Your brand is a promise made or unmade by your own people

Andy Harvey (Creative Director) shares some practical advice for companies looking to nurture culture and why the culture your people live every day is what makes or breaks your brand promise.

Your brand is a promise made or unmade by your own people

No matter how well-designed their stores or well-crafted their adverts, if people at Nike stop wanting to unleash everyone’s inner athlete, the swoosh loses its power. What happens if Apple stops wanting to dent the universe? Why fly Virgin if the fun is gone?

The culture your people live every day is what makes or breaks your brand promise. It’s the foundation on which they deliver your products, create your next innovation and make your customers feel valued. It can help attract the best talent and keep them with you through difficult times. It’s what brings your people together. Weak cultures corrode strong brands.


Creating a living culture

At Moving Brands, our work is guided by a simple conviction: brands should be built to thrive in today’s constantly changing world. This ensures the experiences we make connect people to the promises brands make. It’s also why we build living identities that are flexible and resilient enough to meet the moving world.

In 2015, we worked with a growing business to help unite its brand after several acquisitions. Once a new vision for the company emerged, it became clear that success would require people from several continents and with fiercely independent cultures to come together. A new identity would help them but what they really needed was a living culture to partner a living brand.

To get there, we had to uncover the genuine strengths in the existing companies and knit them together into a culture that everyone could recognise. Our client eloquently stated that one of the reasons many rebrandings often fail is because they’re not built on authenticity. ‘You might want to be George Clooney, but the reality is, you’d better have some foundation for that or it’s not going to be real.’

Here’s what we learned along the way:

The leadership had previously asked everyone at the business to be committed to change, expecting everyone to show their support, but no one knew what they were signing up for. We encouraged our stakeholders to speak to their people and listen. What they discovered was a stifling lack of direction — a new mission had to be big enough and bold enough to unite everyone behind.

The lesson: invite everyone in, make them part of your journey and keep them on that journey with you. Share the ups and downs, communicate honestly and listen.

The actions of leaders are highly visible. The leaders of the company and the acquired company were a big influence on their respective cultures. By vocally acknowledging the strengths they saw in each other’s culture and the role culture plays in achieving their vision, they set the tone for people to collaborate and partner with one another.

The lesson: positive change can easily be undone by leaders that appear to play by a different set of rules.

To ensure the company culture didn’t stagnate after the new brand was launched, we brought together people from all parts of the business into a council and asked them how they could grow their culture. They identified that people want freedom in how they operate, should partner instinctively and be inspired; the council’s real strength is their ability to continually find ways to grow this mindset over time.

The lesson: A strong culture needs to grow and adapt as the business does. Grow your culture to be as resilient and flexible as the world it lives in.

Let’s be honest, few people like being told what to do. Drawing inspiration from innovators like Nike and Pixar, we challenged the council to find ways that would ensure that innovation and partnership were intrinsic to the company’s daily life — exploring everything from team dynamics to spatial design.

The lesson: Make culture felt in as many moments as you can, and it will become an intrinsic part of everything you do.

Find Andy on Twitter or read more insight & perspectives on the moving world here.