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How Corporate Culture Influences Brand Identity

November 4, 2019


fighting dogsYou’ve heard all the horror stories. Company A merges with Company B and, right off the bat, there’s trouble. The corporate culture at the two companies just don’t mesh. Company A tends towards formality. The men all wear ties. Things are done according to well-documented procedures. There’s a precise organizational chart with very specific titles. Everyone is accountable to someone else. At Company B, every day is casual Friday. No ties. No job titles. No set procedures for getting things done and reporting to management. Everybody just wings it. The two cultures just can’t get along. Even if some at Company A would like to loosen up a bit. Even if some at Company B feel a little more discipline would not be a bad thing. The cultures are just too entrenched to change. Nobody’s expectations are being met. And that leads to disruption and frustration. But, while everybody is dealing with the internal warfare, who’s looking at the new firm’s customers? It’s likely their expectations are not being met either and that can cause severe damage to the new company’s brand.

Company A’s customer base shared a brand relationship with it. It matched up with Company A’s way of doing things. It appreciated Company A’s identity as a button-down place with a by-the-book way of doing things. It liked doing business with it. And now that the company is changing, the customer base has to feel a little nervous about where that change might lead. That nervousness is a weakening of the brand loyalty Company A had heretofore enjoyed. Of course, all this is also true for Company B, but in the other direction.

Brand loyalty is a beautiful thing. It means customers never have to shop around again. They know where their supply of (fill in the blank) is. They know they’ll return there again and again to get it. They’re free to spend time in more fruitful pursuits. The vendor who is selling (fill in the blank again) appreciates it too. The customer never needs to be resold. The business can spend its time cementing those associations, developing new customers or finding profit in other ways.

Needless to say, anything that begins to erode this relationship needs to be dealt with immediately before the damage becomes irreversible. Customers will accept change within a company they patronize. But if they sense their experience of the company will deteriorate, they will begin looking elsewhere for a more satisfactory experience.

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In the case of our example, management at Companies A and B should have prepared their workforces in advance of the merger. The clear difference in corporate culture should have been openly acknowledged. Then, the workers themselves should have been allowed to adjudicate what habits each side would have to either change or give up to create a new, blended corporate culture.

Cooperating dogsIn blending the corporate culture, one also blends the customer experience the two customer bases enjoyed. So this has to be handled delicately. Management should have also prepared their customers. But it’s a mistake to tell a customer, “Our company is going to merge with another but don’t worry. Your relationship with us will remain exactly as it’s always been.” Nobody believes this. It’s better to acknowledge that there will be change but it will be change for the better. The customer experience is expected to improve. Then, post-merger, every effort should be expended to ensure the improvement actually does occur.

To signal every audience, internal and external, that the merger is smooth and going according to plan, a new visual identity system should be created and applied. Again, this should happen with substantial input from employees of both merging companies. That increases the level of buy-in the employees will have for the blended culture – which, in turn, presents a unified, and hopefully improved, experience to the combined customer base.


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