Internal Culture A Growing Part Of Companies’ External Brands

Internal culture is becoming an increasingly large part of brands’ external image. Earlier this month, WeWork, the $20 billion coworking company with 200,000 members, 6,000 employees and 200 locations around the world, announced that on environmental grounds, its staff could no longer expense meals containing meat or serve it at company events. And it’s not the only brand to make an external stand public, as consumers signal that they want to know the ethics of the companies they do business with.

Last year, consumer research firm TrendWatching reported, “Back in the day a business was a black box. For outsiders, it was pretty hard to see what was going on inside. The brand that was visible to the outside world was whatever you painted on the outside of the box. People came and looked at it. They either liked it or they didn’t. In 2017, a business is a glass box. Outsiders can easily see inside. They can see the people and the processes. They can see the values. They can even see what the people inside the box feel about what they’re doing.”

The company has expanded on that idea in its recent report, “The Future of Retail.” The report highlights how a company’s internal culture and its public-facing brand are becoming one and the same. In today’s transparent world, smart businesses build ethical internal cultures that emphasize employees’ well-being—be it their health, furthering their education, emphasizing their careers, supporting causes important to them, etc.—as they can be the most effective way for companies to signal to consumers who they are and what they believe in. TrendWatching’s report notes, “In 2018, consumers will seek out, engage with and recommend retail brands that build better internal cultures for their own people.”

“The Future of Retail” highlights several examples of companies in the retail sector working to overturn what it describes as a reputation for underpaid, overworked, high turnover workers—Bloomberg reports that the sector’s turnover is five percent per month. These include Taco Bell, which offers each of its employees $5,250 in tuition assistance each year and access to academic counselors; Walmart, which has raised its minimum wage to $11 and introduced parental leave benefits, a bonus program and adoption cost assistance; and Brazilian retailer Magazine Luiza, which has established a line to anonymously report domestic violence, and offers support services.

Read more about company culture and other trends in The Future of Retail here.

filed under July 2018
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Don Michalik
July 26, 2018
Thanks for bringing this to distributors attention. An early opportunity for us as a distributor happened several years ago when we were asked if we could create an internal culture change program and provide training. Yes, an odd request for a "swag" guy, but I reached out to a couple of OD practitioners and built a program that included leadership training and supported it with a program named ROW IT: Navigating the river of ceaseless change. From there, we were contacted by another corporate client and subsequently created an ASCENT program to address cultural issues on lack of accountability and collaboration in the workforce. The concept was built around a Mount Everest expedition. Not only did we build a communication campaign with custom content, we integrated a ton of promotional products used as symbols for key concepts in each of the programs. The two companies were both Fortune 100 companies. We continue to work with internal groups developing these programs and using key symbols, in the form of branded merchandise...and connect it to the content. As a result, we have developed the foundation for several theme related internal communication programs that can be adjusted to most key cultural core values, or lack thereof. I am tooting my own horn a bit, but this is an excellent opportunity for the right kind of promotional product company to engage their current customers and and new customers as a differentiation point. The challenge is to understand the internal brand as well as you understand the external brand. Happy, engaged, and motivated employees equal happy, engage, and motivated customers. I am happy to speak with anyone who might be interested in developing this aspect of their business. Best to all, Don
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