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How brand culture builds coherence (and why it's important)

TO RECAP

INTRODUCTION

Now when we know what Increasing Time’s Value is about and we know how to communicate in our everyday lives to get to the deeper layers (the real reasons), we understand how our mind works (how it plays tricks) and we have the tool that helps us not to be influenced by the tricks of evolution and tactics of developed culture but make decisions that support our values and goals. What’s next?

We can’t do anything really good alone. 1+1 does not = 2 when it comes to decisions, but if done right it sure makes more than 1. In order to help our teammates, our clients, and partners we must first understand how it all works and is related in an organization. Think about everyone involved and help them see and receiving benefits from Increasing Time’s Value. I am passionate about this mindset because it is a WIN-WIN for everyone involved while not trying to ignore org go against millions of years of evolution about who we humans are. It is important because studies have shown that most of us are selfish, and it makes sense when you study evolution, so I have been looking for solutions that are selfish but in a way that helps others. There are only 2 ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. What do you choose? I chose a 3rd way. It is the most difficult way when it comes to discovering but the most actionable way when it comes to practice. Its the gap between manipulation and inspiration. It takes parts from different views and practices, all based on Increasing Time’s Value for small businesses and doing so Increasing Time’s Value for every person involved.

As I continue learning and discovering I get more and more inspired. I see what I could have done differently when it comes to the people I have worked with. Not because my heart was not in the right place but because I was bad at expressing myself in ways that would help others see me as I was. I did not understand that they, like all of us see others, saw me through their personal filter that created the assumptions my behavior amplified. Because I am a verbal person I gave a lot fule as amplifier instead of expressing it all through questions to really know. I did not assume that others see things as I see them. I did assume that if I say things they will see things as I see them, especially when they confirm their similar beliefs. I was wrong. I believe people are good, what is a problem is because we see them as bad because of the defensive nature of evolution.

I try to now explain what is needed to link people together without assumptions. All the articles so far have provided important parts that continue to make sense as we continue.

 

TO START LET'S UNDERSTAND WHAT A BRAND IS

Depending on the background you have it varies but in most, people think that a brand is the logo they see on a product. Even visual creatives name a structure that gives guidelines how to control the use of a logo as a „brand manual“. Some do put more into the brand manual but in most it is an anonymous, made up content of wishful thinking, not an actual expression of the brand. This is explained by how much emphasis is put on the importance of a logo from the perspective of designers and business owners. This is wrong. The logo does little for the brand. The brand, however, does a lot for the logo.

For an interesting side note logo is Greek for word (reasoning, the conscious planning tool). The term logo is short for logotype, design-speak for a trademark made from a custom-letter word. IBM uses a monogram, Nike uses a symbol and so on. Both are trademarks, but neither are logos. But just to keep it simple we will use the logo.

If you start to think about it, a logo is a good word for expressing what a brand is because a brand needs to plan and reason its actions to prevent misunderstanding of others perception of it. If it is not done, a brand becomes a follower of the tangible now and not something that is followed by.

A brand is everything and everyone involved with the organization while being in touch with the logo. It’s the feeling you get when you use the products and services that has the logo related to it. That is what makes the logo valuable. All the emotions you reflect on it. Emotions are outputs of your beliefs. The feeling of similar beliefs that build trust will determine whether you will buy into the brand or not.

It takes way more than styling and strategy to build a brand. It takes creativity as well. You need to see and connect the right links to create value. The links are everything and everyone involved. Including you.

Some statistics for you to put it in numbers and make clear the importance of everyone involved and their coherence fueld by similar beliefs:

  • The most loyal 50% of customers would pay 25% premium before switching brands
  • Loyal customers spend 33% more than new customers.
  • The probability of selling to a new customer is only 5-20% depending on industry and segment, where’s the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%.
  • Customers who have an emotional connection to a company are 4 times as likely to do business with it.
  • In many categories, the most loyal 10% of customers generate 50% of the revenues.
  • In some sectors, a 2% increase in loyalty is equivalent to a 10% cost reduction.
  • A 5% increase in customer retention can mean a 30% increase in profits.
  • A 5% increase in loyalty can mean a 95% increase in profit over a customer’s lifetime.

A personal story for you. At one point I felt in my last business that I need to spend a lot more time on working on the business, not in it. It means build a culture and put more effort on the environment and relationships of our team. Because I had been working nonstop with little time off during 18 years and my workdays were still about 10-12 hours, often stretching longer and continuing to the weekend I wanted to find help as project managers as it was one of my main duties at the time as I was the only project manager in my small business. I knew I needed to delegate some of my obligations so I can put more energy on the core of the business and search for ways to support and motivate my team. I can say that I failed. I failed because I did not have the process to find the really good links, I failed because I ran out of money before I found the person that really got me, not just thought they got me or wanted a job because they needed to earn a living. Running out of money is the main reason small businesses have a disadvantage in finding the right links. The lack of a process does not help. Maby you get lucky but it really is like looking for a needle n a haystack. You do 10 things in your business, work long hours and between all that stuff you try to have time to read CVs, have meeting with potential employees and when you think you found someone, you need to pay them. All of it drains your bank account and sooner then you think you run out of money. Little did I know that a freestyle communication has only 14% chance to find the right link for my team. Like I explained before I assumed that because I say, and they confirm they have similar beliefs, they actually do. I was wrong.

I soon found out that I was still doing between 70-80% of project management work and then rest 20-30% was handled by 3 new team members. Taken to account I was dealing with their work as well on the scale of 20-40% depending on the person then it was clear I was not getting almost any extra free time and I was bleeding as a business.

I did not understand. Why was there a huge productivity difference? How can 2 intelligent people have the output difference in such an extreme scale? I know now. I was a personal brand. I and the connections I had worked. We were growing every year when it comes to financial numbers. I was too late to translate my WHY to tangible and verbal criteria. But I still hoped. There was no chance. Well 14% chance when it comes to research. Yes we could have continued to do business as usual but it was not what I wanted. I had become to hate the stressful environment and I felt my people were not valued enough by our clients. I felt I was not as good as I could be as a leader, not by far. I just had too much on my shoulders and made the right decision to late. We decided as a team (or I told what I would like to do and others agreed) to scale knowing we might lose a lot of money and end up closing the operation. That is what happened. In stead of crawling to a corner and waiting for the end I wanted to study what went wrong, what was missing and how could I do better. So I took 1 year off to dedicate into this. I believed and continue to believe that things can get better and I continue to work so they do.

Do you know the answers to these questions:

  1. Who are you as a brand?
  2. What do you do as a brand?
  3. Why does it matter what you do?

Unless you have a compelling reason for people to find those answers irresistible, you don’t have a brand. Unless you have translated them into tangible and verbal criteria, you can’t grow as a coherent organization.

They were not bad people. We had a bad natural fit. Maybe they were a good fit but we never got to communicating in the level needed to find that out. We could have saved a lot of time, energy and money if I would have had known what I know now. It makes me sad it did not work out but I think the experience is one of the reasons I got so motivated into building this process of Increasing Time’s Value with Creative Strategic Business Design to help small businesses avoid the same mistakes and make smarter decisions, find better links and build happy and coherent work environments.

 

HOW TO CREATE COHERENCE

So, to have coherence and thing about Increasing Value, means to know who you are, to care about what you do, how you do it and to have teammates, clients and partners who believe in it and support the mission. To create it without being viewed like a salesman, trying to tell you what he thinks you want to hear, means to live it and bread it in every step by every team member.

 

If people don't understand and visually see their part in the organization then they end up seen as a bad actor. The one who articulates the script to you and has the same emotion and mimicry in every movie. They play themselves because they just did not get it. They did not understand the characters life. They did not understand the WHY.

What makes a good actor? The one who you feel really is that character, with those feelings and beliefs. A good actor spends hundreds of hours to understand the foundation of another person, not repeating the script, so they can relate and start to see the characters reasoning and how they saw the world. To have good actors, the right links in your team you need to have a process that helps them discover the WHY related to who they are. The process needs to guide them in a way that helps them discover that „wait I really think this is valuable, I really care about this.“

Most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers, odds are they don’t know why their employees are their employees either. This is because they don’t know who they are.

If there is no understanding of your place in the organization then how in the hell will you even get to understanding others role? Right? If the organization does not know and express what they stand for then how can anyone relate and believe and care? In this situation how does anyone know what to do and how to communicate without being told every step of the way? They can’t! Maby you get lucky and find the almost perfect fit and think „finally a good person“ when in reality they for some reason just got you and understood you without the process. Good luck repeating luck!

If any of the 3 elements are missing, you will not have a great company:

  • Fanatic discipline – you can be sure those who don't reflect will not be fanatic.
  • Empirical creativity – if you don’t know the big picture and everyone's importance and role in it then how can anyone connect links that is needed for creativity.
  • Power over the distribution/network – if your partners don’t feel you care about them and they feel they are not safe, you can be sure they won't give you the power. If they do and you fuck up you can be sure a replacement is knocking on the door.

 

The 4 main characteristics of a great company

  1. Passionately and intentionally held WHY
  2. Teaching through frequent instructions
  3. The tightness of fit – say no to everything that does not fit with the WHY and HOWs. Just make sure you actually know what they are.
  4. The belief that the society or a system should be led by an elite and the thrive to become that elite.

 

A brand communicates in 3 ways:

  1. Promise (The WHAT) - what the consumer can (assume to) expect and how the brand will deliver.
  2. Emotional benefits (The WHY) - the outcome of the relationship consumers have with brands. What does the brand give me? Why Should I as a consumer care?
  3. Personality (The WHO) - Brands personality is like a metaphor. It gives a tangible element to the mystical anonymous being and it is created by the brand's tribe. It is like a God. You need to be able to visualize and explain it in a made up person. To make it simpler businesses have come to adopt the superstar CEOs. As we know that does not always work out so well but is a simpler path to take. The problem is how to translate the personal brand to the organization before the CEO is gone.

 

And the communication is done through 3 expressions:

  • THE IDENTITY of the brand is expressed in its styling (logo, typography, color palette, packaging, and retail environment).
  • THE TONE of the brand is expressed in the attitude (the copy, voice-over, or composition of the layout).
  • THE VALUES of the brand are expressed in the channels the brand’s messaging is communicated in, the partnerships it fosters, and the processes the brand uses to do business.

This all might get too complicated but all of what I explain is based on psychology and that is why it takes care of itself if what you spend your time, money and energy on is coherence. What is important is to build and take care of the culture, not the tasks and tactics of your business.

Coherence is a basic fact about the human mind. All religions are based on the insight of somebody’s peak experience. Peak experiences make people nobler and religions were created as methods of promoting peak experiences and then maximizing their ennobling powers to build tribes that have coherence.

Any group of people with the same belief, forming a tribe needs one „living“ being to make their feelings tangible. Because humans believe in gods, less and less, but the feeling of love and belonging is still in or nature, they substitute gods with people (big brand CEOs, influencers) who appear to show extraordinary abilities like gods have. They are becoming what we call personal brands or one could say “new age gods.”

In order for the company to survive the founders WHY needs to be extracted into tangible process and implemented into every element in the company so that when the founder is gone or dies the brand lives and grows strong.

In result, you will create a cult brand where everyone cares deeply about what is created and takes care of the organization.

 

WHAT IS A CULT BRAND AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

No company has a culture. Every company is a culture. Everything the company does and represents forms what is called the brand's culture. A brand that has a well-established culture is called a cult brand.

There are 5 common characteristics that you’ll find in any cult brand:

  1. A differentiated product
  2. An empowered employee and customer base that appreciates being part of something outside the mainstream
  3. An underdog message, mentality
  4. Easy ability to join the community.
  5. Offering of control (freedom) and simplification

Every member of an organization is a brands ambassador. The brand is the people who reflect the meaning to the consumers.

Make sure you have the right culture in the organization to get to a cult brand. Some questions to ask and measure:

  1. In he/she generous with his/her knowledge?
  2. Does he/she give credit where credit is due?
  3. Does he/she do what he/she says he/she will do?
  4. Is he/she willing to jump in to help others?
  5. Is he/she able to articulate the role and links between the elements of a brand to others?

The goal needs to be to figure out how to empower people so they become your tribe of believers.

It has nothing to do with manipulation. It has everything to do with being 100% who you are, living and breading your WHY, and as a result, pulling in people who are the right links and pushing away those who are not.

Every culture can be viewed in 3 ways:

  • By looking at its “artifacts”. Such as physical space and behaviors
  • By surveying the beliefs and values espoused by group members
  • And by digging deeper into underlying assumptions behind those values.

The value’s and assumptions matter much more than the “artifacts” that are simple to see. If you ask your team members what they like about the business and they describe the artifacts instead of values, then you know that you have no brand culture.

The artifacts are a right fit if they are created and chosen by the culture, not forced on them. Remember I mentioned in an earlier article about how we have created the marketing, the advertising, the way we are communicated with, by our choices. The same thing works on an organization. That is if you want your organization to live long and not die because of a revolution. Forcing the artifacts on people makes them lose freedom because they don’t have control over their environment. It only creates stress, not coherence. Feelings are what makes us act, whether they are positive or negative.

A brand is not the styling of graphics or the look of a product. These are just communication tools. Branding is about the people involved, the communication, meaning, beliefs, goals, values, pains and gains. It’s about belonging to a community that helps to get the tasks done and solve our problems. It’s about involving people.

In a society that’s information-rich and time-poor, people value feelings more than information. The feelings create actions. If you do what you don’t care about, the result is stagnation. With stagnation comes death in every culture. If you really want to be successful and Increase Time’s Value then you need to do what you care about. You, not what others think you should care about. With success comes money.

One of the things I picked from my father's sayings if I paraphrase it, is that „If you do something for a long time and get really good at it, anything can get you money.“ I think he forgot it himself at some point. I still continue to believe in it and choose to do what I care about, not what makes money. So far money has come. Time will show if it continues. Now I also know that research supports it.

A cult brand usually has over 50% of the market and their customers pay about 40% premium compared to an average commodity service or product. The premium gets paid because of the belief that builds trust. You are willing to give extra for supporting what you believe in. Belief makes you feel safe and you choose safety over a disadvantage of a premium price.

If all this is taken care of you are not a copy of others but an evolved combination of a huge number of parts that make you unique. This type of differentiation is important for a brand because it is almost impossible to copy by competition because the external visuals they can see do not express the layers beneath. One can only assume how your brand's organism works and assumptions are often wrong.

 

BE SELFISH (BUT IN A VALUE INCREASING WAY FOR BOTH SIDES), USE YOUR TRIBE TO HELP THEM

The most important for us humans is to belong and feel that we are needed. It makes a big difference in our happiness and productivity. The more you know about your tribe the stronger you are. And you can be sure they want to help, just let them:

Publish a manifesto aka brand cultures rules.

  1. It is a way of looking at the world. It unites your tribe members and gives them a structure.
  2. Learn where your word of mouth comes from.
  3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you. Often customers don’t have enough opportunities to engage with the brand.
  4. Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another.
  5. Be where they are and how they like it. Develop cross-channel customer visibility and interaction. If they cant Express when they have the feeling, you can be sure they will not, unless it is already escalated into a huge emotion. It gives a misunderstanding of the actual situation resulting in bad decisions. Everything is in a delay and connections between a problem and results are difficult to see. To get a handle on thing in a early stage you need to make it simple.
  6. Make sure there is constant communication between the brand and the customer and everyone has a face to link to.
  7. Be transparent and public.
  8. Provide ways your followers can contribute to the progress. Involve them instead of turning to outside help.
  9. Build your tribe members data, not to manipulate but to be personal so you can save their valuable time.
  10. Track your progress.

 

Make sure employers and partners know who they are impacting and how. The significance of one's work is extremely important. Putting an actual face to the other side by showing how their life was impacted makes all the difference when it comes to the coherence of a cult brand. The one who got impacted was always there, we need to bring them out to create a connection.

Open up your team to the customer. Let them see who is behind making the products and creating the service experience. And I don't mean putting few pictures on your webpage under a sub, sub, sub-menu. I mean when a person is in contact with a product or a service they see the person or one of the people behind what they are buying into. This transforms them into handcrafters and makes it personal and Increases emotional Value. Your team members family and friends will be proud of them and it is one of the biggest boosters of motivation and productivity. Again, nothing changed. They did the same work, just let them be noticed by the public. I will get into the details of building and motivating teams on the next article.

Remember you can’t tell the others what the WHY means for them. That was my mistake as I tried to scale my business. I thought if I say what I believe, and they seem to agree, then they also believe and care about that value. They either find it and it is coherent with your WHY or they don’t. THEY NEED TO FIND IT without you shouting it out. Forced WHY results in forced artifacts and takes away freedom and destroys coherence.

The goal should be to inspire and educate, not sell and promote. Let them come to you instead of you going to them. If you do advertise then do it to get in front of the potential people who might believe in what you believe and provide value. Don’t sell!

I remember back in my early days as an entrepreneur when I use to produce and promote music events I thought that I needed to write out all the cool features the event had: the light shows, the visual effects, the number of stages, etc. I was wrong. The percentage of people that come to an event because of the features is about 15%. They are the early adopters who go for the external, who are willing to take a risk because of the extrinsic benefits. I pushed way too much emphasis on it.

If the prospect starts to get interested in your brand, you need to provide easy ways to get proof for the assumptions to discover information to justify their belief in your claims. There should be evidence of your commitment to behave authentically and transparently. That’s the place for the extrinsic. That’s where you need to have laid out the benefits and features. They want the ability to validate trust through information.

By exposing yourself, being honest and open, you address issues, mitigate criticism, and build credibility for your claims. Transparency allows you to get caught doing the right thing.

 

CONCLUSION

To be honest I don’t have much more to say then try to think about your experience. Have the results been good or bad because of external reasons or because you don’t know why you are doing what you  are doing, you don’t know how to express who you are, and as a result you have connected to the links that do not support your beliefs? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you try this approach? You have always a chance to go back to your earlier methods!

And again. Please provide feedback. Positive or negative. I just care that you write about your thoughts. If you feel you have some questions I am happy to answer. If you feel you want to try the process of Increasing Time’s Value out but you just can’t find time to research into it and implement it in your business then I am happy to provide a free consultation and see if I can really provide value for your business. Each article would be about 35-70 pages long if I would share everything involved and I am sure most have even difficulty reading the long ones I write right now. So you can be sure there's a lot more to help you.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

On the next article’s, I will go deeper into subjects like:

  • Methods that help when building teams and partnerships to create the right links between people.
  • How to motivate people you work with and what really makes people happy.
  • How to deal with negotiations and keep them from creating stress and destruction later.
  • The methods to research (target groups), build value propositions, prototype and test in a creative and fun way so everyone has the same visual understanding of their part and the whole picture and anyone can use them without having to higher an outside business.

Maybe I will also get into deeper details on some other things (depends on the feedback and what you are interested in) like

  • How to calculate Customer Lifetime Value (to decide if marketing costs are worth it) and your personal everyday financial decisions in an easy way to have some guidance without the scrutiny of analyzing everything every time.
  • How to do good presentations (the visuals (translate data to visual language) and body language involved).
  • What needs to be done to make your brand stand out and opt-in.
  • What makes people want to buy your product or service and pay a premium.

 

EXTRA TIP:

During any negotiation write down the assumptions (beliefs, opinions, convictions, generalizations) about human behavior made during the discussion by the participants. You will be amazed how much of what is used to base future actions on while it has no critical thinking behind it.

People have basic human needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy) that drive their interests and we are afraid to lose them:

  • Security
  • Economic well-being
  • A sense of belonging
  • Recognition
  • Control over one's life

During negotiations consider what they have to lose and you will soon build empathy:

  • What will be the short-term consequences?
  • What will be the long-term consequences?
  • What will be economic, political, legal, psychological, military, etc. consequences?
  • What will be the effect on outside supporters and public opinions?
  • Will the precedent be good or bad?
  • Will making this decision prevent doing something better?
  • Is the action consistent with our principles? Is it “right”?
  • Can I do it later if I want?
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