Strong words require matching action
I was recently out to lunch with a friend and we fell upon the topic of the marketing language organizations often use and yet the people delivering the service on the frontline rarely experience it that way. Trendy words like innovation, creativity, passion and technology seem to be everywhere but I wonder when push comes to shove how many could demonstrate it as a part of their culture as opposed to something that feels good to say. I’ve been making my way through the book “Coming Home to Eat” and one passage points this out as the author reviews items in his home pantry.
“Post Cereals come to us from Kraft Foods in Tarrytown, New York, where, Kraft’s [marketers] tell us, their employees have 'a passion for food' and a deep love for the taste of 'home-baked fruits'. It made me imagine all the Kraft employees running home each night with bowls full of bananas, cranberries, and blueberries to bake in ovens in their very own kitchens. That way they could return in the morning to insert their 'home-baked fruits' into the thousands of boxes moving along the conveyor belts in front of them.”
While the author’s interpretation of what Kraft meant when it wrote “deep love for the taste of home-baked fruits” might not be what the marketing team had in mind, I have little doubt if you asked the average Post Cereals employee about their “deep love for the taste of home-baked fruits”, they’d look at you with a facial expression saying, “what in the heck are you talking about?!"
It’s one thing to say you stand for something but a whole other level to live it and demonstrate it's engrained in your culture. Part of the distrust in corporate America comes from the disconnect from values espoused and actions taken. One reads a beautiful story on a website but shareholder value is seemingly all the drives effort at the end of the day. Your business probably has case studies that show how your work benefited a particular client, which is great. It's just important to make sure your case study is not the exception to the rule and your actions mirror your values. Marketing is key to what you do and yet the why you do it and the actions you take as a result of that are the greatest marketing assets you have. You need more advocates than likes and shares because the former is what will brings new business.
Do you have a couple large clients you let allow to disrupt your process or compromise on your values because they feel too costly to lose? While a couple bad apples may not spoil the bunch, realizing each action you make signals what you stand for. The fear of losing that one client is a real one but when weighed against compromising on your values it presents a quandary. Do we stand for doing whatever big clients compel us to do or by our values?
Go Forth Boldly