Written By: Gillian Rusike
We are what we make and we make what we are. Organisations are now being viewed as living entities within a larger, global community. A greater part of an organisation’s identity within the community stems from its reputation which has been built over years of saying and doing things that people now see as good or bad. Yet surely a more important issue is what the organisation is doing now, what is it like and most definitely how it acts now driven by its character and personality. Kevin Thomson defines corporate personality as the element that attracts customers who think, ‘I like the way they do business with me’ and ‘They are my kind of people’. Corporate personality comes out from everything the company is and does. What it makes, designs, sells, promotes, how it deals with customers, suppliers, the community and its internal customers. All these add up to something unique and special hence differentiate it from the next.
Within the organisation, everyone is responsible for corporate personality. This is the same role that marketing plays with the brand but practiced with all stakeholders. Traditionally corporate personality has been under the remit of Corporate Communications and is under corporate reputation management but not corporate personality. These are clearly two distinct fronts that need to be managed different with caution though each feeds into the other. Then who delivers corporate personality of an organisation and the answer is everyone within the organisation. Great reputations are not on erratic or inconsistent behaviours with some employees displaying some but not all of the company’s positive personality traits and characteristics. Living up to the corporate personality is critical if all the stakeholders externally are to remain loyal.
If people in and around the organisation are communicating using their hearts and minds, and if they are successful in reaching the hearts and minds of their customers, then something unique begins to happen. By applying both intellect and emotion, the organisation becomes more human in the most amazing and positive sense of the word. Arie De Geus describes in The Living Company ‘People naturally think and speak about a company as if they were speaking about an organic, living creature with a mind and character of its own.’ Yet the traditional language used in the working world actively discourages such thinking. This is the point in which emotional capital becomes relevant to be integrated into the business decision making matrices. Emotional capital involves the responses of employees to the company brands and their feelings about the company as a whole. Listening to a radio program in the morning prompted me to write this article. The DJ was asking a question why people keep working for organisations they don’t like. The sentiments that came out were quite scary as no one had anything good to say about their job, employer or the company. Therefore companies should strive to capture the hearts and minds hence create a personality that is filled with emotions like passion, obsession and motivation which has tremendous appeal for customers. Many organisations today appear to be paying the greater attention to the emotional capital within the organisation through such initiatives as customer service and culture change platforms. Yet in reality they are merely playing lip service for the benefit of investors.
Emotions are powerful drivers of personality in humans and the same is true in business. Externally, emotions help the brand and the corporate identity to come alive and take on human characteristics. The brand and the business reflect the wonderful variety of emotions that create personality, why, because humans have created it. In today’s society, employees are no longer willing to be a part of a rigid, unfeeling bureaucracy. People want to work in organisations they like, and are like them. Customers want to buy from organisations they like and are like them. This is the real essence of corporate personality. The only sustainable advantage is an organisation’s personality. It makes it shine through in everything that is said or done. Everything else about the business can be replicated, your product, your service, your added value, the imagery that use to express your company identity such as sexy logos and the like. What can’t be replicated, what makes you different, what guides you forward is personality. We are in a world where a focus on what the organisation makes or does is less important than the way it is and the way it does it. Growing numbers of customers are already asking questions such as does this company dump things in the rivers or water bodies. Does it care for the community in which it operates, does it care for its staff, its suppliers, and its pensioners? Is it fun, or easy or simple or straight forward in it and are they like me? All these questions and a whole lot more are the stuff of corporate personality. Integrity, fun, caring, seriousness, passion will begin to take centre stage and this cannot be manufactured by advertising. It has to be real to have appeal.
Kevin Thomson in his book Emotion Capital, Capturing Hearts and Minds to creating lasting Business Success, has identified four elements of emotional capital that organisation need to play close attention in building a lasting and positive reputation and these are external corporate personality, external brand personality; internal brand personality and internal corporate brand personality.
External corporate personality is what the organisation is like in the eyes of the customers, consumers, external stakeholders and other influencers. Think of Econet Wireless and Delta Corporation, how different are their personalities and reputations. External brand personality are the perceptions and feelings of external customers to the products and services. Brands will usually display the traits of the parent organisation yet like children they will always have their own unique characteristics and personality. This is created by people in the organisation who give the baby their traits. It is then nurtured and developed in the minds of the customer by marketing. Let alone brands are emotional and psychological. They are born from emotional capital. Then internal brand personality can be summed up by my opening statement above, ‘we are what we make and we make what we are. The brand, just like the overall organisation, contains the human characteristics and personality to which customers and shareholders relate. It is the brand personality developed, nurtured and grown by everyone in the organisation that creates the unique and sustainable advantage over other brands.
Internal corporate personality can be equated to as the way we do things around here. Emotions around the brands like passion, obsession, motivation, morale, drive, creativity, dependability and a host of others create internal personality and drive perceptions about what the business makes and sell. A strong internal personality is also a vital magnet to employee, helping them to relate to the organisation and have a personal stake in the success
In conclusion, Kevin Thomson notes that internal marketing is much more complex than external marketing. Why? Because there is a physical as well as an emotional contract. In short, people are paid to deliver. They do not have a free choice like an external customer. Yet the impact of living and working in an ever-changing organisation creates much more complex challenges on marketing and communication than the simple employee contract would seem to suggest is needed. In addition, with an organisation’s personality as a key plank in creating its competitiveness, defining and using emotional capital will be a critical success factor.
Gillian Rusike is the founder and Executive Secretary of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe.