If you are simply aiming for a “good” culture at your organization, you’re setting the bar too low. An organization that embraces values like integrity and teamwork is really no different from any other. If you want to produce the kinds of specific outcomes that will allow you to differentiate your company, you need to define a unique culture that cultivates the necessary kinds of employee attitudes and behaviors.

Building this unique culture goes beyond internal aspirations. Companies that do this well also identify a desired brand identity, which I define as how you want your organization to be perceived and experienced by customers and other external stakeholders. If your company culture is aligned and integrated with that identity, your employees are more likely to make decisions and take actions that deliver on your brand promise.

It takes work to make this culture-brand connection. You can start by considering the different types of brand identities and where your company fits. Brand types are categories of brands that share the same strategic approach or take similar stances to shape their competitive positioning.

Brand types differ from brand archetypes, which classify brands according to classic storytelling character types such as the Hero, the Joker, and the Sage. While brand archetypes can be helpful in creating a narrative and tone of voice to use in advertising campaigns and other communications, the brand types I’m referring to here are strategic ways that brands compete and are positioned relative to each other. For example, Patagonia falls into the “conscious brand” type because it is characterized by its sustainability mission, while Apple is an “innovative brand” type given its pursuit of new products.

Having worked on a broad range of brands for more than 25 years — enterprises and small businesses, local and international, B2C and B2B, start-ups and companies with long histories — I’ve concluded that there are only nine general brand types (see the chart below). A note on the company examples I’ve included: There is an element of subjectivity when determining the brand type of brands that are not your own, and this is my assessment


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