Your corporate culture can have a significant effect on how consumers perceive your brand and their willingness to believe your brand promise. In simplest terms, if your corporate culture runs counter to the perceptions you want consumers to have of your brand, then you're in big trouble. That means, if you don't live your brand promise internally or if you live the brand promise internally but consumers don't see or believe it, your brand development efforts will be limited. In fact, those efforts could do more harm than good.
Remember, when consumers believe your brand is inconsistent, they become confused and turn away from it in search of an alternative that does consistently meet their expectations for it.
Consumer perceptions of your brand hold more weight than the realities about your brand. It's your job to understand what existing consumer perceptions of your brand are and to create messages that help to correct inaccurate perceptions and nudge those perceptions in the right direction. It doesn't matter what you know about your brand and corporate culture -- what consumers perceive about your brand and corporate culture is what matters.
Using the Zappos example discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of the Brand Research and Corporate Culture series, you can see an example of a company that ensures consumers understand what the Zappos corporate culture is, how strongly employees support that culture, and how that culture directly affects consumers through better service. Zappos uses blog posts, videos, Twitter, and more to bring its corporate culture to life for consumers around the world. Stay tuned for more about that in Part 4 of this series.
Conduct External Brand Research to Develop a Corporate Culture
It's critical that you understand what your existing customers and the wider consumer population perceive about your brand and corporate culture. Without that knowledge, you won't know if the messages you're communicating are helping or hurting your company. Fortunately, the social web provides a perfect place to monitor conversations about your brand and to gather informal data about consumer perceptions, but you should conduct formal market research as well to get the full story.
Begin by surveying your existing customers to gather insights related to their perceptions of your brand and corporate culture. Following are some sample questions you can use in your survey:
- What does our brand promise to you?
- Why do you choose our brand over others?
- What feelings are evoked when you hear our brand name or see our logo?
- Which adjectives would you use to describe our brand?
- Which adjectives would you use to describe our competitor?
- What is our brand not delivering to you that you want?
- How would you describe our brand to another person?
- Which words describe our corporate culture?
- Do you think employees are happy working at our company?
- Would you like to work at our company? Why or why not?
Next, you should survey the broader consumer population to determine how they perceive your brand and corporate culture as well as how they perceive the brand they purchase instead of yours. Sample questions could include many of the branding and corporate culture questions listed above as well as the following:
- Which brand do you buy instead of ours?
- What does that brand promise to you?
- Why do you choose that brand instead of ours?
- What words describe that brand?
- What feelings does that brand evoke when you see its name or logo?
- What is that company's corporate culture like?
- Do you think employees are happy working at that company?
- Would you want to work for that company? Why or why not?
Again, you need to learn about consumer perceptions, not facts. You must analyze the results of your surveys from a detached perspective or your own feelings are likely to cloud the results. You won't be able to create a corporate culture that becomes a strategic advantage if you misconstrue or ignore the results from your brand research.
In Part 4 of the Brand Research and Corporate Culture series, you'll learn more about analyzing your brand research results and implementing your findings in order to develop a corporate culture that can coexist with your brand promise. If you missed previous parts of this series, follow the links below to read them now:
Image: Nick Cowie, TopRankBlog