What do the following brands all have in common?

  • Google
  • Four Seasons Hotels
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Nordstrom
  • Sheetz (a West Coast regional convenience chain)
  • Discovery Communications (parent of Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet)
  • Mars (maker of M&M’s, Snickers, Twix, etc.)
  • REI
  • Wholefoods
  • USAA (insurance provider focused on military families)

Well first off, they are all recognized market leaders in their respective categories. Furthermore, they have all transcended from ordinary businesses to iconic cult brands. However, neither of those attributes are the answer I’m looking for. What I believe is their most fascinating common characteristic is they all recently appeared on Fortune’s ranking of the “Best Companies to Work For“.

Creating great culture is paramount to creating a great cult brand. Plain and simple. It’s frustrating how few brand stewards, namely CMO’s, VP’s Marketing, VP’s Advertising, consider it their responsibility to ensure their corporation has an amazing culture. It is far easier, and cheaper, to create raving fans amongst your workforce through internal marketing than customer fans utilizing external marketing. Yet, to great dismay, far too many marketers only focus on external adverting and paid media. The ‘Ad Industry’ fuels this problem by placing disproportionate, and often unwarranted, prestige and recognition on clever external campaigns rather than highly effective internal marketing initiatives.

It is far easier, and cheaper, to create raving fans amongst your workforce through internal marketing than customer fans utilizing external marketing.

A former retail client’s own employees scored their brand attributes lower than the marketplace did. Moreover, these employees rarely purchased the employer’s products despite a generous employee discount. This is a major red flag. Yet even armed with this knowledge, the VP Marketing didn’t seem to care. He was too focused on producing a weekly retail flyer, their next holiday campaign and their store signage program. His job became consumed with finding ways to distribute margin-eroding offers though expensive-to-buy media channels. He was solving symptoms, not the root problem.

We can’t let the production of marketing collateral trump the critical importance of creating an amazing culture. Just as the adage states, “happy wife equals happy life”, well, we have seen time and time again that “happy employees equal happy customers”. The marketing department is the most suitable group to deploy talented and creative resources to create programs, communications and platforms that inspire employees.

We can’t let the production of marketing collateral trump the critical importance of creating an amazing culture. The marketing department is the most suitable group to deploy talented and creative resources to create programs, communications and platforms that inspire employees.

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