The rise of the Glass Box Brands

We’ve had many guests on our Sparking Discovery show on Talk2Us Live in the last while and we have soaked up the insights, experiences and advice received from them. One thing that has struck me is the amount of times the conversation has ventured into the areas of people, purpose & culture and how those impact on performance.

One way glass

The rise of the Glass Box Brands. A what? I hear you say. This concept became apparent sometime in 2017 and during this time of COVID-19 has pretty much become a ‘thing’ and is trending around the world.

Organisations have for a very long time operated in a black box – for outsiders it was pretty hard to see what was going on inside. The brand that was visible to the outside world was whatever you painted on the outside of the box, and what you shared on a need to know basis. People came and looked at it, either liked it or didn’t. The people inside the black box although they could see out had no ability or proof to share what happened inside, so their voice was painted over and remained within the black box. A bit like one-way glass.

With social media and smart phones embedding themselves in every aspect of our lives – outsiders can easily see inside - through the power of the people inside – and not just through a window mind you – every aspect of the entire organisation. They can see how you work with your people what your people practices are, the purpose and the associated values you espouse, the processes the organisation has and how your organisation operates with pretty much all of its stakeholder.

Think of these headlines :

  • The founder of Uber resigns after a culture of sexism and bullying exposed
  • The CEO of HSBC in Taiwan walks a gay employee down the aisle after her father refuses to attend her wedding.
  • A smartphone video of United Airlines staff forcibly dragging a passenger off a plane goes viral.
  • The Ellen De Generes show runs a toxic workplace akin to that of a tormented household.

The list goes on and on with no end in sight.

The solution to date has been rather nonsensical if you think about it – it is to ‘manage’ the reputation with the mindset that what happens in the black box stays in the black box - in the belief that a GOOD PR practitioner could spin your brand out of any foreseeable trouble, well we’ve all seen how that worked out for Bell Pottinger and those they were spinning for.

The truth of the matter is that the concept of managing your reputation is a bit like herding cats - an impossible task – your brand and its reputation is not in the hands of the shareholders, or the exco team - it is delivered by the people within your organisation each and every day, they determine how others react to your brand through every emotional and associational touchpoint that stakeholders have with your brand (organisation). In essence your brand lives in the minds and hearts of your publics that interpret your actions. The encounters they have with your people and the experience that is left with them is what determines how they view your brand. The power is in the hands of your people.

My sincere hope is that during this pandemic leadership have understood that their business without their people is worth nothing and the realisation and the fact that they operate in a glass box means that their actions, across the board are visible to everyone, the way these are viewed is interpreted by your stakeholders and will either make or break your brand irrespective of how grand a purpose you may have. Just look at the aftermath that Uber, United Airline and Ellen de Generes are trying to overcome. It may have been an smarter move to do the right things.

What would the right things be:

  • Recognise and accept the environment you’re in – a glass box:
    • Understand and articulate your purpose to your staff. Sidebar - It’s ok to be remunerated for delivering that purpose
    • Be authentic to your purpose – just a word on authentic – this word has been normalised as this higher state of being. Its about being true to your nature or beliefs. It’s not the authentic that describes as in a mould or original. There is no mould for true authenticity in business – you cannot be a carbon copy of another individually or as an organisation
  • Create an emotional connection with your stakeholders by:
    • Demonstrating your beliefs through your actions and behaviours – by the way that’s authenticity – your employees are the proof points for authenticity
    • Provide your people with storytelling abilities and let them understand what your organisations narrative is
    • Deliberately and proactively work at your culture – remember our associate Oliver words on the definition of culture – patterns of behaviour that are encouraged, discouraged, and tolerated by people and systems over time
    • Keep the people in your business informed and share information in a way that people want to come back for more. Communication is the great enabler of establishing relationships and brand confidence.
    •  Look at the ethics and morals of the people within your business do you know whether or not they have integrity, how do you measure and maintain a high level of integrity.
  • Be self-aware.
    • Reflect on what you’ve done -measure it – not just in monetary terms there is alternative metric for self-awareness
    • Create an environment where your people can Learn, Change and Grow over the duration of the stay with you
    • Realise that you may be a steppingstone but be a sturdy one not one that stops the path for those that interact with you

Most of my sentiments are echoed through our various productions on Talk2Us live, they delve into the detail a lot more. I have a strong sense of affirmation from the various books that Ian Mann reviews as well. But as always, the best teacher in life – my life anyway – is through the interaction I have with people everyday in even the shortest and most trivial of conversations.

Thank you for watching and if you’ve found this useful please hit the like button, subscribe, follow, share and more importantly Talk2Us.


Share on social media

About Us

We are a consulting agency.  We collaborate with you to build confidence in your brand, across all your stakeholder groups, using the disciplines of powerful branding and marketing, attention grabbing communication, powerful customer experience programmes and fully aligned people development plans. Read more