Posted on: Mar 29, 2016
If someone says "brand," what company do you think of? Coca Cola? Nike? For me, it would be Disney. Not only do they have a brand recognized the world over but I believe they set the standard for what it means to "ride for the brand." Riding for the brand means that everyone in the organization, from the people sweeping the walks to the executives on the 25th floor works together guided by a shared vision. The brand is the symbol that stands for this unified effort. Think of those mouse ears, and you understand that those ears stand for "the happiest place on earth." Walt Disney created an incredible brand culture of customer service. He knew people were the key to the Disney Magic, and rather than employees, called them "cast members." Cast members were proud to be on the Disney team and helped make the magic happen.
I lived in California for 25 years and was lucky to go to Disneyland frequently. I am a big Mickey Mouse fan. In all that time, I can only remember one time meeting a cast member who wasn't riding for the brand (meaning: they were not very helpful and friendly). Since it was such a freak occurrence, I excused it imagining that the poor cast member was having the worst day of his life and was doing the best he could.
I never worked for Disney, but I share the ideal of wanting to work in a place where everyone is part of the team and working towards the same goals. Setting up a brand culture for Maze Runners was very important to me; if this is important for you, too, here is what you need to create a Riding for the Brand culture in your business: (1) A clear mission, (2) the right people, (3) a ranch, and (4) your brand.
If you want people to ride for the brand, they need to know which cow to rope. What do you want them to do? How are they supposed to do it? If you don't have a clear mission, revisit your One Sentence. A brand that people want to ride for starts with passionate leaders who share brand vision so that everyone wants to join the ranch. At Maze Runners, we want to make help people create a workplace where everyone’s talents are used to the fullest potential. This is the cow we are roping. No matter where you work, we want to help you do it better and 'make work a game you win.'
Credentials and abilities are important, but only people who care about the brand will ride for the brand. If you are building a brand culture, think about what kind of people you want working together. Many skills can be taught but you can't teach the right attitude. For Maze Runners, I look for people who want to help other people succeed and who have the willingness to take risks. I want to work with people who say what needs to be said, can fail and get back up, and who absolutely have a good sense of humor. We are having fun here while we work, and if you don't want to play, you aren't a Maze Runner. I know my tolerance for wishy washy is very low so dependability is also key. And if you say you are going to do it, unless you are in the hospital because you hit a deer, you better get it done. Before you hire, get to know the candidate. Shoot pool, go indoor climbing, take a walk, get out of the office and see if this person cares before you hire.
People need a place to meet and keep the equipment needed to run the ranch. Whether you have a virtual ranch, with meeting space and files in the cloud, or a real office, you still have to design a ranch that supports your brand. Ranch management is much trickier than it used to be because of the increasingly distributed, virtual elements. Setting rules for how people email, where they meet, how information gets stored, and what is done in person versus on the phone versus in email is all part of designing your ranch. Have you set-up your work spaces and communication to help people ride for the brand? This aspect of branding is often neglected, and left to just "emerge." If you want a brand culture, design your ranch thoughtfully. Make sure everyone has the equipment they need to do the job, the communication channels are clear, and the mix of real and virtual space supports stuff, staff, and mission needs.
A brand mark isn't just a "brand" to reach others, although it is that. It is also the symbol that stands for what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. Think of the brand mark as the signal flag, or sigil (Game of Thrones fans), of your business persona. For that reason, your brand has to be clear to others, but it also has to inspire you. If your brand doesn’t appeal to your target audience, even if you love it, change it. Although I liked the original Maze Runners brand, it was too complex for social media and other internet communications and was a bit dull. We spent time on the rebrand, and absolutely love the new mark. It inspires us, and is a constant reminder that we want to help others to break out of the maze into an enjoyable and successful work environment.
Just like on a ranch, a fence can get broken, or you get one bad ranch hand and soon you are drifting away from your brand. It happens to the best, which brings me back to the Disney story. My family visited Disney World in December and to my utter surprise we encountered "employees" as opposed to cast members almost every day. At the monorail, there were two Disney transport people grousing where we could hear them about visitors. I saw people in Disney uniforms wearing smiles that looked painful, or not smiling them at all. What?? I even had a person tell me "no" in answer to a request for change for the squashed penny machine! Fortunately, a real Disney Cast member overheard and said, "Oh yes! We can help you." This helpful Disney employee still rides for the brand. After Disney World, we visited Universal Studios - it was as if they had kidnapped a lot of former Disney employees. Service was great and we saw many more genuine smiles than over at the Magic Kingdom. Of course, I started field interviewing every Universal person who would chat, and several of them had chosen to work for Universal instead of Disney because of benefits, other incentives, and because they thought it would be more fun. If Disney's brand can slip, there is a lesson here for any business. Keeping your brand shiny takes vigilance. If you fall asleep in the brand saddle, you may find you get beaten by the neighboring ranch.
Lead Author: Betsy Eubanks, Psy.D.
Maze Runners Consulting