale which is inevitable. Subsequently any disconnect between the actions of employees and the company’s core values can impact negatively on the company’s reputation and destroy its brand eventually.

With the speed of information and the power of social media, companies cannot ignore the power of their employees.

Leviticia Watts

I have had experiences with two different institutions, very well-known ones I must say where I felt that more work needed to be done on their branding or probably not since in our part of the world we don’t always walk the talk, we just like to talk and spend time talking about the talk.

Their leaders understand that a strong, differentiated company culture contributes to a strong, differentiated brand — and that an extraordinary brand can support and advance an extraordinary culture.

Denise Lee Yohn

The first experience was within the Airport Residential Area, I was driving along that route one weekend when I spotted that the upper floor of this building had been used as a drying line by the Security Man (I am assuming he will be the only one working there over the weekend). Although it was over the weekend I found it to be unprofessional. What would potential customers think if they happen to see this? Will they regard the institution as a serious one? I might probably be judging them too harshly since it was outside working hours but like Bijal said, “The Company is the people” so those attributes unique to the company should have been clearly spelt out even if the individual is not on the company’s direct payroll. External contractors like the security agencies still need to be informed and trained on the basic dos and don’ts of the company. As a customer I won’t come asking whether the person tainting the company’s brand is an employee or not.

My other experience was with a bank (2 different banks), one involved asking a Security Man a question and he had no idea so I had to go in to find out for myself. The second was the worse, I asked if the bank provided a certain service and he responded to the contrary….Knowing my previous experiences I decided to go in to verify for myself and lo and behold! They actually did provide that service. When I exited the place and informed him that he misled me, he quickly apologised and that was it. A potential customer would have just left to another institution thinking that service is not provided by them.

Even employees who never speak to a customer or influence the product need to be in line with the brand’s central attitudes in order to understand the company priorities.

Mindshape

I am not expecting companies to have a week or months long orientation but it’s imperative that at a minimum anyone who can be possibly associated or linked with the brand should have an idea of the company’s culture, the products and services offered and if possible where one is not reasonably expected to retain all this information, know who does what and can easily refer customers to the right people instead of leaving them to their fate. That would be a lost sale! Or a lost opportunity with a potential customer!

These are just a few of my experiences and I suspect some people have had the worst!

Will conclude this first part with a post on Facebook I saw from a friend (the power of social media and its impact on a company’s brand and strategy should not be underestimated). Luckily the name of the institution was not disclosed but based on experiences it seems the banks are the worst culprits.

Excellent Customer Service delivery is everything. Why will a front line staff be chewing gum and be doing “tska,tska” and be serving clients with a wide open mouth in a banking hall? It may be a banking hall today,how do you apply customer service delivery in your line of duty, ministry,school etc. We will surely give an account one day,even if no one reports us,the MASTER EMPLOYER SEES IT ALL!

EAB

Does a company’s culture and brand affect your decision on whether or not to engage with them? Lets get talking. #omtsdigest

ginta-regular

meybi-regular


Further reading

When Brand Strategy and Corporate Culture Collide by Leviticia Watts

Why Your Company Culture Should Match Your Brand by Denise Lee Yohn

What’s the Connection between Company Culture and Brand? By Mindshape

The Role of Company Culture in Business Success by Tracy Lloyd

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