Building a B2B Brand: Why Culture is Critical

Deloitte

Strong brands are built over time. These days, we are much more conscious of brand equity, so we are able to plan for, and intentionally create, a brand identity, a brand’s voice and perceived value in the market.

Most dictionary definitions of “Brand” go something like this:

– a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name

– a particular kind or type of something

– a mark that is burned into the skin of an animal (such as a cow) to show who owns the animal.*

In fact the last definition is where the word “brand” comes from. A brand is so much more than that. A brand is the reason why people will queue for hours for the next iPhone and it goes far beyond the product itself. The quality of the product does have an impact, but it is more about what you perceive that product to say about you.

In a professional services environment, a brand is an implied promise (to existing and prospective clients) that the level of quality people have come to expect from a brand will continue with future purchases of the same brand. If you’re selling a service, you’re selling the skills and the knowledge of your employees to clients. What if prospective clients have had no experience with your brand at all? You need to create the desire to experience your brand.

It begins with your culture. Capturing the hearts and minds of your employees and activating a purpose. Your purpose is the defining reason for existing that extends beyond the bottom line and provides necessary meaning to all who interact with the brand.

The history of accounting is thousands of years old and can be traced to ancient civilizations, but the oldest continuously functioning accounting firm can be traced to Josiah Wade in 1780 in Bristol, England, who specialised in auditing the accounting of merchants. The company became Tribe, Clark and Company in 1871 and finally merged with Deloitte in 1969.

Deloitte is an excellent example of where brand is synonymous with culture.

Deloitte considers its 195,000 skilled professionals to be actively shaping its brand. The professional services providers are the brand. In Deloitte, B2B is viewed as P2P — people to people — and Deloitte member firm professionals offer personal knowledge, insights, and experience. Training is provided worldwide to educate Deloitte professionals about the importance and function of the brand.

In September 2008, Deloitte Belgium welcomed its newest class of recent graduates and held a special event at which they met some of their new colleagues and were introduced to the firm. The introduction was most notable for its conclusion: at the end of the day, each of the newcomers received keys to their very own Deloitte-branded Mini Cooper car. Following the screening of a promotional film featuring hundreds of the cars touring the streets of Brussels (shot from a helicopter) and group participation in a safe-driving course, the new hires departed with a new car and a new appreciation for the organization they had joined. The initiative was rolled out in 2008, but juniors who start at Deloitte Belgium still receive a Mini and color the streets of Belgium.**

Deloitte recognises that people are the driving force behind the interaction with all relevant audiences. They use communication to lead to connectivity, to lead to brand awareness, to lead to brand experience, to lead to brand loyalty.**

Culture can be deliberately influenced. There are many ways to positively influence employee engagement and have a positive effect on the firm’s culture. Employee benefits, such as Deloitte’s cars, are only a small part of the overall cultural picture. If your people are engaged and united in an authentic, genuine purpose they will work hard, achieve shared goals, and deliver the best possible service to your clients.

*http://www.merriam-webster.com
**Designing B2B Brands: Lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 brand managers, Carlos Martínez Onaindía & Brian Resnick.

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