Archive for Branding

Keep Drama on the Stage—and out of the Workplace

In the requisite Stein on Writing, publisher, writer and master editor Sol Stein reveals this secret to successful plotting: create a crucible.

If you’ve ever seen Mike NicholsWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you know how compelling a crucible can be. When you pit two forces of nature like Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) against one another, the results are explosive.

As Stein writes, “Characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit.… the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.”

While such a formula makes for gripping drama, that’s the last thing you want in the workplace.

Good leaders know how to navigate conflicts, dissipate tension and redirect negative energies into positive, productive outlets. Most importantly, they themselves are not the source of drama.

Unfortunately, those leaders are rare. A recent Australian study suggests there are more villains at the top than we realize—1 in 5 CEOs may be psychopaths (versus 1 in 100 in the general population).

“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” says Nathan Brooks, the forensic psychologist who conducted the study.

A profit-driven corporate culture often propels sociopaths—who unabashedly violate ethics in pursuit of the bottom line—to positions of power, even though such behavior collectively costs companies hundreds of billions annually due to employee turnover and disengagement.

Just as the recent Wells Fargo scandal teaches us, myopic thinking may yield short-term profits but reaps incalculable damage. Sure, there are the obvious costs like $185 million in fines, $5 million in customer refunds and the potential billions in class action lawsuits from customers and the 5,300 terminated employees.

At a deeper level, however, the damage done to the Wells Fargo brand is incalculable. A bank losing the trust of its customers is tantamount to drinking Jonestown Flavor Aid.

Let’s play a word game. What do you think of when you hear Enron, Exxon and Monsanto? It’s probably fraud, Valdez and mass farmer suicides. Even when they change their names and attempt to reinvent themselves, corporations can never escape the toxic taint of corruption.

This is why it is so crucial to carefully define, protect and live your brand. From the epic to the everyday, how companies and leaders behave has lasting ramifications.

While we may not be in a position to shape the epic dimensions of our organization, all of us play a role in the everyday, and reducing drama in the workplace has widespread benefits—including boosting happiness and health, which subsequently reduces turnover, increases engagement and heightens productivity.

In this SmartBrief article, Dr. Nate Regier offers three tips for quashing office drama:

  • Practice transparency. In times of conflict, honesty is indeed the best policy. Instead of passive-aggressively venting your frustration, explain why a certain behavior is bothering you. Sidestep blame in favor of expressing your feelings. This is a common tactic in couples counseling for a reason—it reframes the concern as an expression of feeling rather than an attack and helps each understand the other’s perspective.
  • Offer your expertise. This doesn’t mean going around handing out uninvited advice. Rather, it means genuinely assessing the problem and offering to share relevant knowledge if desired—the last part being key.
  • Set realistic limits. In a conflict, identify your non-negotiables in a non-threatening manner. Once both parties have a clear understanding of the stated goals and obstacles, it’s easier to chart a path to resolution.

This kind of “compassionate accountability is key to productive relationships and communication,” writes Regier.

What are your workplace drama stories? Do you have any tips on how to cope with psychopathic bosses and smooth out tensions in the workplace?

Where’s the Beef? Why Customer Experience Is the New Marketing

What motivates you to try a new product or service? Is it a million-dollar ad campaign full of sound and fury? Is it that steady stream of robo emails you keep marking as Junk? Or maybe it’s those sidebar ads that pop up based on your content browsing habits.

I’m guessing it’s none of these because you—like most of today’s consumers—have a finely attuned BS barometer. In other words, you don’t believe the hype.

Instead, you probably seek out recommendations from friends. You listen to word of mouth, and you do your research. You carefully study Amazon and Yelp reviews, looking for verified purchasers and reviews that ring true.

In a consumer world where everyone is connected, shoddy quality and poor customer service have a global ripple effect that can deliver a deathblow in minutes.

That is why, according to Experience: The Blog author Augie Ray, companies shouldn’t be so much concerned with content marketing strategies as with customer experience.

Where’s the Beef?

The days are gone when a company can glide by on glitz, buying its way into consumers’ hearts with earworm jingles and inane catchphrases. We’re inured to their tactics because we see through them.

Transparency is the new watchword. If it isn’t WYSIWYG, people tune out.

As human beings, we crave authenticity. We demand substance—from product quality to customer service, every element of the experience must deliver genuine value.

Make It Real

We want to associate with organizations that possess a deep sense of purpose and values that echo our own—companies that live their brand.

One reason Thrive Market has been so deliciously successful is they began with a clearly defined mission: “to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.” And the many people who care about eating healthy, living sustainably, and helping to feed hungry families have been recommending them like crazy.

Rather than jumping into social marketing campaigns, Augie Ray argues in a recent interview that companies should be “focusing on improving the customer experience and then activating trusted peer-to-peer word of mouth.”

Be All That You Can Be

Cultivating a positive customer experience is not a skin-deep exercise. It goes down to the bones of your organization—your culture.

As we’ve repeatedly explored in past blog posts, your culture is your brand; your brand is your culture. Creating a workplace that is a palpable example of your core values helps nurture those values in your employees.

I’m Lovin’ It

If you want your employees to deliver a WOW experience to customers as Zappos does (see How to Live the Brand), you need to create a culture where you’re wowing your employees.

We already know from research that having happier employees means greater productivity and superior customer service (see The Top 4 Employee Needs to Fulfill for Greater Happiness and Productivity). The question is how to get there.

Be More

Honing your leadership capacities will help you foster a healthy, happy culture, and that in turn, will build the “empathy, loyalty, and trust” Ray describes as crucial to a successful company.

Ray writes, “The importance of purposeful, ethical leadership is underscored in Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, which finds that the biggest gaps companies have are in attributes such as listens to customers; treats employees well; is ethical, transparent and open; and puts customers before profits.”

Just Do It

Like a Zen koan, the paradoxical truth is that by prioritizing employee happiness and customer experience over the bottom line, companies ultimately profit more. How can organizations not see the value in that?

Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook to start building a healthier, happier organization today.

Note: Special thanks to one of our readers (Lisa Baehr) for sharing Augie’s interview and inspiring this article.

What’s Your Theme for 2016?

Here’s how to set yourself up for success in the new year.

Guess what? You get to choose the way you show up in 2016. Barring certain life circumstances, you can set the tone for personal and professional experiences. Whether you are conscious of this or not, you DO set the tone for your experiences.

Think about this as you look back on last year.

  • Was it a good year?
  • What tone did I set for the year, and how did it play out?
  • What am I grateful for, and what do I appreciate about last year?
  • What is there for me to acknowledge about myself in 2015?
  • How would I rate 2015 on a scale of 1 to 10—personally and professionally?
  • What would have made 2015 an 11 out of 10?

As you think about 2016, what tone do you want to set? How do you want to experience 2016? How do you want people to experience YOU in 2016? (Think of it as creating your personal brand.)

  • As you look ahead to 2016, what excites you?
  • What are your key goals and objectives for 2016?
  • What state of being will best serve you in 2016?
  • Where and how do you want to stretch yourself in 2016?
  • What will make 2016 an 11 out of 10 year for you, both personally and professionally?
Climb ev’ry mountain,
Ford ev’ry stream,
Follow ev’ry rainbow,
’Til you find your dream.

Finally, what is a possible theme for the year that could serve as a structure to lock in a SUCCESSFUL 2016? Think about a song, movie, book, or TV show.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve picked a song with rich meaning and memories—Climb Ev’ry Mountain by Rodgers and Hammerstein. How well I remember going to the theater with my mom to see The Sound of Music and leaving the movie singing at the top of my lungs.

Want some help focusing in on your theme for 2016? Call 541.601.0114 or email me for a complimentary coaching session. Now’s the time to get clarity for a great new year. Cheers!

5 Leadership Capacities That Will Make Your Organization Shine

Want to be energetic? Enthusiastic? Hopeful?

Who doesn’t?!

Are people in your organization energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful?

Here’s the secret. I got it from education writer Michael Fullan, who lays out five leadership capacities in a simple way while weaving in knowledge and research from yesterday’s and today’s thought leaders.

The five critical leadership capacities Fullan describes in his book Leading in a Culture of Change are:

  1. Moral purpose

  2. Understanding change

  3. Relationships, relationships, relationships

  4. Knowledge-building

  5. Coherence-making

If you want an organization filled with people who are energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful, you’ve got to make sure your leadership team embodies these capacities in all they do—and that the entire organization is on board with the culture these capacities make up. This is essentially your organization’s brand.

The challenge for each individual is to live the brand and to let it inform every single decision made for the organization.

Moral Purpose

Moral purpose relates to three key elements necessary for a successful organization: vision, values and purpose. Successful organizations are clear on these, and their employees embody them in every action. For example, if sustainability is one of your organization’s values, you wouldn’t send out countless direct mail pieces printed on glossy unrecycled paper. If you were a public school system with a purpose to educate all students in your district, you wouldn’t discriminate against a student with disabilities or low income. Tony Hsieh used vision, value and purpose as the foundation for his world-renowned start-up Zappos. We all know how that worked out!

Understanding Change

To understand change and get others on board is tricky, and 70 percent of change initiatives fail. This is according to John Kotter, who spent 40 years researching change efforts in thousands of contexts. Do you want to know what works? In his book Leading Change, Kotter outlines the eight change accelerators. Get the book. Read it. It’s great. Why reinvent the wheel?

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

When talking about building relationships, the first thing that comes to my mind is emotional intelligence. It’s different from IQ in that you can develop it. People with average IQ and high EQ outperform people with high IQ 70 percent of the time. In a nutshell, EQ is understanding yourself and others—combined with having personal motivation and regulation to communicate effectively and navigate relationships. It will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58 percent more effective at your job and rank you with 90 percent of top performers.

I’ve taught classes on leading with emotional intelligence and written lots of blogs on the topic. You can read some of them here:

Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula Equals EI Plus Coaching

What Tops the List of Lessons Learned by a Recent Master in Management Grad?

Hughesisms: Work Ethic Trumps Talent

Knowledge-Building

Knowledge-building and knowledge-sharing are critical for the growth of any person or organization. The challenge is that individuals will not engage in sharing unless they find it motivating to do so. You can encourage their motivation by making them feel valued and connecting it to your organization’s moral purpose.


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
—John F. Kennedy


Coherence-Making

Finally, to build coherence, a leader must be relentless in the first four capacities—that means having moral purpose, understanding change, developing relationships, and building and sharing knowledge. “The Coherence Framework has four components: focusing direction, cultivating collaborative cultures, deepening learning and securing accountability,” says Fullan in Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts and Systems.

Over time, you will find the most powerful coherence will come from having worked through the ambiguities and complexities of hard-to-solve problems. You will learn as you go. Coherence binds the brand to the culture and creates the culture necessary for the organization—and its people—to flourish.

Develop Your Leadership Capacities

Capiche works with leaders and leadership teams. Let me work with you to develop the five leadership capacities to forge a strong brand and culture. Call 541.601.0114 or email me to get started today.

Why Businesses Fail—and Succeed

Adam Cuppy Presenting
Above: Adam Cuppy speaking on leadership (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Why do most businesses fail? Is it lack of resources? Poor marketing? Untrained employees? Or perhaps it’s their location—the company’s too far away from the epicenter of their industry, too under the radar to get noticed.

None of the above, according to Coding ZEAL co-founder Adam Cuppy. He thinks it’s because “their leadership is very poor.” His fellow founders Sean Culver and Trever Yarrish agree.

Drawing a diagram of a snow-capped mountain, Adam explains, “Leaders tend to think they need to … stand on top of the mountain. Reality is,” he continues, “they’re the one holding it up.”

Instead of being on a power trip, leaders should practice humility and service. By switching from proclaiming to listening, managers learn valuable truths from their employees, customers and the community.

Leaders can get stuck in a circular loop, asking and then answering their own questions. This is when stagnancy occurs.

The leader who stands on the top of the mountain “always has the answer.”

Coding ZEAL turns that model upside-down. “As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Adam. “The problem is that if it’s the same person that’s answering the question, you run into a dilemma because it’s not giving an opportunity to the other people in the organization to help you answer that.”

At Coding ZEAL, every new employee becomes a partner in a way. The structure is not flat, but it’s agile and encourages creative collaboration.

Hire for Culture

The three founding partners agree culture is crucial to their success. “We hire for culture fit and we hire for empathy and we hire for capacity,” says Adam. “You don’t hire for current talent necessarily. That actually becomes an added benefit.”

Coding skills and algorithms can be taught; empathy, zealotry and excitement must come from within.

We’ve blogged about the centrality of culture to authentic branding in past articles such as Creating Your Brand from the Inside Out: Why Your Culture Comes First, and Coding ZEAL is yet one more successful example of this principle in action.

Growth

“We are only limited by our perceived constraints,” says Adam.

That optimistic philosophy has paid off. “We’re at a point now that is super exciting and fun,” says Adam. “It feels we’re constantly bursting at the seams. We’re always in that catch-22 of capacity being maxed out and needing to hire more people.”

Good leadership involves finding that sweet spot between too many and too few employees. You don’t want to grow so quickly that the culture becomes diluted, nor do you want to grow so slowly that your employees become overworked.

Pair Programming
Above: Coding ZEAL developers pair programming (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Pair Programming

Guided by Kent Beck’s extreme programming (XP) principles, Coding ZEAL developers practice pair programming. Not only does this allow veteran programmers to mentor newer employees, but when two minds focus on a task, they can spot and resolve problems far more quickly.

“Randy is bringing his expertise to the table, Sean’s bringing his expertise to the table, and where they overlap, greatness happens,” says Adam. “Where they don’t overlap, the other one’s learning.”

By investing in skill-building and education, Coding ZEAL is laying the groundwork for happier, and thus more productive, employees.

Code Occasions

“People are everything, you have to rock everybody’s world,” says Adam.

Knowing how mentally taxing coding all day is, Adam notes, “It’s imperative that there be developer happiness.”

Coding ZEAL leaders recognize that for their programmers, “much of that happiness has to focus around … mental space,” Adam says.

That is why they came up with the idea of code occasions. Coding ZEAL actually pays for its developers to go off and play, to create and imagine and implement their own ideas in a fresh and stimulating environment with one or two coworkers.

“It’s the inspiration, that cross-pollination,” says Adam, “that’s huge in everything we do.”

Employee Happiness

Coding ZEAL T-ShirtWhen you have happy, fulfilled employees whose creativity is stretched and nourished, the company flourishes, too.

Driven by a superhuman enthusiasm, Coding ZEAL developers gladly devote hours of intense focus to deliver products that exceed customer expectations. For them, this isn’t a job; it’s a calling.

By cultivating employee happiness, Coding ZEAL leaders enjoy unbridled loyalty from their programmers, whose emotional connection with the company results in sentiments like, “I will show up on the weekends if I have to. I will do what I have to because I have this vision driving my ambition,” explains Adam.

If poor leadership is why businesses fail, Adam’s, Sean’s and Trever’s empathetic leadership is why companies succeed.

To read more wisdom from Coding ZEAL founders, see our last article on the secret to exceeding customer expectations.

The Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations

Coding ZEAL Leaders
Above: Trever Yarrish, Sean Culver, and Adam Cuppy (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

What do coffee, code, and marketing have in common? For Adam Cuppy, Trever Yarrish and Sean Culver—founders of the wildly successful Coding ZEAL based here in Southern Oregon—it doesn’t matter what they have in common. What matters is the experience customers have while enjoying your product and interacting with your company.

“It’s not about the product you think you’re selling,” said Adam in a recent interview I conducted with him for The Southern Oregon Edge. “It really is about the relationships.… Ask yourself what is the experience you’re going to provide to the people that are going to consume it.”

In 2007, Yarrish and Cuppy left their stint as Dutch Bros. marketing and creative directors to create a marketing company in Grants Pass. Six years later, they partnered up again—this time joined by Sean Culver—to found a superhero-flavored development company in Medford.

Guided by the principle of zeal, the founders sought to “create an amazing experience.” Discussing the origin of the name “Zeal,” Adam says, “What I love about the name was I looked it up and it said ‘gross unadulterated enthusiasm.’ What’s more amazing and audacious than that? What says nothing about programming and everything about the experience? ‘Zeal’ does.”

Sure, the quality of your product matters, but what matters more is how you answer the question, “What am I going to do to blow people’s minds? What am I going to do make raving fans?”

And Coding ZEAL has done just that. With clients ranging from Mavenlink.com to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SilverCloud to Scratch-it.com, the company has seen 1400 percent annual growth since its launch.

Agility is at the heart of their success. “We’re an agile agency,” says Trever, “so when technology changes, we move where we need to move.”

This fluidity allows the company to focus on not only satisfying customers but on wowing them.

Coding ZEAL Customer Expectations Versus RealityTo illustrate this concept, Adam draws two columns, one representing customer expectations and the other reality, each with a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The customer relationship begins when expectations meet reality.

A customer usually starts by expecting an average experience—a 5, say. If you give them what they expect, no lasting impression will be made. If you give them a 4 or worse, you’ve not only lost the opportunity to build brand loyalty, but that customer may go on to complain publicly, leading to the loss of other potential customers.

“So instead what we’re going to do is they come in and they get a 7. They come in and we’re going to take an opportunity to blow their mind somehow, some way,” explains Adam.

But that’s just the beginning. Now that they’ve had a 7 experience, their expectations will change, and they’ll want a 7 again next time. So what do you have to do as a company? You up the ante. You give them an 8.

With each new interaction, you deliver an even better experience. Once a relationship is built, you just have to sustain that level of service. Even if a bump occurs along the path, the customer is going to be more forgiving because of the positive relationship you’ve established.

Using this model of expectation dilemmas, a company that consistently achieves between an 8 and a 10 discovers “this wonderful, wonderful thing,” says Trever. “Right there is the secret to success in forming loyalty.”

Empathy is key to continually exceeding customer expectations. “We are trying to always understand where you’re at, what you’re needs are, what’s most important to you,” says Trever.

At Coding ZEAL, questions drive the conversation. They don’t assume they know what customers want.

“As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Trever. “One of those questions can be, ‘So how can we speak to our customers more clearly? Where are our customers? Who can we service better every single day?’”

In the end, it’s all about that fundamental connection between two people. The company, the product—those are ephemeral. What the customer will go away remembering, what they will feel and think and what will impact their future buying decisions, occurs in that magical moment of interaction.

For Cuppy, Yarrish, Culver and their happy employees, zeal “is not just a word and it’s not just a logo. The excitement and energy that’s wrapped around our brand is real and authentic and we mean it,” says Adam. “Every day, it’s about waking up and feeling that level of excitement and reaching out with that intention, with the intention that we’re going to connect with our clients. We’re going to connect with each other. We’re going to connect with our culture, our environment.”

Our next post will explore Coding ZEAL’s insights into leadership and employee happiness.

Ever Wonder About the Value of Marketing?

Ever wonder about the value of marketing?

Well, you’re not alone.

Last week, I saw an example of best marketing practices in action—at the Portland, Oregon, airport. We were in between flights from Medford to Spokane with some time to enjoy. We happened past the Made in Oregon store, where there was a wine-tasting in progress.

We tried some terrific wines and developed a nice rapport with the person pouring wine—I’ll call her the brand ambassador. She told us she had earned her bachelor’s degree at Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University). A self-described hippie, she loves Ashlandand she would be happy to come to our house and do a full-blown wine-tasting event!

“WOW!” we said. “You’ve got a deal.”

Waiting for the connection to Spokane, we spent 20 minutes coming up with the perfect guest list. Let’s do it when my parents are visiting from New York. That would be fun. Who do we want them to meet? Who do we know that loves wine? Hmm … it’s an easy list to make.

Then we started thinking about marketing. And how powerful a brand ambassador can be.

This brand ambassador is going to travel from Eugene to Ashland to entertain and delight a party of wine and food aficionados. She will probably pour six bottles of wine during the tasting plus another six during the meal. We will pay for some of it. She will leave the party with orders from our guests—maybe up to 20 cases of wine. Not much of a return for the cost of it all, you say? Well, think about the lifetime value of a customer.

I’ve learned a customer’s value should be measured over their lifetime. That’s calculated by initial purchase, subsequent purchases and influence on others’ purchases. This is a little hard to measure, but it’s important to attempt a rough estimate. And don’t forget the concept of brand loyalty. You know what it is. You have it. We all do.

Think about this: our new friend Shelley, the brand ambassador from Willamette Winery, will travel to our house from Eugene and pour wine for 20 of our foodie friends to get an initial order of possibly 20 cases and 20 new customers, who will tell their friends and become like brand ambassadors themselves.

To me, that sounds like good marketing. What do you think?

I love examples of good marketing practices in action. What’s your favorite? Please share here and visit Capiche’s Facebook page, too.

Mt. Ashland Creates Its Brand from the Inside Out

Mt. Ashland

Why Your Culture Comes First

Your culture is your brand; your brand is your culture. The two are one and the same—inextricably intertwined. It’s where marketing, positive psychology and innovative business practices intersect. And it’s the common denominator in successful companies. Virgin Atlantic, Apple, Google, Harley Davidson, BMW and Autodesk all have strong brands and strong cultures, and all are wildly successful. I’ll bet you can name one or more in your industry.

Anyone who has been through a branding process knows the hardest part of branding isn’t coming up with a logo or tagline. It’s getting to your company’s DNA (what is at its heart)—its values, vision, passion and purpose. That’s your culture. When you get to that, you can create your brand.

Yes, this is a revisit of a previous blog post, but it’s a topic that’s particularly important to me now. It’s more relevant than ever as my Mt. Ashland—and I say my because I am a season pass holder, a board member and chair of the Community Outreach Committee—begins its 51st year with a rebranding.

Here’s an outline of what we are doing and best practices you can use in your own organization:

1. Define Mt. Ashland’s DNA.

What this means is we have defined its culture, values, vision, passion and purpose. It is real, honest and yet still a little aspirational. This is important because a brand must be rooted in reality with room to reach toward the future. Clearly defining an organization’s culture is the first step in building a brand.

2. Bring the brand to life with words.

What are your key messages? How do you communicate values, vision, passion and purpose? These words will shape all communication and will serve to be a barometer for each and every business decision. Because Mt. Ashland says it’s a steward of the environment, it will look for ways to reduce energy use and landfill waste as well as protecting the Forest Service land it operates on.

3. Create a visual identity with graphics, colors, photos and video.

Thanks to an in-kind donation from Lithia Auto Stores, we are working with their world-class marketing team. They have taken on the graphic design element of rebranding. We saw the first logo design suggestions yesterday—amazing!

4. Live the brand.

This is the hardest part. This is where most organizations fall short. Creating and embodying your unique company culture is how you answer the phone. It’s how you interact with others on the team and everyone who comes into contact with your organization. It’s whom you hire. And it’s how you bring them on board. It’s what you base EVERY business decision on.

Medford Mail Tribune Article on Mt. Ashland

Click here for a recent Mail Tribune article on this topic.

Building the culture/brand is everybody’s business, and companies that understand that have a real advantage. That’s why it’s crucial to engage your employees in your branding process, asking them to help define your values, vision, passion and purpose. Getting their input and buy-in is critical to the success of your brand. You all need to get behind the same values, vision, passion and purpose. It’s vital to creating a cohesive, productive and engaging workplace.

You will also be asking all your constituents to weigh in on what defines your company DNA. This means clients, subcontractors, other team members and influencers. Asking and listening to your constituents (and employees) is a natural way to build trust and take your relationships to the next level. This is marketing and management brilliance.

Mt. Ashland accomplished this with a community survey that was distributed widely and completed by more than 1,200 area residents. Mt. Ashland is listening to the public and making adjustments to the ski area based on their input. The aspirational part of the DNA is based on satisfying public desires for the ski area.

Good to Great and Tribal Leadership Book CoversThe realization that happy workers drive business success is sweeping the world, and the research keeps growing. Researchers at Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of California at Riverside and Oxford University are leading the pack. Bestselling management books Good to Great and Tribal Leadership credit a shared company vision and purpose. A company with a vision has a higher purpose beyond just money, profits or being number one in a market, and this important element separates sustainable profitable companies from the rest.

Are you seeing a connection? The “great” companies build their brands around their values, vision, passion and purpose, which guide the company’s culture. The two are inextricably intertwined.

When your people are living your brand, their personal values are in synch with the company’s. They are happier and more productive—and they are your best ambassadors. Involve them from the start, get clear on values, vision, passion and purpose, walk the talk, and enjoy your success!

If you are ready to get going on your company culture and brand, give me a call at 541.601.0114 or email me at chris@capiche.us. Let me help you uncover your own unique culture and brand to propel your organization forward. And let’s have a great time doing so!

Think You’ve Got Your Marketing Ducks in a Row?

Marketing Ducks

Lessons in Branding Across Industries

If you were close to my place at Christmas, you would have heard a big whoop of joy as I learned Cracker Barrel was pulling Duck Dynasty items from its shelves—not because of the backlash from Phil Robertson’s anti-gay and racially charged comments. I was elated because Cracker Barrel said the comments were incongruent with company values. What a terrific display of a company living its brand. “We operate within the ideals of fairness, mutual respect and equal treatment of all people. These ideals are the core of our corporate culture.”

Their values and ideals were not just words on a page but the barometer for all business decisions. That’s how an organization needs to operate to authentically live its brand. Imagine my disappointment when the 625-location chain announced one day later they were keeping the merchandise because of customer outcry. They lost my business on principle. They weren’t true to their brand—how could I trust them to be true to me?

Defining your organization’s brand—the sum parts of its values, vision and passion—is critical for your organization to do its work with integrity. And what’s an organization without integrity?

Defining your brand enables your organization to do business in a way that is congruent with expectations—yours and your customer’s. A well-defined brand enables your organization to authentically present itself to the world and your clients.

You don’t hire an ad agency to “make up” your brand; you unearth it. It’s what you are made of—your DNA. Once you’ve defined your brand, you can put words, colors, fonts, logos, photos and text to it. That’s where most organizations stop. To have a successful brand, you need to take the next step: live it.

How does one live their organization’s brand? First, base every business decision on the brand values, vision and purpose. Cracker Barrel had good intentions but then caved in to financial pressures. Fortunately, most brands aren’t tested in the wake of public scandal. Most brands quietly serve their company values, vision and purpose.

It’s easy to live your brand when you’re a Mom and Pop business because you are your brand. As organizations grow, defining and living one’s brand must become intentional.

Culture guru and Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh learned this the hard way. While building his former company, LinkExchange, he and his coworkers were on top of the world. They were having a ball at work—every day. Yet as the company grew, Hsieh wasn’t hiring people with the same values, vision and passion. The brand and experience of work was compromised. After selling to Microsoft for $265 million, he vowed to stop chasing money and start chasing passion—which is where the über-successful Zappos comes in. Zappos operates within its company values. Sometimes that means making decisions that aren’t money-making. For example, Hsieh moved the company’s headquarters to Las Vegas and invested more than $300 million of his own money to revitalize downtown—in keeping with the value of “Embrace and drive change.”

What if you aren’t a billionaire with a multibillion-dollar company? Can you still define and live an authentic brand? YES. It happens in every industry in every region. Organizations are catching on to the benefits—both intrinsic and financial—of standing firm in vision, values and purpose.

Salt Lake City architectural firm CRSA’s mission is to create “designs that enrich lives and create community.” Principal Fran Pruyn says, “We attempt to create a culture of great people, great places, great practice. This means we have a firm culture that enriches lives and creates community.”

Centerville, Utah’s Ascent Construction considers its brand the external perception of its internal culture. Cynthia Remine of business development says, “Our brand has evolved in the past few years to a more relationship-based culture and is less financially focused. We learned that if you focus on the core aspects of building better relationships, financial success naturally follows, as does a more fulfilled and balanced personal and professional life.”

I’d call this is the gold standard for professional services firms. Nothing fancy, outrageous, or difficult—but clearly not the norm.

What makes your organization’s brand unique? How do you embody it? Encourage your team to live it? Contact me at 541.601.0114 or chris@capiche.us. I’m collecting examples of brands in action. Tell me about yours.

What’s Your Sign? Let’s Talk Personal Brand

Lifting the Horizon

Here’s an old line with a new twist: what’s your elevator speech—for yourself?

You’ve probably invested weeks or even months defining your company’s brand, zeroing in on the sweet spot that distinguishes your organization from its competitors and then figuring out how to live it.

But how much thought have you given to your personal brand? What makes you stand out from your colleagues? What unique contributions do you make, both to your organization and the wider world?

Brand is central to all interactions—personal, business, online, social media—and is a combination of what you say and do as well as how you show up. And if you never bothered to think about it, your brand may be more accidental than intentional.

Below are some questions that will help you access the core of your being, see yourself as others do and distinguish between what you do and who you really are. Based on this information, you may decide to present yourself a little differently.

What Do You Believe?

It’s time to get personal clarity about your beliefs. What are you passionate about? What inspires you?

Pretend you’re introducing yourself to a new colleague or prospective client. How would you complete this sentence? “I believe …”

If someone asked me that question, I would say, “I believe that finding the positive in people and organizations contributes to a better world. I like to start by helping individuals develop their unique strengths, and this leads to better performance and greater happiness.”

What Taste Do You Leave in People’s Mouths?

Is it sweet, savory, or a pinch of both? Is it spicy or bland, bitter or sour—or perhaps you bring a touch of umami flair?

How does your presence influence others? What do they say about you after you’ve left a meeting? What will they say about you after you’ve left this world?

Whether or not you intend to, you affect others. People often don’t realize the impact they have on others unless it is publicly recognized—awards, celebrity, trophies of one sort or another. Few are aware when they have a deflating, enraging, or otherwise negative effect.

It might help to ask your colleagues and friends to give you an honest assessment of your brand. Ask them to not hold back—it might be tough to hear, but this is an opportunity to see yourself in a new way. If you don’t like what you see, change it.

You Are Not Your Job Title

You are more than the sum of your duties. Your personal brand has as much to do with how you do something as what you do.

When you perform a task, how can someone recognize your hand as opposed to your coworker’s? What are the telltale signs of your role in the project? Why would someone hire or promote you over a peer with similar skillsets?

Redefining Your Brand

You may be at a point in your life when you’re ready to change your brand. How do you go about getting people to take you seriously as y when they’ve always seen you as x?

You don’t want to be perceived as a chameleon, a waffler, or a wanderer. Just because you’ve decided to change doesn’t mean others will understand this is an evolutionary step rather than a screwball adventure.

Perhaps you’re embarking on a new career or starting your own business. You need to craft a narrative that gives people a bridge between your past and present selves. How does your old, familiar brand tie in with your new one? How does it give you an edge in a field that may be new to you?

Frame your story in such a way that your apparent weaknesses become compelling advantages. Say you’re a surgeon turned sculptor. While you may be new to the medium of clay, your knowledge of anatomy and ability to work deftly with your hands will imbue your work with striking accuracy and detail. Put it in a 30-second elevator speech.

Going Up

Here’s my elevator speech: ”I believe that finding the positive in people and organizations contributes to a better world. I like to start by helping individuals develop their unique strengths, and this leads to better performance and greater happiness. Combining my background in marketing, positive psychology and coaching, I help individuals and organizations define and then live their brand—which leads to better health, greater productivity and more meaningful and meaning-filled lives.”

So what’s yours? Please share.

Find Your Brand, Change Your Life

If you need help figuring out your personal brand, consider hiring a leadership coach. Let me give you a 20-minute sample session. Call 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us to find out how I can help you transform yourself—and your world.