It doesn’t matter how much you spend on strategy, branding, creative, media or reputation if there’s something wrong with your culture. As Uber is currently proving. It’s impossible in today’s society to mask an internal culture with brand. Sooner or later the truth will out and then you’re done. Uber is in unchartered waters; its brand value is crumbling around it as it reels from one cultural crises to the next; is it possible for a brand so close to social media to survive the damage occurring now? While Uber has lost its CEO, and seems to be going through a sort of cultural revolution that would make Mao proud, it’s going to be interesting to see how it goes.
There’s a valuable lesson here for all of us as we try to build our brands: you can’t fake it for ever. Sure, many brands have a strategy that is aspirational if not an outright challenge to the organisation but sooner or later you have to start being the brand, living the values and upholding your beliefs or you’ll be found out. And if you let morally dubious culture traits go unchecked it’s going to be worse. While it might not be as traumatic as what’s happening to Uber, it could be just as damaging to your brand value.
It’s a lesson a lot of financial organisations here in Australia should heed, once a corporate culture goes astray, it can be impossible to fix. Culture is invaluable to a brand and must be carefully shaped and nourished. If you don’t value a healthy corporate culture you should be ready to pay for it, and I don’t mean just as a brand but also at a personal level, ask Travis Kalanick or the engineers who used to work at Uber, who would work with them now?
Derek is the Creative Partner at Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in creating beautiful, effective and unique brand identities that bring strategy to life and resonate with audiences. Derek has extensive experience developing consumer, business, community and government brands.
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