What Do Your People Say About Your Brand?

September 27, 2010 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

People power is where it’s at for challenger brands of all shapes and sizes. Finding, training and keeping people who are enthusiastic about delivering your brand experience is the point of leverage against larger rivals. In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review website today,Fast Companyco-founder Bill Taylor suggested that HR and marketing must conspire to create truly great brand experiences.

Taylor said, “The new ‘power couple’ inside the best companies, I concluded, was an iron-clad partnership between marketing leadership and HR leadership. Your brand is your culture, your culture is your brand.”

It’s an idea we wrote about in a five-part series on our own blog called, “Putting People in Your Plan: Why Marketing and HR Should Share an Office.”

The good news for challenger brands is that people are often the problem for market leaders. While size and scale are advantages for driving efficiency and market leverage, it works against the people side of the business where authentic emotional connections are required to drive strong corporate culture. Personal connections don’t scale very well, which is why the corporate cultures of the world’s largest organizations aren’t often held up as examples for the rest. A quick peek at Fortune’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” underscores the point.

The Container Store, which is legendary for its employee-focused culture, has been on Fortune’s coveted list many times. When founder Kip Tindell put the company up for sale in 2008, Best Buywas among more than 100 suitors. Best Buy leadership admired Container Store’s culture and hoped to imbue its own with Container Store’s special esprit de corps through acquisition. But Tindell knew better and wouldn’t entertain the offer. He knew that culture can’t be purchased. It has to be created and cultivated organically. And this is something that leaders in smaller companies often do well, because they’re closer to the action. They’re in touch.

Challengers can use the advantage of smaller size to out-hire, out-train, and out-retain bigger rivals. The result can be a brand experience that’s impossible to duplicate regardless of resources.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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