Sparxoo Says: Your Brand Culture Matters

in Branding | by David Capece

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh has it right, noting that building a brand has changed dramatically over the past 50 years.  “It used to be that a few people got together in a room, decided what the brand positioning was going to be, and then spent a lot of money buying advertising telling people what their brand was. And if you were able to spend enough money, then you were able to build your brand.  It’s a very different world today. With the Internet connecting everyone together, companies are becoming more and more transparent whether they like it or not.”

Indeed, two keys to building an exceptional organization for the long-term are 1) a great team, and 2) a strong brand built from the inside out.  The two are intricately linked via organizational culture and organizational values that can best be defined as brand culture.  Excellence at the organization’s core is an enabling foundation on which the organization can expand, stretch, and adapt, all while maintaining cohesion.

The Sparxoo Culture

At Sparxoo, we are not just an advertising agency that specializes in branding and digital marketing.  There are hundreds of agencies that can make that basic claim.  We are more.  We are a collection of thinkers and artists who passionately conceive of disruptive ideas and creatively apply ideas into action.  We call ourselves “The Xoo,” an innovative place where diverse perspectives and dynamic talents can truly shine through.

To achieve the workplace of the future, it is key to pull from the up-and-coming workforce—Millennials. These are tomorrow’s leaders; and individuals who are vital to achieve the energy and dynamism to create innovation and generate creativity.

There are many articles written on how to attract Millennials to the workplace.  One such article sums it up well: “Millennials are pushing the envelope a step further, and are asking employers to go beyond traditional compensation and benefits to create an environment that is creative, challenging, team-oriented, fun, and financially rewarding.”

At Sparxoo, we attract Millennials and pay homage to several of Zappos’ core values.  In particular, two of Zappos’ core values emphasize the ethos of teamwork and collaboration in an organization:

  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

Within a collaborative team environment, Zappos also prioritizes individuals to continually learn and excel while applying passion to get results.

  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Deliver WOW through Service

In 2012, the Sparxoo team formalized the basic elements of our brand culture by establishing core values to guide our organization.  In developing the core of the Sparxoo culture, our goal was to empower talented individuals to excel in a collaborative and fun environment. Our five core values, as listed below, are a simple, yet powerful expression of who we are today and tomorrow.

  1. Be visionary
  2. Be collaborative
  3. Be passionate
  4. Be innovative
  5. Be badass

The Sparxoo Brand in Action

Our brand culture plays an important role in guiding and inspiring the team as we continue to grow.  I see our brand culture in action every day through the following types of behaviors, which are aligned with our brand values.

Visionary:  The first step in achieving our brand vision to be the preferred Florida-based agency is to have an all-star team.  We’re off to a great start (take a look at our Dream Team Advertising Agency). As a growing company, elements of our brand vision are constantly evolving.  We believe that we can best serve our clients through integrated marketing with an emphasis on building strong brands and winning the digital channel.  We embrace change as we deepen our expertise and add new services (don’t look now, but we have search marketing and public relations experts in house).

Collaboration:  From branding projects to website projects to digital marketing projects, collaboration among our experts is vital.  Through the exchange of ideas, we are able to deliver more powerful solutions and achieve greater impact for our clients.

Passionate:  Artists are very passionate.  And so are coding ninjas.  We fuel passion by empowering our talent to explore their passions.  While other agencies may keep team members “on the clock,” we are flexible in allowing the creative process to unfold.  We avoid squashing passion at all costs.

Innovative:  One of our clients recently said, “The reason I am hiring Sparxoo is because you stretch beyond the ordinary.  I want you to be uncomfortable in one of your brand explorations.  Try something completely different.”  Of course, our creative team was thrilled to have freedom to explore, and the results were phenomenal.

Badass:  One part weird, two parts fun, and three parts fearless.  At the Xoo, we like to have fun and we like to stand out.

The Future of Our Brand Culture

A strong brand culture can have magnetic appeal in attracting other talented individuals, as well as clients.  As a team that has doubled in size in the past year (and will likely double again before the end of 2014), a strong brand culture is vital to our long-term success.

To maximize the likelihood of long-term success, brand culture needs to be enabled by organizational leaders, and activated by all team members.  Our leadership believes in the power of brand culture (see related article on why a Company’s CEO brand matters).  And today’s team lives the brand.  We are proactively taking the following three steps to ensure that tomorrow’s Sparxoo brand culture is just as positively powerful as today’s.

  1. Hire to Culture.  As branding experts, we know that brand culture isn’t owned by the marketing department.  It is integrated from leadership to the most junior team member.  During the interview process, we now test for brand culture fit to ensure that we aren’t just selecting talented candidates, but selecting candidates that will be well aligned with, and contribute to our culture.
  2. Learning is Fun.  To date, we mostly have impromptu, fun gatherings to talk about our vision and values over healthy pizza, coffee, and even board games.  Using basic interactive exercises such as “each person pick one word to describe Sparxoo,” we have helped build a common vocabulary and understanding about the Sparxoo culture.  We have avoided dry novels about our brand, and instead opted for more creative expressions of our brand culture to better engage the full team.  As the team expands, we will continue to have these impromptu gatherings and add to our list of creative exercises to further foster our culture.
  3. Evolve through Healthy Tension.  Sometimes frustration and conflict can be healthy.  For example, we recently realigned several processes for greater project effectiveness based on challenges presented on a client project.  Likewise, we will periodically find that our values need to be updated to reflect tomorrow’s Sparxoo.  For example, today we recognize that two important values are missing from our ethos:  Be Fearless and Be First.  Be fearless is critical to further a culture of risk-taking and courage.  Be First is important because we recognize that second place is the biggest loser, and we want to be first choice for our clients.

At Sparxoo, we are brand experts who practice what we preach.  We believe that when brand culture is beautiful on the inside, then your brand will sparkle on the outside.  Our advice: be passionate and creative in building a brand culture that guides and inspires.  Take a peak at our branding agency services.  The Sparxoo team would love to energize your brand culture.