Despite the increased discussion about business and organisational culture, too often culture is still equated with benefits and perks. While these two things can become a manifestation of how an organisation values employees, perks and benefits do not define culture. What defines a culture are the purpose and values that act as guidelines for how the company or organisation gets things done. In this way, your company culture should match the brand and vice versa.


HBR contributor and author Denise Lee Yohn wrote:


“If your culture and your brand are driven by the same purpose and values and if you weave them together into a single guiding force for your company, you will win the competitive battle for customers and employees, future-proof your business from failures and downturns, and produce an organization that operates with integrity and authenticity.”


In other words, both your brand and company culture should be unique because every successful business must have it’s own identity. What’s more: How customers are treated will mirror the how employees are treated. And while it might be easy to espouse the desire to deliver the best possible experience to your customers, you also need to define how that experience is delivered.


It all starts, however, by defining the purpose of the organisation, behavioural standards, and how decisions will be made. Businesses that take the time to create clarity in these areas, are able to create alignment between culture and brand, link culture with performance, and turn culture into a strategic brand advantage. Likewise, a mismatch between culture and brand can result in strategic challenges.


Such mismatches can happen in a number of ways, and Yohn cites several examples of brand/culture mismatches. A grocery store that discovered its culture was in conflict with its ability to serve its customer. A software company that allowed lavish benefits eat away at cash flow instead of cultivating passion among employees and “on brand innovations.” Indeed, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even made the recent revelation that a lack of focus and discipline was what had been holding Twitter back. In each case, the employees seemed happy, but the brand relationship with its customers was lacking.


As Yohn put it:


“If your culture and brand are mismatched, you can end up with happy, productive employees who produce the wrong results.”


Not sure your culture and brand are aligned? Here are some questions to serve as a gut check:


  • What is the purpose of our organisation?
  • What values will guide employee behaviour?
  • What is our decision-making process?


Once you’ve answered these brand and culture defining questions, you can take stock of how things are being done within your organisation, how you present the brand and culture to the world, and make adjustments accordingly.