Building Brand Cohesion
From ditching hotels for Airbnbs to hailing a Lyft over a cab, the consumer mindset is changing, and so is the way we work. Adult sharing economy users are forecasted to reach 86.5 million by 2021 – a 23% increase from 2018, and about 35% of the US workforce and 16% of the population at large is part of the gig economy. That’s over a third of the workforce who work as freelancers, contractors…whose work is demand-based, not scheduled…and whose interactions with the company that pays them may be as limited as receiving a background check followed by a series of direct deposits.
The sharing economy has tremendous benefits—companies can accommodate fluctuating demand without burnout or layoffs, and individuals have an increased access to self-employment. However, when brand ambassadors are mostly contractors vs. full time employees, you lose some control over the brand…unevenness in not only the quality of service, but the ideas surrounding our brand.
Companies are becoming progressively savvier about measures to ensure safety and quality in this new market, but they also need a solid identity to celebrate, exude, and differentiate themselves through. Rigid standardization isn’t feasible, nor is it desirable…but how can you create a cohesive, differentiated, compelling brand experience?
By codifying your unwavering commitments to yourself and your customers, you create a litmus test for all you say and do…including who you choose as ambassadors and how you engage with them.
It starts with defining, or rethinking, your values—what do you feel more strongly about than anything, including profit? What, in practice, does this mean for your organization?
Internal alignment on these values is a major, if not the most essential, barometer of your ability to stick with them overtime. Consider opportunities for collaboration and engagement, making values a collective creation, not an order from the top.
How do you ensure that your employees far and wide not only know but align with and commit to your values? Companies should create values that are:
- Strategic Filters: Companies make decisions based on data, experience, and intuition…but values can serve as universal guardrails. Strong values can bolster and reinforce each choice you make, from hiring to acquiring. In the moment, it might be hard to pass up profit that doesn’t align with your values (e.g. funding from an organization whose cause we do not support), but doing so can give your company legs it can stand upon and a core it can defend.
- Unique and Descriptive: According to a Booz Allen Hamilton / Aspen Institute Study of corporate behaviors, “90 percent of companies emphasize ethical behavior and integrity.” While these attributes may be (and should be) important to any business, should they be front and center, or are they simply tablestakes? By creating values that show you really, deeply thought about exactly what matters to your company, you are communicating to your customers, partners and future employees that you are thoughtful about, intentional in, and committed to all you say and do.
- Magnets for The Right People: Values help find clients and employees whose mindsets and orientations towards your business are aligned, and with whom a partnership is productive and fulfilling. Having a set of specific, unique values can attract the right employees upfront, and keep them engaged and focused throughout their time at the company. People (whether customers or coworkers) who believe in what you do and how you do it will want to tell their connections—these advocates will help you grow your business, and forge new relationships.
- Informed and Actionable: Values should dictate behavior more than money does. For example, employees’ reputations in the gig economy rely heavily on customer ratings. Uber drivers are required to maintain a certain rating to stay on the platform, but sometimes are removed for poor ratings, without explanation or the ability to fix it. You should define how we handle customer input in a way that is fair to both your contract employee and your customer—values can inform how you communicate and take action.
Whether you are at a large company using more contractors or driving your own Lyft car…the marketplace demands cohesion now more than ever. Values help shape a customer and employee experience that is resonate, memorable and (yes) profitable.