Aligning brand and culture

Why take a culture-based approach to branding?

There are as many approaches to branding as there are branding books. Which is a ton. Some methods appeal to emotion, to our evolutionary biology, and to our need for data. There are manuals for how to use stories, archetypes, and consumer research. But there isn’t much about you. We have started using a culture-based branding approach to remedy that. 

Luckily, we didn’t have any experience when we started Bullhorn. We could listen to our clients and match what they were saying with observable trends in the market. We didn’t have the baggage of a particular approach or way of thinking. We have become convinced that if we understand and articulate our client’s brand, the resulting work will be compelling, enduring, and effective. Here are three reasons we came to this conclusion. 

Your culture is your biggest asset

We don’t do crisis branding. Though, I am sure it is lucrative. The companies we work with have been successful. They want us to help evolve their brand for the next phase of growth. Because of their success, they have inherent value in their people and processes. The brand shouldn’t aim at an imagined archetype or a data set. The brand should represent the people that have made the company vibrant. Our job is to understand you and help you put your best foot forward. Not to make you into something else. We are more like barbers than plastic surgeons.

Branding enables cultural transparency

Consumers expect transparency. It is table stakes for business. If your external brand does not align with your culture, consumers will perceive that as a lack of transparency and assume the worst. A friend told me a story about seeing a Burger King rebrand and new advertising campaign. He was excited by the edgy ads and assumed that meant the food was getting an overhaul. But, it was an underwhelming experience when he entered the restaurant. Specifically, he said, “it was the same crappy food served by people who didn’t want to be there.” His experience did not align with external brand assets (a commercial in this case). He said he would never go back. 

People want to do business with people

The last reason you should consider a culture-based approach to branding is related to a technology change. Historically, there were one or two ways to broadcast messages to customers. The best advice in this environment is to be mechanically repetitive. There are now dozens of channels to talk with (not just to) consumers. You can show your humanity and resonate with customers on a personal level. 

As a consumer, I want to do business with a person, not a monolith. For example, no one really loves chatbots. However, I recently got custom sweatshirts made. I was a first-time customer and had no idea if I submitted my art correctly. I hesitantly clicked the chat and was delighted. The person was so helpful and engaging that I offered to send them a sweatshirt, even though it took several minutes to figure out what I had done incorrectly. 

Your culture is unique. You might be interesting or boring or smart or fun. Whatever it is, the ideal customer is out there looking for you. Show off. If you want help bringing your culture to your brand's front, call us.

Brad Flowers
Brad Flowers
Founding Partner

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