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This business card looks beat up. Which is totally on-brand.

When your company culture shows in your work

To look good on the outside, start with a strong brand inside.

Think of a large heartless retailer that is notorious for beating down its employees’ wages and squeezing its vendors. A company with a less-than-warm culture. Any giant, uncaring retail chain will do. Got one in mind? Good. Now think of its advertising. Is it interesting? Is it breakthrough? Is it warm and inviting? Is it innovative in any way? Probably not.

I have a theory — it’s just a theory mind you — that companies with great cultures on the inside tend to project well on the outside. In their advertising, their PR, their web and digital presence and their customer service. Especially if they have partnered with an agency that knows about leveraging company culture (subtle hint). Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

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REI: Taking a company culture to extremes.

Building a brand by shutting it down. Genius. 

REI consistently shows up in lists of top 20 best companies to work for. It’s a co-op, so employees are literally invested in the retailer’s success. This past holiday season, REI did something remarkable which drew attention to the brand. It closed down. On Black Friday, the day every other retailer was open, they shut their retail locations down and sent their 11,000+ employees outside (supposedly to work off that extra slice of pumpkin pie) — an inspired move that was 100% on-brand and created a lot of buzz for the retailer.
 

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One of my favorite Progressive commercials. “Where is your husband?”

Progressive: all about fun.

Car insurance is a commodity, but Progressive — another company that regularly scores highly for company culture—has made talking about that commodity in their advertising rather fun. Flo, their quirky and playful spokesperson (lover her or hate her), has become an advertising icon over the past decade. And the work they do is consistently inventive — not an easy feat to pull off within the made-up-spokesperson format.

 

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Photojojo: tiny company, big personality.

I really dig this tiny, quirky company, Photojojo.

Even little companies can project their culture into the work they do (and perhaps grow into big companies). Like the online retailer, Photojojo, which consistently delivers on its culture in a way that is positively infectious. I’ve bought a number of products from their site, and every time I have, I am delighted by the experience. The people at Photojojo answer emails with verve (even product returns). They populate their site with funky, quirky content that is a pleasure to browse. Those lovable nut cases even put a tiny plastic dinosaur in every package they ship out. Rawr!

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A tough tag line, in a fun, engaging package.

Mintz + Hoke: We don’t do easy. But we do do fun.

Yeah, okay, shameless plug: Mintz + Hoke has been named a top workplace by the Hartford Courant and FOXCT. Twice. And we were most recently honored to place fourth among small- to medium-sized companies in Connecticut for the Hartford Business Journal’s Best Places To Work award. And that fun-loving, hard-working culture spills out into everything we do, from our site to our wall art to our business cards. And let me tell you, projecting a fun-but-rough-and-ready image in dozens of tactics wasn’t easy. It took months of planning and hard work (check out a blog post on this process in the coming weeks). But it was totally worth it. (Sorry about saying do do.)

Grant Sanders is the Creative Director at Mintz + Hoke, Avon, CT and when he’s not helping great companies express their culture in advertising and branding work, he’s usually on Nantucket with his kindergarten-teacher wife and fun-obsessed dog. Find him on LinkedIn

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