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Killer Culture

How to cultivate and nurture a killer brand culture

At Notepad, we help startups succeed, endure and prosper in the most unforgiving and competitive of markets around the world. Over the course of the next few blogs our strategy team shall be exploring the ins and outs of building, sustaining and safeguarding a killer ‘Brand Culture’.

We have taken inspiration from two interesting topics, 1. the secret behaviours of killer whales and 2. the defining strategies of kick ass brands. We are marrying these together revealing some key insights whilst discussing why it is so essential for our clients to invest in brand culture – early on and for the duration of their startup’s’ lifetime. 

Notepad’s exploration of ‘Brand Culture’ starts now, all aboard!

Our point of departure

A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s a gut feeling because we’re all emotional, intuitive beings, despite our best efforts to be rational. Culture is defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. In essence, brand culture the foundation stone upon which we build our values and personality traits – the core most attributes that set us apart in our world.

Brand culture is defined as the inherent DNA of the brand and values that governs every brand experience, brand expression, interaction with the customers, employees, and other stakeholders of the company along with every touch point. It is the culture formulated and defined by the company in which the employees live the core values of the brand to solve problems of the customers, make strategic and fruitful decisions, and deliver a high quality and branded customer experience externally.   

Therefore, If you can bring your brand culture to life in a tangible, impactful and meaningful way, you will burn distinctive thoughts and feelings deep into your customer’s psyche. Over time, your customer’s align with the behaviours of your brand, creating a valuable culture that is easily shared and widely championed. Remember, that brand culture is the bond and sense of belonging that you create between your people, your customers and your business. Work hard and the bond’s strength grows, leave it to the wind and a culture gap widens.

Sail away with me honey

On our journey to creating some of the most forward thinking and provoking brand strategies, we always include a quote from the book by Chan Chin – Blue Ocean Strategy to inspire our clients to rise to the new ambition we set out to craft together for their brand in the brand strategy phase.

As a quick recap, a blue ocean strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and at low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand. It is about creating and capturing an uncontested space in the market thereby making the competition irrelevant.

Blue oceans are expansive places, inhabited by the biggest animals and the best businesses. To survive here, you must have a killer instinct, stemming from a culture that is perfected overtime and passed on through generations. One species in the natural world has mastered this transcendence of culture in an impressive way.

Interestingly, scientists in California, USA have found that Killer Whales (AKA Orcas) are so intelligent that they have evolved and developed a number of complex cultures that enable researchers to distinguish one Orca pod from another. They use a suite of behaviors to learn from one another, passing on the skills required to survive and thrive in the wildest places on earth. 

Evidence even goes as far to suggest that their a pod’s distinct culture can shape how they sound, what and how they feed, what they do for fun/ their personalities, or even how they choose their mates. It seems that, culture amongst these animals is the very fabric that keeps their behaviours consistent and predictable over many generations. It makes things more the transfer of skills instinctive and effortless. 

Moment of breaking insight and a shattering new perspective

By taking these findings and applying them to a business mindset, we can nurture a killer brand culture. We can create systems of communication, brand education and learning easy, affordable and beneficial to the business in the long-term. Brand culture is the most cost effective way of operating in the short-term and scaling growth in the future. 

And so, it would be foolish to not invest early in laying solid foundations upon which to build your brand and business. The later a business delays brand culture and guardianship, the harder it will be to recruit the right people to realise your mission, the tougher it will be to position the business in new markets and the more costly (time/ money) it will be to change the perceptions of your customers.

If you do not maintain and evolve your culture internally, your business will slowly drift away from the people’s idea of what you stand for externally. Brand culture work is about brand fine-tuning and zig-zagging as and when it is needed to keep the bond strong, the racing line tight and your influence impactful both internally and externally. If ignored, your brand’s culture will flap, flounder and falter. 

Establishing key coordinates and claiming the uncontested space

Anchor point 1 – A business’s internal culture must mirror the external culture for any business to survive and thrive long-term. Treat your customers and employees equally.

Anchor point 2 – To make the competition irrelevant you have to go places where no other business can follow you to – culture helps you find your unique, authentic and ownable position in the market. The challenge lies in staying there.

Anchor point 3 – Culture is built overtime and must be in a constant state of evolution. It’s not something people can memorise, but a way of behaving that is instinctive and consistent.

Anchor point 4 – Culture is the best way to differentiate your brand from any other market player. Be yourself and no one else, be resilient and patient. Brand culture takes time to build, and creates bonds that are hard to break.

Homeward bound

As most will know by now, branding in its most simplest of definitions is about creating, maintaining and owning a consistent image and distinctive meaning in the minds of customers. In a nutshell, by having a killer brand culture, businesses can consistently and effortlessly distinguish themselves from the competition. To do this, brands must be unrelenting in their pursuit of a space that is uncontested and uncharted. The best way to ensure consistency is to foster a culture that is authentic, inspiring and easy to apply everyday.

In summary, A brand culture is a vast and complex web of communication and shared meaning. When mastered, brand culture can enable anyone (internally and externally) to learn and then live by these principles set in stone by the business. For any brand to stand a chance of success, it must have a set of beliefs and behaviours that are simple to replicate, champion and advocate for by anyone, anywhere.

Land ahoy, entering the harbour

At Notepad, we have been developing a brand new culture creation process that involves 6 essential steps/ checkpoints; 1. Brand culture definition workshop, 2. Auditing all the brand experience touchpoints, 3. Hire people that embody traits and values of your brand, 4. Reward and recognise those who realise it, 5. Encourage and endorse culture champions and 6. Stick to your brand promise, embark on a journey of brand guardianship.

Get in touch with the team at Notepad Studio if you think you need help defining your brand culture and or would like us to implement our new culture creation process in your business. 

Put your brand in the hands of those who can safeguard it and your people and your customers will love you for it.

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