Internal culture is the most powerful determinant of brand values, which, in turn affect external brand perceptions. It directly impacts the brand development as it lies at its core.
If we think of corporate culture as an organism, evolving over time, it could develop as a goldfish or a piranha. Cultures contain positive and negative traits – each can thrive or die depending upon its environment. Continuing the evolutionary model, it is the survival of those best suited to that environment that will prosper.
It is on the management of this environment that brand leadership can have its greatest influence in ensuring positive traits are encouraged and negative eliminated. The internal culture can be nurturing or cynical, fearful or cooperative, innovative and creative or conservative and static. We have all seen the ‘power of the group’ in action in organisations – for good and ill. People who fit the current culture survive and those who challenge cultural norms and have the potential to change it leave or are marginalised – if the culture is a sound one, this may be a positive activity, but often it leads to the perpetuation of undesirable attitudes or practices.
The evolutionary view, on a wider stage, will dictate that brands best suited for the market environment will thrive and prosper – but internal cultures are often evolving independently – to paraphrase Richard Dawkins, we have the ‘Selfish Culture’. Its only purpose is to perpetuate itself. So if, for example, we have a grasping internal culture that considers customers as dumb punters, no amount of tweaking the brand image or fine words about being ‘customer focussed’ will make any difference. To build a strong brand requires strong brand values and that needs the right cultural envirenment. Corporate culture is the DNA of the brand values.