A cultural anthropologist walks into your company and introduces herself to you.

She’s spent months hearing your branding ads about how service-oriented, values-driven and customer-centric you are.

Now she’s here hoping to do field research.

She wants to document your (presumably) unique company culture.

And as a cultural anthropologist, her field research will consist of observing your company’s:

  • Rituals,
  • Ceremonies,
  • Traditions, and
  • Status symbols,

You agree and invite her to one of your morning meetings.

As you both walk into the meeting, your manager is intensely going over sales numbers with your crew.

The star of the meeting, of course, is the top performer on the leaderboard.

Boom! Your anthropologist identifies this as a ritual involving status and starts taking notes.

Now, does her observation confirm or contradict your ads?

Neither — yet…

Operations certainly does have to focus on performance metrics, to include sales figures, after all.

So the anthropologist would hold off conclusions, because maybe you have other meetings and other awards.

Ones where you evaluate customer service or values-based action, and provide recognition for employees who were outstanding performers in those areas.

Then again, maybe you don’t.

Perhaps, after spending a month in your building, the anthropologist comes up short in finding any meetings, rituals, and status symbols focused on anything other than operations and sales.

All she sees are the same meetings and status symbols that every company has.

Run largely the same way everyone else runs them.

In which case, that anthropologist would see a profound disconnect between the projected image of your ads and the cultural reality inside your company.

Because rituals, ceremonies, traditions, and status symbols are all stories told through action.

They are forms of story-doing.

And when internal story-doing contradicts external story-telling, you’ve got cancer in the building.

Purposeful Story-Doing As the Solution.

The solution, as you’ve likely guessed, is to make purposeful use of these  story-doing tools to align your culture to your aspirational brand image.

For example, you might:

  • Create an award, complete with ceremony, for the employee who receives the best-written review in a given pay-period.
  • Allow employees to nominate peers for “above-and-beyond” action in living out the company values, wherein the employee with the most votes or the best story gets their story re-told by you in the next team meeting — and maybe even featured in an ad.
  • Institute a new morning ritual of a call and response chant that speaks to your company values, in a similar manner in which a church recites the Nicene Creed or a Boy Scout Troop recites the Boy Scout Oath.
  • Embellish any of these awards or rituals with symbolic music, ceremonial garb, special food, or bestowing of special perks.

Some of these examples may seem silly to you, and that’s OK. I’m sure you can think of better ways to implement this.

The important thing is that you DO think seriously about how to use story-doing to bring company culture into tighter alignment with your advertising.

Because it doesn’t take a cultural anthropologist to see or feel the disconnect — any old employee or customer will pick up on it the second they come across it. And vice versa.

This is why alignment of story-telling with story-doing is the secret sauce to turbocharged advertising results.

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