ATYPICAL

Which Came First: the Brand or the Culture?

By Amanda Bowen
The classic chicken and egg, but this time, the brand. After all, the authentic brand must reflect the company culture...but the culture must live up to the brand. Hence the constant run-around about what to build first: company brand or company culture? 

The classic chicken and egg, but this time, the brand. After all, the authentic brand must reflect the company culture...but the culture must live up to the brand. Hence the constant run-around about what to build first: company brand or company culture? 

The sauce behind brand culture

Brand culture is this special mix of attitudes and beliefs held by the company-at-large and its team members. This culture shapes the brand experience customers have and influences your community reputation. 

We know a thriving brand culture is essential for attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry. The best employees are happy ones that feel like they belong to the company and have total buy-in to the mission. A strong and authentic culture also draws in customers. It’s like that cliché belief, “when you feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside.”

Brand first or culture first?

From a startup perspective, brand and culture go hand-in-hand from day one. 

When a company begins, it has one, two, or maybe three people at the helm. Besides building an exceptional product, one of the earliest administrative tasks startups do to launch is building a brand identity. Having an outside guide like ATYPICAL can be an asset to creating the right brand from the beginning.

New companies are creating a company value system they go through the branding process. This identity is crucial to your first marketing efforts, which is why pops up in early days. You shouldn’t start marketing without having a brand established. 

As its first workers, you’re also establishing the culture you want. Initial employees will match your level of intensity, work ethic, and personality. Even if the founders aren’t consciously aware of their choice, they are trying to hire people to match into the internalized value system. As the brand grows and evolves with the company, every new hire must fit into the culture you’re trying to build.

The conclusion is as startups move through the branding process, they are equally establishing the work culture and company values. Putting the company values down into the first branding documents simplify clarifies your culture goals. 

What if you need to pivot the culture?

Sometimes companies reach a point when they realize the culture isn’t what they set out to achieve. Maybe they’re seeing low retention or gaining poor feedback from their employees. Maybe the company’s services are changing, and that necessitates a culture change through branding. Or they’ve realized their first branding efforts were done poorly and they’re truly tacking the process for the first time. Whatever the reason, sometimes a change in company culture is necessary after the brand has been established.

Start by asking current employees to participate in the rebranding process. You’ll need internal buy-in to make the rebranding and culture shift a success. Most employees do want the companies they work for to succeed. They also want to be heard, so adding some internal voices throughout the process builds positive culture.

Encourage lots of team discussions about where the current culture is versus where the company wants the culture to go.

Once a new culture and brand identity have been established, make clear to all employees what will be changing. Everyone needs a concrete understanding of the new culture expectations and how the business processes coming online will work to support the new culture.

Launch the rebrand. Hire all new employees to match the desired culture. The fresh faces help support the culture shift.

Just like your brand reputation, a strong workplace culture must be consistently cultivated. The brand and culture work in tandem. Who you are inside must be reflected with the company’s vision and external messaging. 

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