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  • Writer's pictureRyan Grimshaw

The Five Levels of Culture: A Blueprint for Embedding Brand Strategy and Values

When companies are embedding brand strategy and values, understanding the different levels of culture can help make sure that the changes are effectively integrated and embraced by all members of the organisation.

The challenge lies not only in crafting a new brand strategy but also in embedding it deeply into the company's culture.

Edgar Schein's Organisational Culture Triangle details three layers of organisational cultures: Artefacts, Espoused Values and Underlying Assumption. They are of differing levels of importance in shaping the actual culture of an organisation.

At Cest Pamplemousse, we've gone a step further to really get to the bottom of how culture operates at more granular levels. Understanding the five levels of culture can provide a powerful framework to achieve this transformation effectively.

The Visible Culture - Artefacts and Symbols

Artefacts and symbols are the most visible level of an organisations culture. They include the physical environment, logos, branding materials, and even the way products and services are presented. When a company decides to revamp its brand strategy, one of the first steps is often updating these tangible elements to reflect the new direction.

Let's use a tech company as an example. They decide to focus on innovation and creativity in their new brand strategy. This could involve redesigning the office space to enhance collaboration and creativity, updating the company logo to a more modern design, and ensuring that all marketing materials consistently reflect this new identity. These changes, while surface-level, play a crucial role in signalling the shift to both employees and external stakeholders.

The Spoken Culture - Values and Ideals

Espoused values are the explicitly stated norms and principles that a company claims to follow. They are often encapsulated in mission and vision statements, core values, and formal policies. When embedding a new brand strategy, it’s essential to clearly articulate these values and ensure they are consistently communicated across the organisation.

For instance, if a company adopts a new value of sustainability, this should be reflected in updated mission and vision statements, reinforced through internal communications, and integrated into everyday policies and procedures. Employees need to see these values in action to understand and embrace them fully.

The Invisible Culture - Basic Assumptions

At the heart of any culture are basic assumptions – the deeply held beliefs and unconscious behaviours that define how work gets done. These are the hardest to change because they are often invisible and taken for granted.

Transforming basic assumptions requires a concerted effort, often starting with leadership. Leaders must model the new values and behaviours, and training programmes should be implemented to help shift employees’ underlying beliefs.

For example, a company aiming to create a culture of innovation needs to encourage risk-taking and creative thinking, gradually changing the fundamental belief systems that guide employee actions.

The Unwritten Rules - Norms and Rituals

Norms are the informal, unwritten rules that govern everyday behaviour in an organisation. They are the daily habits and routines that often fly under the radar but are critical to cultural change.

To embed a new brand strategy, companies must establish new norms that align with their desired culture. This can be achieved through consistent leadership actions, recognising and rewarding behaviours that reflect the new values, and creating new rituals.

For example, if teamwork and collaboration are new strategic priorities, then regular team-building activities and collaborative projects should become the norm.

The Legend Culture - Narrative and Stories

Stories are the narratives shared within an organisation that convey its values and ideals. They include tales of past successes, founding legends, and anecdotes that exemplify the company’s ethos.

Promoting stories that highlight the new brand values can be a powerful tool in embedding these values into the company’s culture. Celebrating examples of employees who embody the new values can make these principles more tangible and relatable.

For instance, sharing success stories of employees who drove innovative projects can reinforce a new emphasis on creativity and innovation.

The Path to Cultural Transformation

Transforming an organisations culture to align with a new brand strategy and values is a multifaceted process.

It requires attention to both the visible and invisible elements of culture – from artefacts and espoused values to basic assumptions, norms, and stories.

By addressing all five levels of culture, companies can ensure that their new brand strategy is not just a superficial change but a deeply integrated aspect of their organisational identity.

This comprehensive approach ensures that changes are sustainable and that employees at all levels understand, embrace, and live out the new values. It’s this alignment of strategy and culture that will drive long-term success and resilience.

How to Put This Into Practice

Many of us want change to be successful. But we can't do this by wishing and hoping for it to occur. If you're not seeing change happen, then it's likely that one or more of these cultural levels are not being addressed.

To truly influence a culture and align it with a brand, leaders must understand the current state, identify necessary changes, and model the desired behaviours.

They need to actively engage in the transformation, clearly communicate the changes and reasons, motivate their teams, design supportive processes, and reward aligned behaviours.

Embedding a new culture requires time, investment, and dedicated effort. Simply posting values on the wall or creating a nice brand document isn't enough.

At Cest Pamplemousse, our role is to identify which level or levels are problematic for your business, and to develop a strategy with measurable actions to address it.


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