Why A Brand Promise Matters

By Marty Parker

When you anchor your brand promise with your culture, and stay focused on delivering on your brand promise through every touchpoint – internally and externally – the opportunity to drive growth and performance is incredible. Your brand promise can help support recruitment and retention, build loyal, happy customers, and drive organizational success.

I sat down with Steve Rhone, President of Weston Forest Products, to talk about building culture and living your brand promise.

The interview has been edited for space. You can find the full conversation here.

Marty Parker:
Your brand promise at Weston Forest is ‘you’ll love doing business with us’. As a leader, how do you communicate that promise and how does it show up in everyday operations?

Steve Rhone:
We actually hired a marketing company to come in and sort of help us do a brand refresh and create a new logo and come up with a tagline and do all those kinds of things that you do as a corporation from time-to-time. And they spent a bunch of time and talked to a bunch of our people internally and talked to some of our customers and suppliers and got a bunch of feedback, and came back to us with a big presentation about what we should do and a whole bunch of words that we should consider and how we can maybe put them together into a sentence. And we had a conversation, we had about 25 of our key middle managers and senior managers in a room taking in this feedback and sort of having a working session to come up with a final result. And everything that they brought us just didn’t quite feel right.

We were going back and forth in the room and trying to wordsmith a couple of different options that they had brought to us. Rob Ruby, a long time partner of mine, he has been on our senior team for decades, was sitting in the back of the room, and,,, he said, “Isn’t everything that you’re telling us come back to one thing? And that’s just that people love doing business with us.” And we all kind of looked around and said, “That’s exactly what this means. That’s what this place is about. And that’s what all of this feedback is telling us. Why don’t we just use that?” And the guys that we hired looked around and said, “It’s better than anything we’ve got. I think that’s exactly what your customers and your suppliers are telling you.”

And then we reflected about what that really meant because we had taken a lot of feedback to get to that point from all of our stakeholders. For us, our stakeholders are our employees first, our customers second, our suppliers third, and last our shareholders. And so now when we talk internally and when we communicate internally and even externally, quite often, we refer back to whether or not this will live up to that statement that people will love doing business with us.

We use specific examples in internal communications, we use it when we’re doing recognition internally and rewarding or recognizing some of our employees for the work they’re doing. And we refer to the fact that what you did or how you handled that is something that you would love doing business with us. And so that statement is used often in communication and reinforced as a message of what we’re about.

Marty Parker:
Have you been able to leverage that statement, this brand promise as part of your recruitment strategy as well, Steve?

Steve Rhone:
Yes, absolutely. It’s something that people look to when…  new talent is exploring an opportunity or whether to join your organization, today, they tend to interview you as much as you’re interviewing them to decide whether they’re interested in joining your organization. So what you put out there is incredibly important.

But it also has to be authentic and it has to be something that they can find and prove out for themselves and believe in. And so we’ve had lots of people that have come to us and said, “We’ve seen these stories online, we’ve looked into [it], we’ve read reviews, we’ve watched your videos.” Things of that nature. “And it comes back and it rings true to us that people obviously like doing business with you. And so, tell me a little bit more about that, or why do people love doing business with you?”

And so we get to tell the stories about why that’s so important to us and why we believe that’s a driving force behind the people that are there. And people resonate with that. They want to be in a place that matters more than just the numbers and that’s why they love joining us ultimately.

Marty Parker:
Weston Forest has always been an organization that has kind of looked to the next generation. And as you’ve talked about earlier, made sure it was thinking about succession. So when you think about… one piece of advice that you’d give to a young person or a new leader or an up and coming person at Weston Forest, that’s just starting out in their own high-performance leadership and culture journey, what would that be?

Steve Rhone:
I would say first and foremost that you have to understand as an individual that you have to be authentic in your actions and your words. No one can tell you what to do to create the perfect culture. They can give you a playbook. They can tell you these things are important or those things are important, but each culture is a little bit unique and it’s something that you absolutely have to live and breathe every day. So it has to be something you truly believe in for it to end up coming out in that way. And what you do will ultimately affect the culture, whether you like it or not, and for good or for bad. So it’s not just words and statements, but it’s actions that people believe in and follow and they’ll follow you. What you do every day will determine the culture that you end up leading.