As a passionate 30-year tenured agency owner and branding expert who has walked the halls and worked with some of America’s great companies like Apple, Google, Nordstrom and many others, I wish I really grasped the importance of Brand Culture many moons ago. And I don’t mean culture through the employee lens, I mean Brand Culture that connects the strategic brand foundation to the customer and employee experience in a holistic manner. As our company has evolved, we have found that this is the key to really helping brands win and is more important today than ever.
When I first started working with brands big and small, trying to help them get bigger and better, we solely focused on the external expression of brand. Why did we do this? Coming out of college into the marketing business, I was fascinated by brand creative and after a few years later became very interested in how brands are formulated and used for competitive advantage. We spent so much time trying to find smart and creative ways to get customers to fall in love with our client’s brands, we ignored the real connection to the company and employees. As a result, in those early days we failed as much as we succeeded.
The key missing ingredient I have learned—and now my agency lives—is to ensure brands are built inside out. This ensures that the first audience you need to be passionate about your brand is your own employees. If they are all aligned and excited, they will help companies with even average offerings succeed. And once you can connect that empowered workforce to your customers and next set of customers you create a tribe of people who will refer others to work for you, and clients will come freely through referral.
A focus on the internal brand is the secret to making business succeed in the modern era, and also a must for long-term survival at a time when businesses face so much change. This is why companies like Airbnb, Facebook and Patagonia have so many people that want to work for them and lines of customers around the block or in virtual stores wanting their products.
As an agency owner I have also paid the price for our own negligence at times. This is a very tough business so why make it harder? We recently went through our own rebrand of Liquid and practiced what we preach, engaging our employees in the design of the future state of our brand. Now we are working hard to connect a motivated workforce to our customer tribe based on the new landscape we see in our own definition of Brand Culture. We know this will be the key to the next decade of success at Liquid. In the end we are a group of Brand Culture Makers who are passionate about building brands that matter.
Scott Gardner is CEO of Liquid Agency