Having a healthy organization is foundational; without a happy, communicative, and culturally aligned organization, one cannot expect to have happy, communicative and culturally aligned customers. The organization is the heart and soul of the brand and retail experience.
It is hard, if not impossible, to see how any organization could hope to optimize the customer journey across every conceivable touch point in an organization where collaboration, teamwork and knowledge sharing are walled off. A holistic brand/retail experience mandates a holistic organization. Whether there is a cure for silos remains an open question, however.
The cultural evolution of silos. Gillian Tett, author of The Silo Effect (Simon & Schuster, 2015), argues that the issue of corporate silos is cultural, not organizational. Tett is a cultural anthropologist who spent time living with and studying villagers in Tajikistan, in Central Asia, and applies what she learned to “tribes” in corporate settings.
Her main point is that people naturally define their roles by classifying and differentiating themselves socially. This does not necessarily happen with any hostile intent, but becomes entrenched over time and helps explain the failure to understand and communicate with those outside one’s group — be it marketing, sales, technology, human resources, finance, and so forth.
In other words, it may not be necessary to change the organizational structure at all. The answer may be more cultural in nature, and the imperative to find ways to enable better communication and understanding between those in the silos, and not necessarily tear down the silos themselves.
The single-word solution. Dwayne Chambers, a former chief marketing officer of Krispy Kreme (now CMO of PF Chang’s), says that the doughnut retailer addressed this problem, in part, by distilling its brand’s essence into a single word: Joy.
“We have a lot of different people whom we have to serve in 24 countries. We have a lot of languages, a lot of cultures, and a lot of things to consider. It is just so interesting how this concept of ‘joy’ cuts through all of that. There are cultures that don’t smile. There are cultures where laughing means you’re nervous. They still have joy; they just express it a different way.”
Having both a purpose & a promise. Scott Moffitt, chief marketing officer of Keurig, frames cultural consistency by establishing both a purpose and a promise. The purpose is what the brand promises to do; the promise is how it does it. Drawing on his tenure as CMO at Nintendo, Moffitt says the purpose at the games-maker is simply “to put smiles on faces” while its promise is “fun.”
The power of shared values. Leontyne Green-Sykes of IKEA emphasizes the central role of the organization’s culture as the driver of a consistent brand experience on a global basis:
“The culture is an outcome of the values we have at IKEA, and the passion that we have for creating a better everyday life for people. We take those values into our recruitment process, and the way we work with our agency partners. It is the foundation for how we behave and respond across the board. As a result, we don’t worry about compromising our culture, particularly as we expand into different states and countries.”
Aligning objectives on “purpose.” The issue of silos may also be less pronounced in organizations with a strong sense of purpose, or mission, such as Seventh Generation, which is devoted to environmentally friendly household products. CEO Joey Bergstein says silos are less of an issue because the “organization is so aligned around who we are and what we’re about that there’s a consistency that goes through the company and the singularity of our mission. What you don’t see is a lot of dueling priorities.”
Silos can be a good thing. Within Seventh Generation’s apparently “horizontal” culture, individuals maintain their specialties. “Everybody’s got their areas of expertise but people are working together … There is a real shared understanding of the mission and how we go about making that effective for us,” says Bergstein. So, it’s not that silos do not exist; it’s rather that they don’t get in the way of a holistic brand/retail experience. At Seventh Generation, the brand experience is “managed in parts, separately,” but Joey doesn’t see a conflict in that:
“My general belief is that people have different experiences with the brand and each one of those experiences needs to be thought about individually and managed for what it is. We need to think holistically and make sure that it all hangs together as a whole. But the truth is that every consumer has a different entry point into the brand and each one of those experiences has to be coordinated for consistency, but individually managed by the people responsible for those entry points.”
Everyone owns the experience. At Arby’s, where Rob Lynch is President, the experience knows no boundaries. “Organizations that allow every function to weigh in and be a part of the brand experience are going to outperform those that don’t,” says Lynch. “Everyone should feel like they own the brand experience.”
Meanwhile, from a purely retail perspective, Paul Latham of Costco comments:
“We don’t believe that the leadership responsibility lies even predominantly within the marketing group. We believe that the brand experience has to be embedded in the culture. It has to be lived, believed and exercised every day. Managers must have the autonomy to make decisions that they feel are in the best interests of our members. Although there are company protocols to guide them, they must have the freedom to do what they believe is right, driven by their own moral and ethical compasses.”
Ground control to Major Tom. While silos may serve a useful purpose, communication between them is critical. This is challenging for any number of reasons, but is certainly compounded in the digital world and the scourge of endless emails. Some companies are dispensing with outdated technologies like email and using something like an internal social network to improve communications between all members of the organization. Eduardo Conrado, the chief strategy and innovation officer of Motorola Solutions, comments:
“The greatest untapped value of social networks is people. As you communicate with your customers externally, as well as with your own people internally, it allows them to express their feelings, sentiments or even ideas back to you.”
Re-casting internal communications as a social network promises substantial improvements in all dimensions of the brand/retail experience, potentially enabling once-silod operatives to converse and better understand one another in real time.
Part Three: Innovation: Butch Cassidy & The Brand Experience
Part Four: Execution: Real-time Retail & Stranger Things
Part Five: Measurement: The Experience is the Metric
Part Six: Conclusion: Ask Not What Your Shopper Can Do For You
Part One: Shopper’s Brand New Bag