Customers today are skeptics. Who can blame us? In the last ten years, we’ve lived through the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. People feel they’ve been burned by our financial and government institutions. For brands, the Great Recession was the final nail in the coffin of smoke and mirrors marketing. Nearly 10 years later, I think marketing has changed for the better. The internet of things has brought people access to unprecedented information, giving us more power in the choices we make about what to buy.
Now, the most successful brands are those that are deeply in touch with who they are and unafraid to show it. They know what motivates them. When it comes to products and services, what one company makes is nearly indistinguishable from the competition. It’s the brand’s purpose, values and vision – its intrinsic culture – that emerges as a powerful point of differentiation. This thinking strengthens consumer brands, and at Intrinzic we’ve found it to be transformative for B2B brands, where the experience of working with an organization often plays a bigger role in who customers choose to do business with than the products or services themselves.
What brands live their culture best? I have a few favorites. Each of these, representing both B2B and consumer categories, embodies an aspect of how a brand’s culture can inspire the people who work for them, so that they, in turn, inspire customers to engage with the brand.
####Scripps National Spelling Bee: Know your role in the larger culture
The Scripps National Spelling Bee has promoted literacy since 1925. Staffed by former spellers, everyone at the Bee has a personal commitment to celebrating language and learning for all. This has moved the organization forward and expanded its reach year after year, no matter how challenging the times. Only three times in its 90+ year history has there not been an annual Bee – and that was because of a world war. Driven by an extraordinary passion for words and an understanding of the power that language has to build confidence, the Bee embraces its role as one of our country’s most iconic and beloved competitions.
####Zappos: Empower your people
There’s good reason why the culture at Zappos has been celebrated for years. No e-commerce brand of similar size has matched Zappos’ ability to deliver on customer experience. Their number one value of delivering “wow” through customer service guides their hiring process, with Zappos estimating that 50% of each hiring decision is based on a candidate’s cultural fit. And new employees are given a $2,000 incentive to leave if they haven’t fully committed to the company’s values after the first week of training. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh believes that by choosing to be a values-driven brand, Zappos has empowered their employees with a clear understanding of the impact they each have on every customer interaction.
####Allan Myers: Value relationships
When we partnered with civil construction company Allan Myers to rebrand their messaging and visual identity, we were immediately struck by the strong sense of kinship between employees across every level and division of the organization. Unlike most construction companies who subcontract their workforce, Allan Myers keeps their workers on as full-time employees, a differentiating point that fosters a sense of pride in those who work for the company. From the highest-level executive offices to the workers on the project sites, there is a strong feeling that everyone is in it together. If you ask Allan Myers employees, they will tell you that their relationships with their customers succeed because of the mutual respect between the company and its employees.
####Graeter’s: Never compromise
In the past decade, Cincinnati ice cream brand Graeter’s has gone from being a local favorite to a sought-after dessert across the country. Known for a super-creamy French pot recipe, Graeter’s vibrant, fresh flavors and outrageously rich chunks of chocolate are packed into pints by hand. In 2011, during a period of national growth, the company expanded to a new, state-of-the-art facility, but chose to stick to their traditional recipes and process, knowing that their approach to ice cream making was what made them truly unique. Graeter’s ability to modernize without compromising their traditions and methods has made them a timeless brand, with every employee contributing to the promise of “handcrafted” as they continue to grow in reach.
Each of these brands understands that it’s not what service they provide or what product they make that defines them. What sets them apart is how they choose to go about what they do. At Intrinzic, our job is to uncover and celebrate these unique characteristics of an organization’s culture and bring them to life via messaging and design that guides their people every day. Then the line between the culture outside and the culture inside the brand becomes blurred, creating a magnetic draw that attracts both customers and employees.