Recap: Culture Chicken/Brand Egg: Which Comes First?

Culture happens, but brands are planned. This is the thesis statement of D.P. Knudten’s engaging November presentation, given to SMPS Wisconsin members and guests in both Milwaukee and Madison. D.P. Knudten, of COLLABORATOR creative, stated that culture and brand are two sides of the same coin, and that a “culture brand” is the optimal goal for a firm. A culture brand is owned by employers, customers, and owners of a firm. The basis for building a culture brand is to “start with your Key 3” – three foundational concepts which concisely and consistently define and communicate your brand. D.P. walked us through two intriguing case studies – REI, the outdoor recreation services firm, and the United States of America. The Key 3 values for the USA are as simple as the basic tenets of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

REI’s Key 3 concepts are:

  • Shared Values, not Share Value.
  • Purpose above Profits.
  • Advocacy for the outdoors, and the people who play there.

REI was struggling as a firm, but after going back to their beginning and examining how their company culture was established, they realized that people and values are what differentiated them and would continue to be a crucial element of their success. It was important to not forget the company values in the name of “business.” After identifying and embracing their values, they became successful once again.

Identifying the Key 3 values is vital for establishing and solidifying your culture brand. In D.P.’s words, “If there’s nothing to differentiate you, you’re a commodity, not a brand.” He challenged us to define our firm’s Key 3 values and to build upon these to create our brand and use them to reinforce the firm’s culture.

To answer the initial question: Culture or brand: which comes first? The answer is…in a successful organization, these two should always be inextricably connected.

The Author

Heidi Grogan, SMPS Wisconsin - Communications Director

Heidi Grogan, GRAEF, is a Senior Marketing Specialist with more than 20 years of experience. She specializes in proposal creation, qualification statements, and client presentations. She also collaborates on marketing strategy, social media, and website enhancements, and conducts client and market research.
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