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How to marry culture and brand in the age of transparency


How to marry culture and brand in the age of transparency


There are two main reasons why building brands is harder today than it’s ever been: transparency and noise. Ruth Rowan on culture, story and authenticity.

Ruth Rowan (002)The world today is more transparent than ever before. Your clients talk about you on social media. Your employees talk about you on Glassdoor and other sites. So when you talk about your brand and your company’s value proposition, you have to be true to yourself, as you’re immediately vulnerable if you’re pretending to be something you’re not.

People see through messages that don’t have substance. According to Forrester research, only 10% of people trust online ads, and just 32% believe what they read on corporate websites.

You can’t say you’re one thing and be another, like a ‘health food’ brand that’s low in fat but full of sugar.

We’re also living in a world that’s incredibly noisy. More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race. We perform 40,000 search queries every second on Google alone, and Facebook users send over 31 million messages every minute according to Forbes big data research.

So, today, it’s important that our brands are built on clear, consistent, and credible foundations.


Make culture your differentiator

The technology sector is an example of a very crowded marketplace, with virtually no room left to differentiate on products and features.

And although automation is increasing, the types of complex, global IT services services companies like Dimension Data provide, are really delivered by people. Trust is built with clients, through people. Relationships are built with employees and future employees; again: people.

So, understanding your culture, ensuring you protect and build it, and can clearly articulate it is critical. It’s the way to differentiate your brand in a crowded, global marketplace.

Put another way, corporate values like client centricity, and personal and professional excellence – along with learning and leadership programmes – are key marketing assets.


Be relentless in communicating the ‘why’ of your brand

For years we’ve all been building brands by telling customers what we do and how we do it, pointing out all the reasons why we’re different and better than the next company.

But as Simon Sinek, marketing consultant and author of  the best-selling Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action says, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ – your brand belief.

You can’t ‘logic’ people into connecting with you – they’re overloaded by logic already. But people will connect emotionally with brands built on why, if your motivating belief inspires them.

Forrester found that emotion – how an experience of the brand makes a customer feel – contributed most to customer loyalty in 17 out of 18 industries.

Emotional connections create long-lasting relationships with a brand that go far beyond anything you can achieve by marketing yourself on features and benefits.


Make storytelling work for you by being authentic

Alignment of culture and brand proposition – having the same set of values and beliefs inside and out – is what makes a brand authentic.

It means you can tell the same story to employees, customers, and investors – one which is consistent with how they experience the brand. And because everything’s aligned, the stories ring true.

Airbnb does this very well. Its brand is built on the belief that you can feel you belong anywhere. It’s a theme that runs through the video stories told by their hosts, guests, and employees.

We use storytelling to celebrate our people and our clients – and others we admire because they represent what we believe in. Our Believe in Greatness program features the Connected Conservation rhino conservation programme that we’re involved in. We work with Amaury Sport Organisation – the owners of the Tour de France – to constantly improve the viewing experience for cycling fans, broadcasters, and media around the world.


The winning formula for building a brand in the age of transparency

  • Cultivate your culture so your people want to give your clients a great experience of your brand,
  • align what you stand for in the market with your internal values, and
  • tell authentic stories to build an emotional connection with your brand.



Ruth Rowan is group marketing executive at Dimension Data

Image copyright: fotovika / 123RF Stock Photo


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