Archive for Marketing

Meet the Plurals: What’s So Special About Generation Z?

They were born texting, their itty fingers swiping across their cell phone screen while they listened to their iPod on earbuds as Blue’s Clues played on the television, Dad watched cat videos on the laptop and Mom slew Doom demons on the desktop.

It was the mid-nineties to early 2000s, and the iGeneration was born into this quasi-anachronistic mash-up scene. Tech-savvy from toddlerhood, these youngsters grew up wending their way around the Internet, “playing” with friends over social media and communicating via emoticons.

At more than a quarter (25.9%) of the US population and growing, Generation Z has already surpassed the percentage of Millennials (24.5%), who themselves outnumbered Baby Boomers (23.6%) by a million (77 to 76 million) in 2015.

These Post-Millennials are your next wave of employees, entrepreneurs, leaders and customers, and it’s time to meet them.

This generation is known for being resourceful, self-motivated and driven. Three-quarters (76%) aspire to turn their passions into careers, whereas only half of Gen Y had such hopes. Nearly as many (72%) wish to start their own businesses one day.

Growing up in a post-9/11 world and witnessing the Global Financial Crisis, they earned yet another moniker as the Homeland Generation for preferring the safety of home and feeling less secure in the world at large.

Gen Z has been reared by protective parents who emphasized tradition, academics and social-emotional learning (SEL). Perhaps because of living in a more uncertain world fraught with the possibility of terror, these kids are turning out to be more conservative than their Millennial predecessors.

They have no illusions about achieving the American Dream, but they do want to better the world, and 76% are worried about the future of the planet. More than a quarter of 16- to 19-year-olds volunteer, and three-fifths (60%) hope to secure jobs that make a difference in the world. Like Millennials, they seek a sense of purpose in their work.

Other epithets (e.g., Gen Tech, Net Gen and Gen Wii) emphasize the group’s tech fluency. Spending a minimum of three hours a day on the computer for activities unrelated to school, the curious Digital Natives value visual and video forms of communication (Instagram and YouTube over Facebook), bite-sized content (Reddit and Twitter), choice (more options with greater levels of customization) and connection (social media, live-streaming).

According to the 2014 study Generation Z Goes to College, the teens use such terms as “loyal,” “compassionate,” “thoughtful,” “open-minded,” “responsible” and “determined” to describe themselves.

These Gen-X offspring instantly spot inauthenticity and patronizing attempts by marketers to court them. If you do win their respect, however, Gen Zers are known for being brand-loyal, and they will evangelize on your behalf if they believe in your products and services.

The most diverse generation to date, the Plurals embrace multiculturalism. While they are more pessimistic than Millennials, this bleaker attitude may propel them to seek pragmatic solutions to crises such as global warming, economic inequality and terrorism. Greater consciousness of planetary problems could well lead to direct action.

Whatever the future holds, these enterprising and creative self-starters give us cause for hope.

See below for a fun and informative infographic on Generation Z courtesy of Marketo.

Generation Z: Marketing's Next Big Audience Infographic

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.

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!

Blue Ocean Leadership: 4 Steps to Boosting Employee Engagement

Surfer on a Blue Ocean Wave
There are half a trillion reasons why every American should care about employee disengagement. They’re called dollar bills, and that’s how many the US economy loses annually because of the 20% of discontented employees who undermine workplace productivity, according to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report.

That counterproductive 20% is abetted by the 50% of apathetic employees who simply punch the clock and then count the minutes until they can punch out.

What about the remaining 30%? Those are the lonely few who are dedicated to doing the best job they can.

And why do you think one-fifth of the American workforce is so discontented? You guessed it. Poor leadership.

Blue Ocean Strategy

INSEAD professors of strategy and management; codirectors of the Blue Ocean Strategy Institute in France; and Blue Ocean Strategy authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne offer some fresh ideas about how to reinvigorate the dispassionate 70%. They wrote about their findings in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Originally designed as a marketing model aimed at converting noncustomers into customers, Blue Ocean Strategy translates surprisingly well to the workplace. Viewing leadership from this new perspective, Kim and Mauborgne realized the fifth of disengaged employees represent the leaders’ noncustomers. That’s when they decided to apply their marketing strategy to building employee engagement—with stellar results.

Think about leadership as a service employees either buy or don’t buy. What can turn those non-buyers into loyal customers?

3 Leadership Approaches

According to the authors’ hundreds of interviews with managers and employees over the past decade, the following leadership approaches can help trigger the conversion.

1) Focus on acts and activities.

Instead of worrying about what kinds of people leaders should be, concentrate on what actions they can take to boost employee motivation and productivity. Actions are not only easier to change than personality traits, but they are also more measurable.

2) Tap into market realities.

Translated to the workplace, this means asking employees what leaders are doing wrong as well as what they could start doing to inspire employees to thrive.

3) Distribute leadership across all management levels.

Often organizations focus on executive leadership, but it’s the middle and frontline managers who tend to know employees better. By distributing leadership responsibilities across the top, middle, and frontline managers, organizations can access a deep well of often-untapped talent, thus enhancing engagement across the organization.

4 Steps to Stronger Leaders and More Engaged Employees

1) Recognize your leadership reality.

You have to understand where your leadership stands before you can plot a strategy for improvement. By using analytic visuals called As-Is Leadership Canvases, organizations can assess employees’ perceptions of how the top, middle, and frontline managers spend their time and energy. A cross-section of 12–15 respected managers leads this companywide conversation, with three subteams each focused on a different level of leadership. The team then compiles Leadership Profiles after a month to six weeks’ worth of interviews. These profiles identify the 10–15 dominant leadership acts and activities at each level based on how frequently they were mentioned during the interview process. The As-Is canvas charts these factors on the horizontal axis of the grid, while the degree to which leaders practice them is registered on the vertical axis. Typically, 20 to 40% of the acts managers tend to practice offer little value to employees, while on the flipside, 20 to 40% of the acts employees consider valuable are underpracticed by managers.

2) Develop alternative leadership profiles.

Once the team understands what managers are doing poorly as well as what they could be doing better, they can visualize positive alternative profiles. The team looks for cold spots (time-consuming acts that yield few benefits) and hot spots (actions not currently being taken that have the potential to energize employees). A second round of interviews is conducted to create the Blue Ocean Leadership Grid featuring these four areas:

a) Eliminate wasteful acts and activities.
b) Reduce not terribly beneficial acts and activities.
c) Raise existing beneficial acts and activities.
d) Create new beneficial acts and activities.

This grid is used to draft two to four possible To-Be Leadership Profiles.

3) Pick To-Be Leadership Profiles.

These aspirational leadership profiles are then presented at a “Leadership Fair” by the subteams. Participants include top, middle, and frontline managers as well as board members. The original senior team presents the As-Is canvases, establishing the need for change. This is followed by the subteams’ presentation of the To-Be profiles for each management group. The attendees vote on their favorite leadership profile, and the senior executives then ask attendees what prompted their votes.

4) Institutionalize new leadership practices.

The selected To-Be profiles are distributed to the top, middle, and frontline leaders, and meetings are held to discuss the actions that should be eliminated, reduced, raised, and created. Monthly follow-up meetings document employees’ feedback on their managers’ progress toward the new profiles. This routine check-in reinforces the desired changes and encourages accountability.

Fair Process

The principles of fair process—engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity—govern the four steps of Blue Ocean Leadership. Employees and managers at all levels feel ownership in the process, thus overcoming resistance to change and creating a sense of buy-in. Crucially, fair process fosters trust across the organization.

Get Started

Are you ready to try out Blue Ocean Leadership at your organization? Contact me at 541-601-0114 or chris@capiche.us to start the conversation today.

See the Blue Ocean Leadership website for more details.

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.

How to Live the Brand—and Play to Your Strengths

Walking on the Beach

Say your company just invested a hefty amount of time and resources in a process to clarify its brand and claim its position in the market. Now that you’ve codified your brand, including your signature strengths, how do you help employees embody those principles on a daily basis? What are you doing to develop and promote your organization’s and your employees’ strengths?

Living the Brand

Walking the TalkIt’s not as hard as it sounds. Here are four ways your company can help people walk the talk.

1) The Interview. It all starts here. Zappos employees don’t need to be told how to live the brand—they do it naturally. As CEO Tony Hsieh explains in Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, the company’s core values drive the interview process, and Zappos hires individuals who are inherently passionate about those values.

2) Conversations. Create a culture that encourages employees to discuss the company’s values. When your mission guides strategic decisions, when employees measure their actions against the company’s brand and when everyday conversations organically reflect the organizational values, you know your employees both understand and practice those values.

3) Peer-to-Peer Training. Let staff—not managers—take the lead when it comes to values training. When new and current employees learn about the company’s core principles from their peers, this dynamic gives the trainees a living example to follow while the trainers deepen their own awareness of the company’s values.

Walking the Talk4) Business Tools. The mission, vision, and values shouldn’t be an awkward uniform your employees don when they enter the building and drop in the foyer on their way out. In Delivering Happiness, employees talk about how Zappos’ first Core  Value—Deliver WOW Through Service—has affected the way they live their entire lives. They consistently make the extra effort to create moments of wow, whether it be on the phone helping a customer or relating to a fellow shopper at the grocery store.

Nurturing Individual Strengths

Two years ago when I launched Capiche, I wanted to create a company that was committed not only to educating but also transforming organizations. Armed with science of happiness research, best business practices, and positive psychology principles, I set out to help companies “understand and develop the capital within.”

Too many organizations treat their employees as if they’re expendable, interchangeable parts. If employees disengage, management issues pink slips and orders a fresh batch of replacements. When the reinforcements wear out, the cycle repeats. Rarely do such companies stop to examine why they are failing to engage their employees.

In a recent Gallup poll conducted at 14 different companies, the 105,000 employees surveyed only mildly agreed—3.87 on a scale of strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5)—that their company was nurturing their strengths.

If you want to help employees connect with your company’s brand and signature strengths, you need to identify and nurture their strengths.

Clifton StrengthsFinder is a fantastic tool for this discovery process. It can be an illuminating and fun experience for the employees and will help you see how each person’s strengths can best benefit the company.

Know Your Coworkers

Once you’ve discovered your employees’ talents, the next step is ensuring peers understand and rely on each other’s strengths.

This happens less often than you might realize. When Gallup asked 8,900 employees how strongly they agreed with the statement that they could name the strengths of five coworkers, the mean score was only 3.78 out of a possible 5.

Effective collaboration requires that team members know their coworkers’ strengths. A smaller group of employees chosen based on complimentary strengths can achieve far more than a large, haphazardly composed team. When tasks are divvied up according to individual talents, you’ll see that efficiency, passion and productivity skyrocket.

Coming Full Circle

So yes, brand is important, and clarifying your company’s core values, mission, and vision is a critical step toward building a successful brand, but all of those pretty words mean nothing if your employees don’t resonate with them and incorporate them into their day-to-day routines.

Similarly, identifying your company’s unique strengths should be followed up with an effective strategy for understanding and developing strengths within your employees. When you harness the talents of individuals for the expression of your company’s signature strengths, together you will become a formidable creative force.

Helping organizations harness this creative force is Capiche’s passion. Call Chris at 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us if you’re ready to put this force to work for your organization.

The Cinderella Fit: 5 Steps to a Better Brand

Brown Men's Shoe

Adopting a new brand shouldn’t make you feel like an ugly stepsister squishing her foot into a tiny glass slipper. Rather, you’re looking for that Cinderella fit, a thoughtful melding of truth and optimism that empowers your company to grow into its deeper self. The shoe fits, but your toes still have room to wiggle.

A few months ago, I wrote a post called Creating Your Brand from the Inside Out: Why Your Culture Comes First, which was later published in the January 2013 issue of Utah Construction & Design. In that piece, I discussed the inextricable relationship between culture and brand.

Your brand should reflect your organization’s unique genetic identity with a spritz of aspiration. You want your company to recognize itself in the mirror, but maybe looking a tad dapperly, so it straightens its posture, brushes the lint off its shoulder, and strides toward the future with vision and confidence.

How do you achieve that magical fit? As a brand development consultant, I would take these five steps to discover and unleash your organization’s brand.

1) Formulate guiding questions to illuminate core issues. Don’t think of these as literal questions posed in a survey or focus group but instead view them as headings in your final report. Some examples include:

  • What is your current brand image/reputation among target audiences and stakeholders?
  • What positive and negative associations are attached to the organization?
  • What are the major brand associations of your competitors?
  • How is your company different and better?
  • What should you strive to be?
  • What tactical brand differentiation and marketing opportunities exist?

2) Thoroughly examine the facts through a qualitative discovery process. Get an honest view of your firm’s reality by conducting a competitive analysis, quantitative data assessment, and communications audit as well as gaining an understanding of the company’s history.

3) Involve all members of the organization. Establishing a transparent, comprehensive process in which every employee feels heard is not only vital for buy-in but also ensures the brand truly reflects the company’s culture. Participants will be more invested in the process and committed to maintaining its outcomes.

4) Develop a distinctive set of “brand tools.” A brand messaging platform will focus and guide marketing and organizational decisions. It includes a positioning statement, key messages, and brand attributes. The positioning statement reflects the institutional DNA and is so unique to the organization that it cannot be applied to any other company. The key messages articulate the firm’s purpose and direction, while brand attributes comprise a list of adjectives that describe the company’s character.

Branding Sweet Spot5) Bring the brand to life. Through a targeted creative process, design a visual identity that captures the company’s personality and develop a marketing strategy that is built around your company’s “sweet spot”—the intersection of what’s important to clients, what you do very well, and what your competition is not doing. Most importantly, help your employees understand and “live” the brand in everything they do—from answering the phone to delivering a presentation to hiring a new associate. The more deeply your brand is interwoven with your culture, the easier that glass slipper will glide on—and stay.

Are you ready to uncover your unique brand? Contact me at 541.601.0114 or chris@capiche.us to find out how Capiche can help your organization crack its genetic code and chart its course for future success.

Creating Your Brand from the Inside Out: Why Your Culture Comes First

Mindmap and Office Employees

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.

Before you embark on a branding campaign, take a reality check. Have you uncovered your company’s DNA? Defined its culture? It’s values, vision, passion and purpose? Is it real, honest and yet still a little aspirational? Your brand must be rooted in reality with room to reach toward the future. Clearly defining your company culture is your first step in building a brand.

Your brand comes alive visually with words and graphics. Your marketing team can create stunning ad campaigns, proposals, brochures and websites that reflect your brand. That’s the easy part. The hard part is LIVING the brand. Creating and embodying your unique company culture. It’s how you answer the phone. It’s how you interact with others on the team and everyone who comes in contact with your company. It’s who you hire. And it’s how you bring them on board. It’s what you base EVERY business decision on.

Building the culture/brand really is everybody’s business, and companies that understand that have a real advantage. That’s why it’s important 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 critical to 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 design team members, and influencers. Asking and listening to your constituents (and employees) is a natural way to build trust and take your relationship to the next level. This is marketing and management brilliance.

One company that has successfully built its brand from the inside out is Zappos—the $2 billion/year shoe and apparel company known around the world for its success in creating a company culture that spawns success at every level, from employee happiness to customer happiness to shareholder happiness. What makes Zappos different is that is has built its culture around employee happiness. Zappos credits its happiness framework for its success. The framework consists of perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and vision/meaning.

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!