We’re delighted to be joined by Joe Bowler, founder of Hunger Marketing for our latest Let’s Talk.
We’ve worked alongside Joe in a number of ways over the past few years. He’s one of the more switched-on, veracious commercial marketers we’ve known. He has considerable experience in bringing campaigns to life, from the boardroom out to the page placements.
A bit about Joe, from Joe: I have “worked in Marketing” for over 25 years, initially on the client side and then on the agency side. For the last 5 years, I have worked for myself providing clients with brand and marketing advice and supporting/facilitating the planning and execution of marketing activities (some of which I deliver with third parties).
I have worked with businesses and organisations in multiple sectors, of varying shapes and sizes – from very large multinationals to smaller, owner-managed businesses. I have had the pleasure of sitting in the reception areas of Aldi, The Co-op, Siemens, BaE Systems, Akzo Nobel, Unilever Ventures… and many more! I have worked on everything from small-scale, tactical campaigns to large-scale strategic branding projects. My sector experience includes: trade paint, funeral plans, chemical catalysis, hearing aids, travel, wills, and industrial technology.
Having spent more than two decades experiencing different businesses first-hand, I think I have a good understanding of how businesses function (or perhaps, how they don’t!). In that time I have noted how often companies have either not spent any time thinking about what they stand for or defining their values, or companies have done so but then they have been poorly articulated or not “lived” (usually down to poor leadership, behaviours and culture).
I’m interested in the interplay between culture, behaviours, values and brand.
Door4: Thank you for joining us! You say a company’s brand and its marketing output are inextricably linked with its internal values and culture… So, if a company hasn’t properly defined its values and culture, what challenges might it face in its marketing efforts?
Well, the first challenge is clarity. If you don’t know why you do what you do or who you do it for, how can you expect your customers to understand it? Your marketing efforts may lack a coherent message, making it harder to stand out from competitors.
Expanding on the importance of unique company values. Why should a company’s culture and values be unique?
Unique company values help create a distinct identity. When employees and customers know what your company stands for and see it as different from others, they’re more likely to be loyal. Your values should set you apart in a meaningful way. Also, if the culture within a company isn’t positive and doesn’t encourage and support contribution, then this will very likely have a negative impact on overall performance.
How can a company effectively articulate its values and ensure they are understood and lived by everyone in the organization?
If you have not articulated what your company stands for in an authentic, unique and understandable manner, how can you expect customers (or potential customers) to understand you and why they should consider buying from you?
But we’ve done that, you say.
You may have a business mission and vision. You may have a set of values. You may have those values on some posters scattered around the business, plus on some cheerful mugs. And mousemats! Great!
But. Does everyone understand what your company and your brand is there to do? IS everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, as they say? Is everyone in the company truly “living” these values? (And I mean EVERYONE. Do VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE who are TOO BUSY AND IMPORTANT opt themselves out of it?) Does your company have a culture that is aligned with your values and encourages people to contribute?
The problem is that if you have done some work in this area but then this hasn’t been properly carried through and backed up by the leaders in the business, then everything is just words on a page (or, more likely, a poster on a wall somewhere).
Absolutely, authenticity is vital.
Company values are the core beliefs that direct your actions and decisions. They are the DNA of the company – they form the foundation of your brand, and they help to define your culture and identity. They are really important. Really, really important!
Values… and brand
They are important for brand definition because they help to create a clear and consistent message about what the company stands for. Having a clear brand definition can in turn help to build trust and loyalty with customers and, just as importantly, with employees. When a company’s values are aligned with its brand, it creates a powerful force that can help the company achieve its goals. So, for example, if your company values being sustainable and reducing waste, you’ll want a brand that is known for its environmentally friendly products and ways of working.
Let’s not forget that a brand is more than just a company logo or its products or services. At its heart, it is the company’s reputation, its values, and how it behaves. A strong brand can help a company attract customers, employees, and investors, by differentiating itself from its competitors. It can also drive profitability.
And remember that a brand is not what you say about yourself but what others think and say about you.
Values… and company culture
They are important for culture, provided they are meaningful and articulated in the right way. They can give people something to rally behind, something to believe in, creating a sense of belonging which can help increase productivity and create a more positive working
environment. They can even help you to recruit better people.
Values… and your marketing strategy
Not only are your business values and culture fundamental to helping to define your brand and influence your culture, they are also important to your customers and can therefore form a powerful part of your marketing strategy. They help customers understand who you are as a business and how your products or service fit into their lives
There are many ways to market your business values and culture. For instance, you could create a content marketing campaign that highlights your company’s values and how they are put into practice in a way that resonates with your target customer. You might also use social media to share stories about your employees and their contributions to the company. Finally, you can participate in events and activities that support your company’s values – and definitely steer clear of the ones which don’t!
By focusing on your business culture and values, you can create a marketing strategy that is both effective and authentic to you. This can help you to attract and retain customers, build brand loyalty…and grow your business!
Let’s look at some values in action:
Patagonia – “Purpose over profit”, values-driven around sustainability, use of resources, business ethics
Timpson – “Great service by great people”, flexible management structure, vocal CEO, support of ex-offenders
VW – Forgot about “Responsibility” and “Honesty” when it knowingly cheated emissions tests, wiped billions off its value, had to set aside billions to pay fines, and damaged its brand reputation
It has to be true to stand a chance that people will believe it
It must be an authentic and truthful representation of your company – don’t just make shit up. If you do, nobody will believe it and people will see it for what it is – BS. At best it won’t resonate and, at worst, it will actively put people off. It is absolutely critical that people within the company feel part of it so that they believe it, buy into it and “live” it through their behaviours.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has to be on board
It applies to everyone, at all levels of the company, all the time. If the leaders within the company don’t think it applies to them, or it is seen as a box-ticking exercise, then run for the hills. For instance, if Company A says one of its values is “always respecting others and being helpful” but a leader in the company is always late for meetings because THEY ARE REALLY IMPORTANT AND BUSY, AND ANYWAY, IT DOESN’T APPLY TO ME BECAUSE, WELL, JUST BECAUSE…AND GET ME A COFFEE! Then this person is not living this value. And they are probably an arsehole.
Language is really important
Because core values are at their essence a pivotal link between the company’s internal culture and its external facing brand, they are different sides of the same coin, so you should articulate them in a way that is truthful, engaging and emotive.
For example, don’t just talk about “Quality”. That is so boring. It won’t set anyone’s trousers on fire because it doesn’t resonate with people. For instance, Google’s value statement doesn’t just say “quality”, it says “Great just isn’t good enough.” Be more “right brain” when articulating them so that you get under people’s skin (in a good way!).
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Attributed to the American Management consultant, Peter Drucker, this means, in essence, that it doesn’t matter how well you have thought something through, it will likely fail if people – at all levels in the company – are not encouraged to carry it out. Having said that, if the overall company strategy is crap, then even the strongest culture probably won’t help. However, a strong culture can make it much more likely that a strategy will be successful. If you are looking to improve your company’s chances of success, pay attention to your culture!
Finally, for companies struggling to define their values, you mentioned the “5 Whys” technique. Could you explain that and its benefits?
This involves asking “Why” 5 times until you get to the root of the matter. This will have the best chance of getting the answers if you have key people involved. By getting to what is important to you, you can create a set of values that will guide your company’s success.
Here are some additional benefits of using the 5 Whys to define core values:
- It can help you identify your company’s unique strengths and competitive advantages.
- It can help you create a culture of alignment and commitment to your core values.
- It can help you make better decisions that are aligned with your core values.
- It can help you attract and retain employees who share your core values.
Some other questions you might want to ask. The very first question should always be:
Are the leaders in the company all aligned, with a shared vision, and prepared to get behind this?
If they aren’t, then don’t bother. You are wasting your time.
If they are then:
Do you know where you are going as a company?
Do you have a plan to get there?
Have you a defined and well-articulated mission?
Do you know who your customer is and where they hang out?
Do you know what your customer finds important?
Does everyone know how they and their job fit into the bigger picture?
Do people enjoy coming to work?
Do the leaders in the business lead?
Is the environment positive and does it encourage people to contribute without fear?
Do you know what good looks like and how to measure it?
Incredibly insightful and I’m sure it’s given everyone reading a LOT to think about!
Thanks for your time Joe! Connect with Joe on LinkedIn here.
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