I was recommended Cultural Strategy by a client to ‘better help understand their business’. The book is an accessible easy read as business books go. Cultural Strategy is written as a mix of theory and illustrative case studies. In the book, it’s authors Holt and Cameron propose that culture can be a key defining factor in business success:
- An organisation culture can make it more resilient or innovative providing a clearly differentiated experience between a brand and its competitors in the eyes of consumers. Their concept of cultural orthodoxy is similar to the red ocean strategy, where companies in mature sectors tend to look alike.
- By understanding consumers and the cultural context of the product or service, a market opportunity can be found. This is essentially what a good planner does in an advertising agency, but the Dougs look to bake this into the organisation rather than having it as a wrapper at the end of the product process
This meshes in quite neatly with work by marketers like Byron Sharp, Les Binet and Peter Fields that show a distinctive differentiated brand is key to success. It would make sense for the company culture to be part of the brand. An example of this would be someone like Patagonia. But it could also be applied to the B2B space. Salesforce would be a good exemplar.
Where is might fall down is when you have a ‘house of brands’ company; like usually happen in the FMCG sector. And this is why there has been so much focus on brand purpose.
After reading the book, I am still no wiser about my client was trying to say about their business; but that was more about them than my reading material. This story however emphasises an important point, what may be perceived as a cultural innovation internally in a company may not manifest itself as brand innovation or even a differentiated position. More related book reviews here.