Company Culture is a Powerful Brand Differentiator
HR Expert (& Huge Geek)
17 Jan 2024
Cat DiStasio takes a closer look at culture as a brand differentiator and how leaders can harness its transformative powers.
Branding is challenging on its own. Standing out in a sea of competition is a whole other ball game.
In discussions around brand differentiation, the customer experience is often in the spotlight. The focus tends to be product- and technology-oriented, and many organizations underestimate the influence of company culture on current and potential customers.
The bottom line is that what’s happening inside your organizational culture directly shapes the customer experience. Investing in strategies that proactively and intentionally build a culture you want – one that reflects your organization’s values – can help your brand get the attention it deserves. And maybe even land some new customers.
Here’s a closer look at how culture is a powerful brand differentiator, what business leaders can do about it, and a snapshot of the other positive side effects your organization is likely to see.
Company culture as a brand differentiator
Your employees are people. You already know this. But more than that, they are (and they know) customers. And they talk about their experiences at work, for better or worse. Glassdoor, arguably the biggest and most recognized site for employee reviews of businesses, has collected 50 million reviews on more than a million organizations. And those reviews are public – visible to your current customers and easily discovered by potential buyers.
Time and again, research has shown that higher levels of employee satisfaction translate into a better customer experience and higher levels of customer satisfaction. And it follows common sense, too. A positive company culture is more likely to make employees happy, and happy people are generally more invested in their work and more enjoyable for customers to interact with. We’ve all dealt with a grumpy customer service rep over the phone and, while everyone is allowed a bad day here and there, that experience is a clear reflection on the brand as a whole.
Strong company culture is also a key differentiator when it comes to talent attraction. Just months before the pandemic began, job seekers told Glassdoor that company culture was more important than compensation and benefits when it comes to considering where to apply. And the same survey found that 77% of job seekers in four countries (the United States, UK, France, and Germany) said they would consider company culture before applying. In the wake of workplace disruption in the years since that survey, we have every reason to believe the results would be similar today, if not higher.
Nurturing a strong, positive culture
Intentionally creating and fostering a positive company culture is a never-ending job. And that’s because, like all your employees, culture is a living thing. Work culture changes over time and, left unchecked, a positive culture can become toxic faster than you might think. Consistently working to nurture a strong company culture is the most effective way to avoid that outcome.
Don’t think you need to worry about your culture because it’s already amazing? Research from Great Place to Work found that only 48% of U.S. hourly workers and 58% of salaried folks reported a safe and healthy work environment. The figures clearly indicate there is room for improvement and a ‘good’ culture can always get better.
Here are some of the strategies business leaders can use to influence a more positive company culture:
- Define the ideal company culture in concrete terms
- Communicate that clearly and regularly to all employees
- Hold leaders accountable for embodying and supporting company culture
- Bake company culture into the work itself, rather than the work location
- Integrate employee stories and testimonials into your brand marketing efforts
Other benefits of a strong work culture
Prioritizing company culture benefits employees in obvious ways and, as we’ve explained, your customers are also impacted. But there are plenty of other benefits to a strong culture. Here are just a few to consider:
- McKinsey research showed that employees with a positive experience were 16 times more engaged than employees with a negative experience
- Historical data from Columbia University showed that companies with a rich culture enjoy a possible turnover rate of just 13.9%, compared with 48.4% in a poor company culture
- A positive employee experience directly correlates with increased revenue, according to Harvard Business Review
Culture that clicks with customers and employees alike
Nurturing a positive company culture has so many benefits that there’s virtually no case against it. But when it comes to brand differentiators, it’s crucial to remember that your employees have the greatest influence on the customer experience. Company culture helps brands stand out more than your marketing campaigns, more than your sales figures, and even more than your technology.
Building a better work culture is a strategic move that directly impacts brand differentiation and the customer experience. Your employees are (hopefully) the living embodiment of your brand values and their experience shapes the customer journey in ways that transcend marketing strategies and tech innovations. Investing in a thriving company culture isn’t just the cornerstone to building a distinctive and memorable brand – it’s the ultimate competitive advantage.
Before we wrap up, consider this powerful data point: PwC research on customer loyalty found that 32% of customers will bail on a brand after just one bad experience. Now, ask yourself: can you afford to gamble with a third of your customer base by not investing in your company culture?