The Communicating Culture And Values Through Marketing podcast transcript and recording is here.
Introduction To This Episode
In this episode, I want to chat to you about communicating your culture and values through your marketing. We hear a lot about the importance of vision, mission, goals, and planning. Often with these two vital components missing! Vital components that are essentially at the heart of any business – culture and values.
Charles Handy eloquently defined culture as ‘the way we do things around here’. If you’ve ever studied business or marketing, you’ll have heard that quote a million times, I’m sure. If you’ve never studied business or marketing, it just about sums up what culture is in a nutshell. Whether culture is intended, or it happens unintentionally, over time, is a whole other debate.
My opinion is that; small business owners ought to think about the culture they want, but have a degree of flexibility, so that culture forms over time, with elements of intention and unintended norms. Flexibility is the key word here, because I also believe that it’s important to be agile and not just be stuck with a ‘it’s the way we do things around here approach’. Charles Handy is right, in that culture is the way we do things, but I’d add an important word – currently. So, my amended definition of culture would be, ‘it’s way we currently do things around here’. I’d recommend that you remain openminded, flexible, and make changes when necessary. Combining planned changes with an element of going with going with the flow.
As for values, well, do you think values are important in marketing or are they a set of intangibles that can’t be communicated? It’s interesting isn’t it. Over time, as we mature, we come to learn exactly what our own personal values are. This is true of businesses too. Some business owners have a specific set of values, from the onset, that they want the business to have. Others form over time. Often by knowing how you don’t want to do things. Either way, whether you’re a sole trader or larger business, values are essential when it comes to business. Quite often a business owners personal values carry forward to the way they do business.
When it comes to marketing, I very much believe that it’s important to communicate the culture and values of your business. I’ve been asked by my marketing clients on numerous occasions how to do this.
Here’s a few ways how:
Through social media. Think about the images you use. A picture speaks a thousand words, so it’s not surprising that our potential customers receive intended and unintended messages through what we post. Think about the messages you portray. Have your branding on everything. Even levels of optimism and positivity define how culture and values are perceived. The language and expressions you use. Opinions and responses to things all count. Remember, too, that perceptions on your prices and affordability are often perceived through the images and messages we put on our socials. All in all, make certain that the culture and values you want the world to see is communicated in the most appropriate way for you, so that your marketing messages are perceived in the way you intended. It’s important to be authentic on social media too.
Dress code is another thing to consider when it comes to culture and values. If casual clothes have a reflection on how you’re perceived by a customer, how important is this to you? Dress codes have changed massively over the years. When I first set up in business, back in 2003, I wore a suit every day for work. It was the norm back then, and I’d have been mortified if a client would have seen me in a pair of jeans. However, these days, and I’d say even more so after the pandemic lockdowns, a more casual look has become the norm. For some, casual dress may be perceived as approachable and friendly, others may view is as unprofessional. Therefore, it depends on your target audience and how your customers perceive you.
This has been an age-old question when networking too. I run Business Over Breakfast networking groups, in the Northwest of England. Otherwise known as BoB Clubs for short. Often, when a new person is visiting one of my networking meetings, they ask, “what shall they wear”? Back in the day, it was unheard of for anyone to wear casual dress to a business networking meeting. Even tradespeople would attend wearing a suit, then go home and get changed, before going onsite.
I stopped this happening at my networking groups years ago. Yes, they’re business meetings, but it’s also a place for people to build relationships. Therefore, I think it’s important that members can be themselves. So, my response is always, wear what you want to wear and how you want to be perceived. After all, let’s face it, I wouldn’t expect a builder to rock up, at my house, to give me a quote, in a suit. Would you? At the same time, though, you’d expect someone to be wearing clean clothes. Then again, someone suited and booted in designer clothes may be perceived as unapproachable, for example. It’s all about balance!
Let’s take a building firm as an analogy. If a builder rocked up to give you a quote in ripped jeans, a dirty t-shirt, and muddy boots, how would that make you feel? Compare that now to a builder wearing a branded t-shirt, that’s clean, with clean jeans and boots. What does that say about the company? It’s a basic example but I’m sure you get my point. Absolutely, 100%, our culture and values shine through what we wear. What we wear in business sends out marketing messages, so it’s worth considering. Bonus, branded clothing can be put through the accounts as a business expense. I’ll hasten to add that I’m not a qualified accountant, so please check this with you own account first.
Sharing stories about you, your business and your team is an excellent way to communicate your culture and values. It could be anything from an award you’ve won to raising money for charity. Whether it’s through press releases, other channels, or social media, share your story. I’m going to add a caveat here, though, always stay true to your values, especially when it comes to promoting charity connections.
There’s a fine line between sharing your story about something meaningful you’ve done and using charity work to gain even more publicity. Again, it depends on you and your business, and it’s about getting the balance right. How important is it to be perceived as genuine? I have known some businesses to overdo it to the point that the charity work they did began to be viewed as disingenuous, by some people, as if the limelight was more important than the charity. You’ll find the right balance for you. Then, there’s the element of raising your profile and finding the balance between promotion and remaining grounded. Again, it’s all about the perception of your target audience. I guess a good rule of thumb is don’t be shy, share your stories, but find the point that’s just enough! Find the right balance for you!
Last but by no means least, let’s talk about branding! Your culture and values will radiate through your branding. Your branding is so much more than your logo. Where your branding is displayed, how it’s identified, who wears it and how it’s perceived are crucial when it comes to communicating your culture and values.
Let’s take, for example, the different perceptions about Volvic and Sunny Delight. What are your thoughts about the two brands. Does Volvic perhaps portray a healthy culture and values. Whereas, Sunny Delight not so much? Or, does it mean something else to you.
I’m using these examples because I happen to have a bottle of Volvic on my desk right now. When I thought about a product that is the total opposite, Sunny Delight came to mind. You may remember that this was an orange coloured drink. If you’ve never heard of this brand, I’ll explain why.
I don’t know much about the drinks market, and I don’t profess to know the entire ingredients of Sunny Delight. However, I do know that through the marketing campaigns, a message of health, nutrition and well-being, was communicated, suggesting these were all elements of the brand values. Moreover, some of the marketing campaigns were targeted at children. Later, it was revealed that the ingredients in the orange coloured drink weren’t so healthy at all. Quite the opposite in fact. This misrepresentation of the culture and values had a massive negative impact. To the point where, if I remember correctly, I think the product was banned here in the UK.
I don’t know this for sure, but it is entirely possible that the ingredients included in Sunny Delight, were no unhealthier than any other soft drinks. However, because the marketing campaigns weren’t appropriate, the impact was devastating. Culture and values are communicated through your marketing messages, so getting it right is crucial.
Concluding This Episode
To end this podcast episode on a positive, let your culture and values shine bright, but before you do, make sure you get them right! Your culture and values are a big part of your business and marketing strategy. Give them serious consideration, take the time to define them, let them flow like a river, embrace change, be flexible and make alterations along the way. Most importantly, be you! There’s only one of you, there’s only one business like yours. Never let anyone transgress your core values, stay true to who you are, and the rest will follow.
If you would like any help and support with your business strategy, marketing planning, you can find more information about my do it for you and work with you approaches. To find out more visit my website www.tracyheatley.com.
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My name is Tracy Heatley, and I thank you for listening to my Be Better With Tracy Heatley podcast”.
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