Few companies realize that the corporate culture of their organization is a key selling feature. Strategies that support a positive culture revolve around performance, or retention of talent and skilled staff, not just customer appeal. However, the brands that have showcased a successful internal culture as part of their marketing strategy have won more customers, and improved loyalty and sales.
If you have a likable business culture and a solid relationship with your employees (i.e. your biggest brand advocates and word-of-mouth advertisers), it is advantageous to be transparent and vocal about your culture. It is a valuable promotional tool that you can use to find new customers, strengthen relationships with existing customers, and inspire employee advocacy for your products and services.
How Amazon learned about negative culture, transparency and commercial sales the hard way
On August 15, 2015, The New York Times published an article in the business section titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld. In the article, the authors interviewed several employees of Amazon, in order to take a look at the culture that was supporting the rapid growth of one of the world’s largest and most recognized companies. Some of the aspects of Amazon’s corporate culture alleged in the article included the company’s “Leadership Principles” which outlined fourteen employee guidelines.
On the surface, the guidelines read like a very principled and competitive expectation of excellence for each employee. It is apparently working for them, as Amazon posted profits of $79 million in 2015, despite posting operating losses for 50% of the past ten reporting periods.
Unfortunately, the article revealed Amazon employees who reported an environment that was stressful and almost bullying in nature, where colleagues are encouraged to report other team members. Many likened the internal culture to be a “high-tech sweatshop” where staff members were frequently in tears. Long hours without extra pay and an expectation of vigorous workaholic schedules reportedly discourage employees with children or families. Former employees stated that they were managed out of their positions for family priorities.
Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos defended the management structure and culture, but not before coming under fire by consumers who said they didn’t “feel comfortable” purchasing from Amazon, after learning that the business was reported to be bent on success at the expense of its employees. In July of 2016, Bezos briefly occupied the spot as the third richest entrepreneur and investor in the world, but in light of these allegations, would you want to work at Amazon?
How to capitalize on a quality business culture
If you are the kind of company that has earned a reputation for being philanthropic and a fabulous place to work, there is no reason to back away from shameless self-promotion (as long as it is done tactfully).
Choosing to showcase your corporate culture as a selling feature must be done authentically. Brands that go too far with grandiose claims about their internal culture risk doing significant reputation damage; consumers are smart when it comes to blatant spin-doctoring for commercial gain. There is a fine line between being proud of your team, internal business community and accomplishments and appearing to be boasting in an arrogant way. One method resonates with consumers; the other can have negative repercussions, but these two methods of storytelling are effective for communicating your positive corporate culture:
1. Incorporate staff stories into branding
Part of your annual marketing strategy should be to share the humans behind your business. Consumers enjoy seeing not only the executive leadership of your organization, but individuals who contribute at different levels in the production or service delivery chain. Communicating that everyone has an important part to play in the success of your organization is a story that is worth sharing regularly.
2. Discuss your philanthropy
Is it okay for a business to share its contributions to charity or volunteerism? While donations are newsworthy, volunteerism and community impact are the “feel good” stories that make the biggest impression with your customers. Many companies have several charitable and volunteer projects annually, but are reluctant to garner excessive publicity for their contributions. A press release and a blog on your corporate site (shared also through social media) is a tactful way that businesses can spotlight employee and community leadership.
What makes customers feel good about buying from a brand? With so many similar products and services in the market (with comparable prices), what often influences the purchase decision is likeability. Share your personal and human side to deepen your relationship with customers and make your brand more buyable.