Inside our brand DNA

Last week Bridge celebrated 10 years in business, and in that time I have seen an industry come alive across the UK and globally. We are often so struck by the latest gadget launch or advancement in technology that we forget the advancements in how we view people and brand.

From my early days when call centres became contact centres, all the way through to today’s explosion of social media, new terminology and new ideas – it has been quite a journey. Bridge’s timeline is only 10 years in length and in that time the Bridge brand has acquired so many wonderful experiences to tell as part of its brand story. What stories sit inside the timelines of some of our more established institutions? If the walls could talk…. or can they?

Over the past few days I have be researching storytelling and how this can be better used in emotionally connecting our people to our brand story. I am looking for great examples of companies that instil pride, passion and purpose as part of their employee engagement strategy. This comes at a great time as Scott Northcutt, Senior VP of HR for Bacardi speaks at our June 2nd BridgeTalks. Here is an amazing example of a brand that uses its proud history wisely, as both part of its active customer marketing and as part of building its internal culture.

Bacardi is the world’s largest privately held spirits company and the word ‘passion’ is very much part of the Bacardi brand story and culture, as well as being one of their brand values. This started me thinking about the word and its true meaning. Bacardi’s global campaign ‘untameable’ is an amazing example of how passion has been a driving force behind the brand since its beginning. One ad says: ‘Earthquakes, fires, exile, prohibition – sorry fate – you picked the wrong family.’ It takes viewers on a roller coaster ride through history, showing tipping points that would have ended its journey if not for the true grit and passion of its owners to survive.

We often think of words like ‘innovation’ as looking to the future. This is an amazing word to run along your brand’s timeline, pulling out those moments in its journey that exemplify that value. Values are not just words for today – they should be part of your brand’s DNA. It is not the job of management or marketing to make up values so they are fit for purpose. It should be viewed through both the eyes of an historian and futurologist as these values make up your brand personality and are the greatest driver of your employee culture.

Looking back to Bacardi and the word passion, as one of its values it can openly share its story on how this strong emotion had driven success and its people throughout its proud history. At Bridge we use the phrase ‘turning wordings into actions’ and talk about this in either our present and future states, however a wonderful exercise in building a brand story is to run this over the brand time line. Pulling out great stories of when the brand has overcome challenges and diversity. We all come with a few scars, but the things that make us human are the stories we can tell. If brands are alive, then the stories that they tell surely make up part of their brand DNA and act as learning points for its future.

Bridge Talks: Hamish Pringle on Brand & Culture

On Tuesday, 14 April Hamish Pringle joined the BridgeTalk community at the Courthouse Hotel in Soho to present ‘Engaging Employees with Brand and Culture’.

To begin his talk, Hamish tackled the question: Why engage employees? He explained that with more points of contact available through social media and contact centres, these days more employees are at the front line of an organisation, and therefore employees are directly related to a leading factor in retaining loyal customers.

Exploring the relationship between brand and culture, Hamish defined brands as not being rigid; each person builds his or her own experience and perception around a brand. As such, a brand exists uniquely differently to each person and so is owned by people as an intangible promise in the customer’s mind.

“Very often employees are absolutely crucial in achieving that. They are crucial in conveying that promise and then in keeping it,” said Hamish.

Hamish used the example of Tesco’s ‘Every Little Helps’ campaign as a best practice brand promise. In the early days, all business decisions in Tesco were taken with the frame; ‘does this help the customer?’ However, as time went by, this promise was broken and 53% of its market cap was lost in a short period of time. Now, Tesco’s new Chief Executive, Dave Lewis (formerly of Unilever) is in search of Tesco’s DNA, to find what made it successful.
“We know what it is, it’s ‘Every Little Helps’. And unfortunately I suspect that they are going to come up with something else, which won’t be as good, and they will lose that enormous brand heritage they’ve invested millions and millions of pounds in, which all their employees, all their staff all understand deeply,” said Hamish.

Next, Hamish talked about culture; ‘the way we do things around here’. He said, at the heart of culture is brand story, and culture depends upon brands having a coherent, well-articulated story. A great story can orient all employees together, unifying them to one direction.

“The single most important thing [a leader] have to do, is they have to have a great story, and they have to tell it brilliantly, and they have to never tire of telling it. And if they are a walking, talking brand ambassador, and culture generator, that’s the most powerful thing that a company can have,” said Hamish.

It is by creating a self-confident organisation, which is confident in itself and in which its employees are self-confident, that an organisation can find success. Hamish stated that a brand promise needs to be crystalized in its mission, vision and values; and this needs to be embedded and lived within the organisation. Leadership needs to communicate the brand story to employees and internal and external values need to be aligned; which means recruiting on attitudes and values as well as skills in order for employees to fit into the culture of the organisation. Staff should be fluent in the brand story; good advertising can create a language helps engage employees. It is also important that defined powers of decision-making are given to brand ambassadors in order to make discretionary decisions in the customer’s favour. Doing all this creates a self-confident organisation, where brand and culture are brought together most successfully.

“If employees are given the information as to what counts as good service in their particular market, for their particular business, their particular brand; and if they understand why the expectations are less than 100% and where the areas of weakness are; and if they’re empowered to address those areas of weakness, and if they just simply know about them, I think there’s a much greater chance that they will then deliver and manage people’s expectations and over-deliver against good service. So that’s how you get a great customer experience. That’s how you get the customer delight that we keep hearing about,” Hamish said.

In summary, Hamish put it simply:
Why engage employees?
It makes for a better, more successful and profitable business.
What is a brand?
A promise that has to be created, conveyed and kept. What is a culture? A natural fit between the staff and the brand story, living in a narrative that is completely engrossing.
What is a self-confident organisation?
One where staff are aligned, and able to ad-lib, express themselves around the narrative that has been delivered by the leadership.

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