Monday, March 19, 2018

Why Are Brand and Culture Aligned?

There is an internal business component that is critical to success. Denise Lee Yohn analyzes how the alignment of branding and culture leads to business success in her new book entitled, FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies. According to Adam Grant, “Leaders everywhere are trying to build great brands, but few realize how powerfully brands are shaped by the cultures of their organizations.” So, leaders everywhere, ask yourselves, how closely aligned are your brands with your corporate cultures?

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations. (

According to Yohn, Amazon is a perfect example of what she calls a “brand-culture fusion,” which is the full integration and alignment of external brand identity and internal organization culture.” This is because all employees are singularly focused on one thing: excellence on behalf of the customer. “Amazon’s distinctive organizational culture fosters a performance-driven environment that fires up employees to innovate in pursuit of an outstanding, continuously-improving customer experience.”

TWEET THIS: Culture involves so much more than perks and parties, and brands are built by so much more than ads and public relations. ~@DeniseLeeYohn

Yohn explained that “Culture involves so much more than perks and parties, and brands are built by so much more than ads and public relations.” When you think of culture, you may think about a mission statement, a vision statement, or corporate ethics statements. But culture is much more. A leader can walk around the office and talk to employees and know everyone’s pets’ names. Employees can wear nametags with their first names. Company-wide meetings can take place monthly. The alternative can also exist: a culture can be totally nonexistent.

So how can a brand shine as a result of an inspiring culture? Think of Southwest Airlines, the low-cost, no-frills airline. Founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher explained what made Southwest stand apart, “Our competitors can get all the hardware. I mean, Boeing will sell them the planes. But it’s the software, so to speak – the people – that’s hard to imitate.” Southwest’s employees wear colorful uniforms, feature smiles as an important piece of their uniforms, and make every effort to make flying a fun experience. It doesn’t hurt that Southwest’s ads are funny too, “Bags fly free.” Can every airline brand be Southwest? The answer is a resounding NO.

According to Yohn, there are five strategies for aligning brand and culture:
(1) Organize and Operate On-Brand.
(2) Create Culture-Changing Employee Experiences.
(3) Sweat the Small Stuff.
(4) Ignite Your Transformation.
(5) Build Your Brand from the Inside Out.

If those five strategies are implemented, you will have a culture that:
(1) Creates continuity and consistency.
(2) Reduces uncertainty and confusion.
(3) Creates social meaning and order.
(4) Builds a collective identity and commitment that binds employees together.
(5) Produces the capability for customer experience excellence.
(6) Makes possible your vision for the future by energizing your organization and moving it toward your goals.

Since many business experts talk about the customer experience as the key differentiator for the future, an aligned brand and culture will help to improve the overall customer experience. This will lead to an overall positive brand experience.

TWEET THIS: Employee brand engagement is achieved when employees are aligned and involved with the organization’s brand. ~@DeniseLeeYohn

So, “Do you want to align your organization with a single goal so that it is not just productive and efficient but operates with excellence? Do you want to have a truly authentic brand?” If yes, embrace the concept of brand-culture fusion and make alignment your key priority!

Click to take Denise Lee Yohn’s Brand Culture Fusion Assessment:

Click to read more about corporate culture from Inc:

Click to read six components of a great corporate culture from Harvard Business Review:

Friday, March 2, 2018

One Secret to Employee Engagement: The Stay Interview

There's an old saying in business that people don't leave companies, they leave managers or bosses. So how does a company keep quality people? How do you motivate and inspire employees when they tune out or mentally check out? Author and business retention expert Richard P. Finnegan believes the answer is the stay interview, a periodic meeting with individual employees to shed light on any problems while there's still time to address them.

In Finnegan's book entitled, THE STAY INTERVIEW, A MANAGER'S GUIDE TO KEEPING THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST, Finnegan explained, "As one-on-one meetings between leaders and both newly hired and continuing employees, stay interviews reinforce good relationships, forge new ones, and help repair those that are strained. On that small foundation, great companies are built."

What are stay interviews? They are NOT the following:
(1) Team meetings.
(2) Focus groups.
(3) Meetings led by human resources staff.
(4) Annual job performance review meetings.
(5) Haphazardly-scheduled meetings.

"As managers, we get only so many positions, so many "chairs" to fill with people, including ourselves, to produce all the assignments that constitute our jobs. Great managers place total value on all chairs and the people who occupy them to ensure that they perform at their very best...Stay interviews provide the insight to know rather than have to assume if each employee fits correctly, is motivated to give 100 percent, and has intentions to stick around."
Intrigued by the concept of stay interviews? If yes, keep reading. Here are the five questions to ask when conducting stay interviews:

(1) When you come to work each day, what things do you look forward to?
(2) What are you learning here? What would you like to learn?
(3) Why do you stay here?
(4) When was the last time you thought about leaving? What prompted it?
(5) What can I do (as your boss, manager, leader) to make your experience at work better?

There's one more thing you can add to the stay interview template. As a leader, can you make the following request at the end of each stay interview? If yes, you'll have happy, satisfied, long-term employees:

"(Add name of employee here), you're going to have some tough days here because I might be difficult, our team will have conflicts, or management will run us in circles. When those days happen, you might decide to look for another job. So here is my offer. If you ever decide to start looking, I want you to promise that you will come tell me on that day. And my promise to you is I will make every effort to make our company a place where you want to stay. But if you ever place an envelope on my desk that tells me you're leaving and we haven't talked about it before, you've broken the deal."
Employees will always search for new horizons, but wouldn't you like to decrease the number of employees that leave? Especially the really great ones? Try using the stay interview, and you'll see a difference.

Image Credit: Scotland's National Center for Languages/Bigstock

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Is Gold Important When Branding During the Olympics?

With the Olympic Games now history, how did your brand integrate the international competition into your brand strategy, marketing campaigns, or email communications?

Two brands that stand out can be found in a unique product unveiled on February 22, toward the end of the athletic events that took place in South Korea. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts collaborated with Hershey’s chocolate and created a new doughnut called the “Hershey’s Gold” doughnut, which will be available at participating Krispy Kreme Doughnuts stores throughout the United States and Canada. A list of participating locations can be found at

“One of the ways we bring joy to our customers is by innovating to create unique doughnuts that only Krispy Kreme Doughnuts can deliver. [This new doughnut is a] delicious pairing of Krispy Kreme’s iconic Original Glazed Doughnut, topped with pieces of the new Hershey’s GOLD bar and a salted caramel icing. This salty sweet doughnut flavor will surprise taste buds with every bite.” explained Jackie Woodward, Chief Marketing Officer of Krispy Kreme.

As a fan of Krispy Kreme sweets, I sampled the new doughnut in celebration of the Olympics and was happy with the taste.

As a brand marketer, I was surprised by the line that nearly went out the door of the Krispy Kreme store I visited in Southern California. Had this long line of consumers heard about the new Hershey’s Gold doughnut on the TV news, as I had, or were they simply buying doughnuts?

As a marketing professional, I noticed that nearly every person left the Krispy Kreme store with a box of a dozen doughnuts. I have to admit that I had entered the store with the intention of only buying four of the new Hershey’s Gold doughnut, but I too, left with Krispy Kreme’s signature box of a dozen.

So, was the tie-in to Olympic gold the reason for this doughnut’s attraction, or was the reference to Olympic gold not important? Only those who’ve sampled Krispy Kreme’s Hershey’s Gold can be the judge.

Image credit: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Top 10 Branding Quotes

When someone asks a marketing professional to explain branding, brand management, or brand-building, are there easy answers? In lieu of directing someone to Google or Wikipedia, or even the online dictionary of marketing terms presented by the American Marketing Association, there are some excellent quotes by famous people that succinctly explain branding’s importance when creating products or services for either the B2C, B2B, or nonprofit sectors. 

Do you have a favorite branding quote that you’ve taped to your wall? Here are MY top ten branding quotes.

[1] A brand is a living entity – and is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time – the product of a thousand small gestures.
-Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company

[2] Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.
-Walter Landor, Founder of Landor Associates

[3] Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.
-Jeff Bezos, Founder of

[4] A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.
-Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur

[5] Within every brand is a product, but not every product is a brand.
-David Ogilvy, Founder of Ogilvy & Mather

[6] It's not the customer's job to know what they want. In order for a brand to be truly successful, it has to know how to anticipate need. Think different.
-Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

[7] A great brand is a story that's never completely told.
-Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

[8] Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception.
-Ashley Friedlein, Founder of Econsultancy

[9] If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.
-Howard Schultz, Founder of Starbucks

[10] The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.

-Philip Kotler, Marketing professor and author

What’s your fave? Please chime in and share.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hashtags Were More Memorable Than SuperBowl52 Ads

Image Credit: NFL
Super Bowl 52 ended like a super game should end: everything coming down to a single play to decide the winner. But if you live and breathe marketing and branding, the game is just a minor blip on your radar. Your focus is the ads that take place in between the football action. With a staggering cost of “north of $5 million for 30 incredibly short seconds,” is it possible for a brand to tell its story effectively and memorably? Were there any ads that rivaled Apple’s 1984 ad? Were there any Tweets that rivaled Oreo’s Tweet during the 2013 power outage? Bottom line, can YOU recall any of the ads?

While noted in my post last year, this quote from Landor Associates is worth repeating:

"Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”
During the game, Jim Joseph hosted his annual #SuperBowlExp party on Twitter (minus chips and guacamole). Although it's always fun to see what fellow branding and marketing folks say about the ads in real time, there are a couple of challenges. First, some ads run in regional or local markets, so there were some instances that Tweets referenced ads I didn’t see. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the ads that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up – for instance, #BrandBowl, #BrandBowl52 (led by @TwitterMktg on Twitter for the first time), #SuperBowlAds, etc.

This year, many brands and brand icons were noticeably absent. There were no Oreos, Coca-Cola polar bears, or the group of Clydesdales with their pal, the adorable Dalmatian. While many automobile brands were present, Audi and Volkswagen were noticeably absent. These brands and icons have become part of the Super Bowl advertising tradition, so viewers were left to wonder why they were absent.

Without further ado, here were my five favorite ads:

TOYOTA – “Start Your Impossible Dream” – This ad told the inspiring story of Lauren Woolstencroft, an eight-time Paralympic gold medalist born without legs below the knee and no left arm below the elbow. Woolstencroft, an alpine skier from Canada, said, “I hope that my story encourages and inspires others around the world to pursue their passions, and reach for their own personal best.” Toyota is the presenting sponsor of March’s Paralympics on NBC.

TOYOTA – “One Team” – A rabbi, a priest, an imam, and a Buddhist monk get into a Toyota truck on the way to a football game. Two nuns criticized the group for its late arrival. This was the best ad by far.

HYUNDAI – “Hope Detector” – Hyundai donates money for every car sold toward childhood cancer research — $130 million since the program started 20 years ago. Most Hyundai owners had no idea that their purchases contributed to this cause – now they will.

TIDE – Several funny ads using the hashtag #TideAd highlighted the brand’s capability to clean. The best part of the campaign may not have been part of the campaign at all. During the end of the second quarter, there was 20-30 seconds of darkness in lieu of an ad. There must have been a technical glitch somewhere at NBC, so everyone in the Twitterverse wondered if their cable went out, if the game ended early, or if aliens landed. Turns out, Tide remembered the buzz created by Oreo’s Tweet back in 2013 when the power actually went out during the Super Bowl. Tide creatively added the blackout to its advertising campaign.

Image Credit: Twitter

AUSTRALIA – This ad promoted the country of Australia and featured the original Crocodile Dundee and a new version. Viewers were entertained by the surprise appearance of the original.

Oddly, this year, hashtags stood out rather than the ads. I recall these hashtags from ads: #TideAd, #HopeComesStandard from Hyundai, and #OneTeam from Toyota. Budweiser brought viewers into the stables to show a party featuring the Clydesdales with its #ClydesdalesCam. And when the screen went black, everyone on Twitter was talking about the #blackout. As a result of this phenomenon, it’s hard to remember a year when we weren’t talking with hashtags.

And lastly, Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households. 

"The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."
So, are you counting the days to Super Bowl 53? Will that mean a trip to Atlanta or will you simply tune in to watch and critique the ads either on TV or on your mobile device?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

An Amazing Amazon Experience – But It Didn’t Start That Way

We’ve all heard the stories about Amazon. The service is exceptional. The employees love their jobs. The company sells everything except the Moon. But can any company really be everything positive? Well, I have a story that just might convince you that the answer to that question is yes.

Like many brand-loyal consumers, I often place orders from online retailers. Sometimes, I shop from a specific retailer, and other times, I buy from Amazon. When it comes to books, though, I always go directly to 

Last December, I placed an order for four books from Amazon. The four books included a non-fiction book for one family member, one fiction book for another family member, and two fiction books for another family member. The genres were different, so it was possible that Amazon might have needed more than one shipment to complete my order.

Two weeks passed, and two of the fiction books arrived. Since the new year had just started, I forgot about the remaining two books. Two more weeks passed. There were no more packages from Amazon – and even stranger, no emails nor communications of any kind indicating that anything was amiss.

Six weeks after my order, I checked the order status on Amazon’s website and learned that “Your package may be lost.” This language was noted for both of the missing books. I wondered, why hadn’t Amazon contacted me? But odder still, if Amazon suspected that my package containing two books was lost, why hadn’t a replacement package been sent?

I wrote to Amazon indicating that my two books had never arrived and, upon checking my order status, saw Amazon’s note that “Your package may be lost.” I asked for assistance. Less than six hours later, I received the following message:

I am so sorry to hear that you didn’t receive your two books. This usually doesn’t happen. To make things right, I’ve created a replacement for the missing items at no additional charge with the fastest shipping method possible (one-day shipping with no extra cost). Here is your tracking number (included). However, if in case you want a full refund instead, let us know. To make up for the inconvenience, I’ve issued a $5 promotional certificate to your account, which will automatically apply the next time you order an item sold and shipped by It is our privilege to have you as our valued customer and would like to thank you for your continued support. We look forward to a very warm and fruitful association with you. Have a nice day.

Let’s recap: Amazon’s employees acknowledged that two books had apparently been lost in shipment. They ordered replacement books on my behalf. They did not charge me for the replacement books. They coordinated quick shipment – and the books arrived within 24 hours of my initial email. And, they provided a $5 gift certificate for a future purchase.

Amazon employees did not have to check high up the food chain for approval to handle my situation. They did not send numerous emails asking for proof that my books had not arrived. They did not waffle on how to resolve the situation. I am a repeat customer and only wanted the books that I had ordered.

Talk about an amazing customer experience! Amazon, I will buy from you any day!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles at

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Not-So-Sweet Brand Story

Did you hear the food industry news this past week? Nestle, the world’s largest food company according to Forbes, sold its U.S. confectionery business to Italian chocolatier Ferrero. You may be familiar with Nestle’s iconic American sweets including Nestle Crunch, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Raisinets, Nips, Skinny Cow, and Laffy Taffy.

Nestle’s mission is “Enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future.” With U.S. confectionery sales just 3% of the overall company’s sales during 2016, CEO Mark Schneider explained, “This move allows Nestle to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals, and infant nutrition.” Nestle’s brands in these categories include Purina, Coffee-Mate, Gerber, and Stouffer’s.

New owner Ferrero, headquartered in Luxembourg, is best known for Ferrero Rocher chocolates as well as Nutella and TicTacs. This acquisition will make Ferrero the third-largest chocolate confectionery in the world, according to London-based market research company Euromonitor International. And now, Ferrero will become a well-known brand in the United States.

What do you think? Has Nestle diluted its brand equity as a result of this sale? Do you associate Nestle with sweet brands and confections? The company began in 1866 as a milk and infant cereal company, and in 1875, began making milk chocolate. Whether you agree or disagree with the sale, it will be hard to see Nestle products under the umbrella of another brand.

Image Credit: Nestle.