Taking a Culture-Driven Approach to Business

We have entered a new era, and I’m not talking about the digital age. Consumers are looking for something new and different from companies: engaging experiences, educational opportunities, values realized. We are looking for the path of self-actualization, according to Tony Wessling, co-founder and managing partner of strategic consulting firm Chromium, at the Financial Communications Society’s recent Education Summit, “The Power of Culture in Financial Branding.” Tony explained that we can find self-actualization at the connecting point in any company where brand and culture meet — what he calls ‘The Nexus.”

There’s been a huge cultural shift brought on by the millennial generational that has changed the way we think about business. Millennials want to be a part of something compelling. We want to experience new technology and interact in a human way with the brands we follow, all while growing professionally and personally.

So if we work in an environment where culture is underdeveloped (or perhaps ignored), the impact is toxic. In fact, poor company culture causes employee disengagement that may cost the U.S. GDP up to $605 billion each year in lost productivity, as well as a notable increase in voluntary turnover. Since clients, employees and other stakeholders engage with companies in different ways, brand must embed culture into every part of their business, at their very core, in their DNA.

The first panel of the summit, moderated by Business Insider’s Matt Turner, discussed the rise of culture-driven marketing and shared insights from Carmela DiMeo, Global Head of Marketing and Communications at PineBridge Investments; Lisa Manganello, Head of Integrated Brand Marketing at Morgan Stanley; Bill Webster, former head of Brand Evolution, Reputation and Marketing Services at AXA, and Jeff Wilson, VP, External Marketing & Communications, Fannie Mae.

“You can’t hide from your culture,” said Jeff Wilson. Jeff is on to something. With social media and websites like Glassdoor, everyone has visibility into a company’s culture, which can be a challenge for institutions that are evolving or putting new processes in place. With the huge volume of communications and increasing opportunities for brand interactions, it has never been more difficult to manage a company’s brand. And whether a company is ready for it or not, building a culture that supports the overall brand happens on its own, even when its unplanned.

The biggest challenge “brand managers” face, brought up by Bill Webster, is understanding the importance of end-to-end experiences. An important part of brand and culture building is creating an integrated experience from the second a stakeholder engages with a company, one that evolves throughout the interaction. Companies need to ask themselves: How are you talking to each of your stakeholders? Are there different touch points? Are you talking about your company consistently across all channels?

A company is much more than the service it performs or product it creates. A company’s workforce brings diversity of thought and experiences to the table, which play a big part in the makeup of a company’s culture internally and its brand externally. So, what’s the real benefit to a good culture? The proof is in the numbers – almost 60 percent less turnover and 21 percent higher employee productivity – but more importantly, a highly engaged and happy workforce.

Christina Dello Buono is an account supervisor, Financial Services sector, Edelman New York.