Black and White

Branding Insights for Business Success

Black & White is an ongoing compilation of cogent and compelling essays, articles, whitepapers and presentations by Nocturnal offering actionable insights and practical applications to help transform great businesses into successful, thriving brands.

Marketing Is A Department, Branding Is A Culture

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By Ken Peters

Let’s be clear; marketing is a department, branding is a culture; and it’s too complex and too important to be delegated to a single department.

Organizations often operate in silos. Marketing, finance, sales and the C-suite are prone to define success differently. Misalignment costs money. Building brand culture gives you a competitive advantage by providing consensus of strategy and clarity of message that aligns your enterprise and moves your team forward with focus.

You don’t accomplish this on 3-day management retreats or by pumping up the rank and file with a motivational speaker. The process is ongoing with no final destination, but there are always new targets. You must be nimble.

Building brand culture begins at the top. The CEO must be the most vocal brand evangelist. Senior management must be committed to not only championing the brand but baking it in to the organization’s DNA. If you don’t care about your brand neither will consumers.

Everyone has to be practicing the brand religion. Interns and managers alike must live the brand, breathe the brand, be willing to paint their faces blue (or whatever your corporate color might be) and charge screaming headlong into battle for the brand.

When culture is at the core of your brand employees take pride. Proud employees are more committed to their own success and the brand’s success. The result is that they are more engaged, work harder, provide better service and positively reflect your organization.

Great brands attract top talent. The best and the brightest want to work for dynamic brands, which is another way a strong brand culture helps you beat your competition to the future.

Whether you're launching a new brand, revitalizing a heritage brand or jump starting a brand that's stalled, developing brand culture means starting with the human experience; understanding how your brand impacts people then designing outward.

In every organization there are things you know, things you don’t know and things you don’t know you don’t know. Developing a brand-driven culture challenges you to take a candid look inward as well as a wide look outward to bring that all into focus.

Such analysis – a brand audit – can be eye-opening. It reveals your brand for what it is while giving you a glimpse of what it could be; revealing opportunities to be exploited, gaps to bridge, challenges to overcome and differentiators on which to capitalize. Ultimately, it’s not as important that you like the answers you find as it is that you’re smart enough to accept the right answers even if you don’t like them. Brands often fail due to arrogance rather than ignorance.

Fostering brand culture creates a strategic foundation. That foundation allows you to shape an enduring brand that will weather changes in consumer preference, economic conditions, emerging technologies and anything else the marketplace may throw your way.

Exploring the possibilities with the objective of creating a culture that’s lasting and meaningful – not merely trendy – is how brands break through to become an indelible part of consumer culture.

Brand culture begins internally but spreads to the public. When your brand culture becomes part of consumer culture people will consistently choose you when given a choice – and gladly pay a premium. It's how branding helps determine the buying decision long before the point of purchase. Make your brand culture so pervasive and powerful that your customers will charge screaming into battle for you. Do that and you’ll have started a revolution.


Ken Peters is Co-founding Partner and Creative Director of Nocturnal Branding Studio, a full-service branding and design agency located in Phoenix, AZ. He's been known to design for everyone from Silicon Valley giants to start-up cat toy manufacturers. His work has garnered him everything from a host of awards to a grateful kiss on the cheek. He also makes a mean teriyaki chicken dish, but it hasn't earned any awards. To talk to Ken email him at:


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