Diana and Laura creating brand cultures from within NKD

NKD Connect: Brand Cultures in the Digital Age

Here at NKD, we are discussing how brand cultures are conveyed in the digital age, particularly on social media. Has the way we engage with customers changed?

In Conversation With…

Diana Balan & Laura Cracknell

As Business Executive and Marketing Coordinator at NKD, Diana and Laura are responsible for managing our social media presence. They are passionate about our brand, and work to make connections that are meaningful and genuine. In an age where much of our communication plays out on digital platforms, they ensure that our personality always shines through.

“The campaigns that go viral on social media are off-the-cuff and genuine. Someone’s been given the freedom to use their brain, be responsive and put some emotion into it.”

NKD: Let’s talk about ‘brand’. Within your roles, you use social media to communicate specific messages about our company. What, in your opinion, is a ‘brand’?

Diana Balan: A brand, to me, is made up of lots of different things. It’s how the company acts, the atmosphere, the culture. When you’re posting things on social media, it has to be a reflection of those things.

Laura Cracknell: It’s the identity.

NKD: It seems that you can have an identity in a commercial sense, but also one based around your people?

LC: A brand is a reflection of your people, as well as your product and your culture. Ultimately, you’re selling something – you’re selling the brand. People buy something because they want to identify with it, or because it has a good history and track record, and its noble. You buy into it.

NKD: What are customers thinking about now when they interact with companies?

DB: I think social media has made brands more transparent. How do you treat the people that you employ? Do they like working there? Do they have something positive to say on social media about it? You spend so much of your time at work that people inevitably do post about it. If it’s a positive post, it’s going to make you view that company in a positive light.

LC: I think another thing that’s come out of social media has been empathy. So, before you might assume that people do their jobs and enjoy it. But, now it’s really easy to see when they don’t love it. You can’t hide. The transparency is so much more, so you feel guilty if you’re shopping at XYZ store when you see someone doesn’t like working there.

DB: It’s brought up a whole ethics question about whether you should buy into a brand based on how they treat their employees. That has become much more readily available information, and social media has been a big part of that.

NKD: One bad story can ruin a brand.

DB: But, on the flipside, a great story can really lift a brand! Sainsbury’s recently got lots of attention on Twitter. Someone had tweeted them something negative about their fish products, and their social media team tweeted them back in a really punny way. It was so punny that the customer was appeased. It carried on for three or four days, and it was just one fish pun after another. They totally flipped it and got loads of really good publicity.

LC: Social media has completely changed Marketing too, it’s more adaptive. They’re conveying on social media what their front-line staff should be doing – its responsive. It completely changes your relationship with them.

NKD: What are you thinking about when you write an NKD Tweet, or post on our Instagram and Facebook?

LC: I want people to know what it feels like to be with us, and to work with us. I want to convey the culture of the NKD family, our unique vibes.

DB: It’s trying to convey little moments, like birthdays, or when we go away together – times when we think ‘these aren’t just my colleagues’. We try to keep the tone conversational, because that’s what we’re like. Even in an image, we convey people being chatty, and we are responsive in talking back to them.

LC: I think one of our unique selling points is that we are NKD, and there’s not another company that’s the same. We can show who we are on social media, making sure it’s genuine and authentic.

NKD: So, it’s meant to come naturally, and not as part of an agenda?

DB: That’s exactly it, there is no agenda. It’s just in the moment as it happens.

LC: It’s in the moment but we do have a slightly different voice on LinkedIn than we do on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram because the audience is slightly different.

DB: But I think the key point that draws them all together is that we always post about our people. We show that our people make up our brand – it’s never about our brand and then the people that go with it. I think that’s one of our key messages anyway, because we are all about the people.

NKD: Even for a company that doesn’t have customer-facing frontline staff it’s still important to show that spirit and people-based identity.

LC: It’s Marketing. Even though it’s fun, there’s obviously a Sales element that makes you want to connect with us and have a conversation. It’s really elegant Marketing.

DB: It’s all about connecting. It’s about finding people who have an issue and connecting with them on that issue. You can use hashtags to track a particular issue but it’s your content or style that gives people a reason to reply to your Tweet above the thousands that they see every day.

NKD: Something really interesting is the dominance of the visual on social media these days. What’s different about using images, and how does that affect the way you communicate a message?

DB: We’ve got some really good images on our blogs now. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I think instinctively we’re all programmed to. So, when you’re looking at a blog post and the pictures – a lot of which are candid ones of our colleagues – you see people who are engaged. It makes you want to read on because it echoes the sentiment of the blog. Our Instagram isn’t really centred around Marketing – it’s for us. I think it’s great that we have that. When I was looking for a job at NKD, I looked at all the social media, and asked myself, ‘is this somewhere that I’d want to work?’ It’s important not just for people coming to NKD to work, but also for people who want to work with us – do these people look like they want to be there? Because, how can you sell me something if you don’t believe it yourselves? I think it’s important to see it, not just to hear it. People can oversell and under-deliver, but when you see it there in front of you it’s completely different.

NKD: Especially in the line of work we do

DB: It shows we’re human and not just Twitter-bots. A lot of companies have a standard reply just using a template, but it’s important that we don’t use that because you need to connect on a personal level. It’s not just ‘Hi <insert name> we have looked into this for you’. That impersonal approach is really detrimental to the way people view your company.

NKD: You’ve talked about connecting with people. We had a Showcase last week on networking, and it seems that using social media requires a different kind of approach – a more natural approach. Would you agree?

LC: It’s difficult to say, because I don’t have too much experience of networking pre-social media. Even when I was a kid and wanted to get into gigs, we did it all through social media.

DB: I actually go to networking events, but how are they organised? Through social media. To get to a face-to-face situation, you’re actually having to go through social media. Word of mouth is still so important, but how often do you have the chance to connect with someone face-to-face first off? It’s nearly always first through a digital channel now.

NKD: That’s really important, because digital isn’t always replacing the face-to-face, it’s actually enabling it.

LC: Exactly, your connections need to be personable and personal. You can tell if something’s automated, you can tell if it’s a computer sending out 3,000 messages. So, I don’t think social media has changed the way we network that much, because you still need to be genuine and authentic even if it’s not face-to-face. You can tell when it’s fake, and no one wants to connect with something that’s automated. Authenticity is so important now – people rate it so highly.

NKD: Maybe this is a cynical approach, but we’re sometimes suspicious of things that we read online – maybe because of that authenticity question?

DB: That’s what social media has done, it’s made us all a little cynical.

LC: You can construct an image to sell to an audience – we all know we’re being targeted by companies. But, as long as its connecting with people in the right way it can be okay. There was a lot of publicity recently about a tech company that got their internal comms completely wrong. They had an internal campaign saying things like ‘yo, dawg!’, trying to target millennials with memes and slang, but it was just embarrassing. It was an out of touch person writing what they thought would appeal to ‘the kids’, and it just didn’t work – the image and tone didn’t match the culture.

DB: The campaigns that go viral on social media are off-the-cuff and genuine. Someone’s been given the freedom to use their brain, be responsive and put some emotion into it.

NKD: It’s not reactive, its active. People don’t like to be patronised.

LC: I’m happy to be sold to and have things targeted towards me online, but they need to be speaking my language. Even if it’s a middle-aged man across the world selling me unicorn pyjamas – if he does it well, then I don’t care! When you’re using the brand voice, both internally and externally, that’s when its gone well. That then translates to real conversations – you have someone talking about your brand that’s not online, its one big cycle.

NKD: That’s something really interesting – it’s important to remember that you can never have the online without an offline. We exist in offline worlds and they’re integrated with the online.

LC: It’s like when we talk about the internal consumer and the external consumer – it all feeds into each other. If we’re using a different voice in our internal comms from our external comms, you can tell – it doesn’t work.

DB: It’s also important to remember that whatever you put online will always be online – no matter how quickly you’ve deleted it. Someone could have copied or screenshotted it and it’s immortalised online.

NKD: Does that mean people have to be really careful with what they put online and craft it to make it perfect? Or, do we need to get used to a different way of communicating?

DB: I don’t think it needs to be perfect, but I do think you have to think about it.

LC: If you’re speaking for your company as well, remember that there’s 50 of us and you’re representing all 50 of us. Run it through someone before. Even things like jokes – although Diana and I have such a similar sense of humour, that doesn’t always work. Put in another pun! Puns are wonderful! 40 characters, 7 puns, that’s a record!

DB: It’s important to think about it, but not to think too much – there’s a fine line.

LC: You don’t have to think too much about it if you’re living the brand culture. If you’re living it and it’s genuine, then it’s going to work.