We’ve stopped what we are doing and creating your personalized BrandZ™ report, which will appear in your inbox soon.

DRIVING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE: How brand can turn corporate culture on its head

Antonio Marazza

General Manager

Landor Milan



It is clear that to activate your business vision and strategy, you need your people to be aligned and engaged in the culture of your company. A recent study showed that companies proactively managing their corporate culture post more than 500 percent higher revenue growth over 10 years than those that don’t. They also innovate 30 percent more, and have staff retention levels 40 percent above average.  That is why we admire the corporate culture of companies like Starbucks, P&G, and Google.


Peter Drucker famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. So, the question is: what “eats” culture? We think it is the brand, and the correlation is clear: not by coincidence, many of BrandZ Top 100 Global Brands happen to be many of the same companies listed in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work. Here is the opportunity.


A company’s brand reflects the essence of the organization at its best. If it could be used to align all the organization to its goals, and to inspire its leaders and employees as it inspires customers, achieving the company goals would come as a natural consequence. Employees would feel connected to a purpose, and customers would recognize this authenticity in their actual experience, rewarding it.


What we describe is not fantasy: it is a process called Culture Activation™, our latest approach to cultural change. It is born out of one crucial insight: if you change behaviors, you change thinking, and this is how, in turn, you forge a corporate culture. Remember what psychologists found many years ago about smiling? We smile because we feel happy, but we also feel happy when we mimic a smile. The causal link goes in both directions, and sometimes it can be useful to exploit this in business, too.


That is why we have turned the old corporate cultural model on its head. Until recently, the focus was on changing managers and employees’ thinking to induce desired behaviors. Experience has shown us that this approach takes time and that results of such efforts are uncertain: today, managers and employees, especially the young, are more and more cynical about big corporate statements, and less responsive to traditional change-management programs.


For this reason, we decided to see whether a reverse model could lead to better and quicker results. We used the brand as a compass to guide us to brand-led behaviors that sparked change in the desired direction. We gave the brand the capability to leverage emotions, attitudes, and a sense of belonging through powerful symbols, stories and rituals. And we found this was a good recipe for pushing the organization in the direction of desired change.


Today, companies deserve an agile, creative, and engaging approach to change management, whatever their needs are. They need to either reinforce change efforts already under way, or identify new and effective drivers of organizational change. In both cases, they must focus on simplicity, speed, and complete consistency with the brand promise.


A century ago, brands had the simple and crucial goal of driving profitable sales. Then brand equity became a crucial factor in the overall value of a business, making the brand a driver for strategic decisions. Now, we are entering a new phase in which brands can be used as platforms for internal and external action. Brand eats culture, and it is good news for change.


An agile, creative, and engaging approach to change management, in five moves


1.         BRAND TO SET THE DIRECTION – A strong drive from the brand is the necessary springboard to generate value and competitive advantage, or your efforts may simply translate into a quest for better efficiency, goodwill, and coordination.

2.         CREATIVITY TO SPARK CHANGE – Out-of-the-box thinking and creative techniques are needed to effectively challenge companies’ processes and people’s behaviors.

3.         CHANGE AGENTS TO DRIVE - Selected leaders, internal communities and single employees must be empowered to spread “on brand” behaviors. A plan to educate, motivate and encourage people to action engages the whole organization.

4.         SHARE TO ACHIEVE SCALE – Change will show an early impact, but to amplify this outcome and improve business results, it is necessary to encourage and reward the best practices.

5.         NEVER STOP - Culture Activation™ is a never-ending process: set KPIs to help track progress and adjust the program over time.