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The Intersection of Brand and Culture

The news story seems common now. Information about a company – working conditions, political affiliations, government relations, etc. – is made public, and the public’s opinion of the company changes. The change, just like the news, can be detracting or encouraging. Regardless, one thing in clear: in an era of mass information, brand and organizational culture can no longer live in silos.

Organizational culture is now a foundational tool in any chief marketer’s tool box. Culture can support a brand’s story; left unattended, culture can be a chief marketer’s worst nightmare. This intersection of brand and culture was a main topic of discussion at this year’s Kellogg Marketing Leadership Summit. Here’s what we learned from our conversation with 80 senior marketing leaders who attended a Transformational Leadership session. Nearly 95% of people in the room said that a company’s perceived culture affects consumers’ buying decisions.

So clearly, culture matters – but what impact does it have in the marketplace? Only 60% of the marketing leadership surveyed believes that their organization’s culture supports their brand. A troubling 20% note that the perceived culture of their organization undermines their brand.

Leadership drives culture, and while the majority of the session attendees agree that the most influential cultural driver in any organization is the CEO, very few indicated that their organizations have a designated role singularly focused on developing and maintaining a desired organizational culture. So if the CEO has influence, but has other responsibilities, and few organizations have an exec solely looking after culture, where does responsibility lie? While 60% of the marketing leaders surveyed already claim direct responsibility for organizational culture in their current role, all respondents agree that the CMO should have an increased role. And why not? With 95% agreeing that culture influences buying decisions, it’s clear that marketers need to be mindful of the story their culture tells.

Egon Zehnder is honored to be a founding partner of the Kellogg Marketing Leadership summit. Aligning with this year’s theme, Cultural Transformation for Growth in the Digital Age, Egon Zehnder’s Rory Finlay and Dick Patton presented ‘Culture Matters’ to a closed-door audience of marketing leadership and researchers. The live polling following the presentation revealed key insights on the relationship between culture and brand.

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