Keep Company Culture Current to Avoid Becoming an Irrelevant Brand
The last decade has been nothing short of a bloody brand massacre as businesses scramble to modernize. The most recent round-up to downsize or go out of business include Toys R Us, RadioShack, JC Penney, Payless, Alfred Angelo and American Apparel.
The reasons for these closings, while many, boil down to challenging shifts in consumer purchasing preferences and habits. Some brands cite the decline of brick and mortar stores, while others growing pressure from discounted competitors.
Are these shifts happening? Yes. But are they reason for closing shop? No. The way I see it, brands are unable to move forward because their culture has fallen behind.
Think of today’s most successful brands like Amazon, Apple and Disney. What has competitively driven these companies for more than 20, 40, 90 years? The prioritization of culture. These brands ensure that every step taken—technologies adopted, processes implemented—aligns with a strong, customer-serving culture that evolves as needed.
This is why Amazon successfully launched its first retail location this year, despite the apparent death of brick and mortar stores. It’s why Apple’s famous iMac computer, released 20 years ago, now only accounts for 10% of its revenue. It’s why Disney maintains its original feel, despite contemporary changes throughout the decades. It’s usually never price or product that affects consumer interest, but rather an unconnected brand. Culture must adapt to deliver the experience consumers want.
We’re seeing this critical shift across several key industries including hospitality, transportation and grocery stores:
- Most Airbnb listings and hotel rooms offer the same amenities: a bed to sleep in, a dinette, pet-friendly service. It’s Airbnb’s convenient consumption model—a marketplace of unique properties combined with digitalized, personalized service—that puts it over the top. Overall, only 40% of consumers who have used Airbnb say they prefer traditional hotels.
- Even with analyses proving that taxis can be cheaper than Uber, customers prefer the latter for its convenient, personalized service features like pre-ride cost estimates and driver/passenger ratings. Uber has successfully created a unique “riding experience,” versus something you must do to get from point A to point B.
- Big grocery chains are feeling the pressure from alternative delivery services that offer a more personalized experience. Instacart, for example, pairs customers with a personal shopper who can be rated and tipped online, as well as communicated with in real time about item changes and replacements. This experience, combined with one- to two-hour delivery, is why customers pay $10-$15 more compared to chains that offer 24-hour timeframes and forgettable service.
Companies can resist change but, ultimately, the experience consumers want cannot be ignored. Evolving culture is critical for delivering these desired experiences and unlocking limitless potential. Customers no longer care about the availability of a product or service. Most don’t even care about price. They prioritize culture, and so should you.