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Part 3 in our series on branding


Brand from withinNormally when we talk about branding, we are thinking about the perceptions our customers have of our company, products and services. This is right, but not enough. It leaves out one very important constituency: your company team.

The perceptions and motivations of your staff are just as important as those of your customers. In fact, you can’t brand to the outside world without first branding on the inside. Because, the energy and passion your team brings to realizing your shared company vision directly impacts the customer experience.


Company Culture & Brand

What does it feel like to work at your company? Is it loud or quiet? Funny or serious? Are people excited to come in to work, or are they counting the hours until 5 pm Friday comes? Does your company merely make products or is it changing the world? Does your company live to make profits or to help people? Is there a sense of shared vision? If you asked every individual person why your company exists, would they all say the same thing? Would they be excited to talk about it, or bored?

I’m willing to bet that if you asked anyone what type of company they’d like to work for, they’d agree on the following description:

  • It’s fun to work here.
  • Our company is doing something important for people.
  • I am excited and passionate about the purpose of our company – our reason for being. I’m here because I believe in the mission of the company.
  • So is everyone else I work with here.
  • Our company values us – we are listened to, our ideas are thoughtfully considered and implemented, and we are treated and compensated fairly.
  • Our company appreciates us. We are recognized and thanked for our contributions regularly.
  • Our company empowers us to do what we think is right and to try new things in support of our customers and our mission.
  • Everyone here is devoted to delighting our customers, and our customers really appreciate all we do.
  • We work hard and we play hard. We love what we do.
  • It’s like “family” here.

Imagine how energetic and inspiring a workplace this company is. Who wouldn’t want to work here? And, do you think all this positive energy would transfer over from the company team to the customers? Of course it would. Even if staff don’t have direct contact with customers, consider the product. If your team lovingly crafts the product to ensure top quality and usability, the customer’s experience of using the product will reflect this loving attention to detail. The opposite is also true – a product poorly made by apathetic employees will provide a poor user experience for the customer.

It’s clear then that how your team feels inside the company directly affects how your customers feel about your company, products and services. And, how your customers feel is what your brand is truly all about.


Syncing Culture & Brand

Your brand is the expression of your culture. If you have a dull, lifeless culture, your brand will follow suit. Similarly, if your culture is vivacious, gregarious and passionate, your brand will be too.

Of course, this isn’t automatic. Just because you have an energized internal culture doesn’t mean your brand identity – logo, typography, colors, imagery, packing, etc. – express that energy. Similarly, you might have the most fashion-forward and energetic look for your brand, courtesy of a high-priced design agency. But if your sales and customer service staff don’t reflect the same aesthetic and energy, and if your products and services don’t live up to the energy of your brand, then you’ll end up with a brand disconnect. In other words, the customer experience of your brand will not be consistent across all touch points. In this case, your graphics say one thing, but your people and offerings say another.

So while many, or perhaps most, companies start with external branding first, this is backwards. You need to start from the inside first, from your company’s very core, to craft your culture. Your brand will then extend from this foundation.


Crafting Your Culture: Start by asking, “Why?”

Crafting your culture starts with articulating your reason for being, or as leadership consultant Simon Sinek calls it, your “Why?”. And while business school may have taught us that companies are in business to make a profit, profit is simply the result of doing something well. What is that something? And why are you doing it?

Simon Sinek succinctly explains this elemental concept in this TED Talk, viewed over 11.8 million times since he gave the talk in 2009:

Example: Indiegogo

Indiegogo is the crowdfunding site that created crowdfunding for entrepreneurs before the better known Kickstarter entered the scene. One day in 2007, the founders were lamenting the fact that there was no easy way for people with a business idea to get funding. It is notoriously hard to get funds from investors, banks or grant-writing organizations. So these enterprising guys hatched a dream – to create a site where would-be entrepreneurs could easily connect with would-be investors anywhere in the world. Not venture capitalists, but ordinary people with a few dollars to contribute to something they believe in as much as the would-be entrepreneurs do. And so, with, crowdfunding for entrepreneurs was born.

The Indiegogo founders didn’t start their business simply to make a profit (though I’m sure they’d love to make one). They didn’t found their business simply to create a crowdfunding site. They did found their business to pursue a belief, that entrepreneurs with a dream should have an unrestricted way to get funding from anyone who believes in what the entrepreneurs are trying to build. This is what inspires the Indiegogo team to come into work every day. And this democratization of investment funding is at the heart of the Indiegogo external brand too. (Learn more about Indiegogo’s passion in the Inc. Magazine Article here» )

Indiegogo’s dream in its own words:



An email I recently received for a campaign I myself helped fund through Indiegogo:

Email from Indiegogo


Both the Indiegogo website and this email demonstrate the “Why?” that drives the passion of the Indiegogo team.

The “Why?” is what will attract like-minded potential employees to join you in your mission. It is also what will get like-minded customers to embrace your brand and buy from you, instead of from your competitors who offer the exact same product or service. In a sea of me-too commodity products (or against technically superior products), brand always wins. (Just ask Apple.) A winning brand always starts with a winning culture. And that culture always starts by asking this simple question: “Why?”



Culture is so important to building a brand (and rebranding too) that we will talk more about building a winning culture in the next post in this series on branding.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.




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