REBELS AND RULERS: The Global Forum for Open Branding is an extension of our mission as Brandingmag — delivering relevant and high-quality insights on branding and marketing from international, expertly-speaking voices. The event takes place in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, where REBELS AND RULERS becomes a hub for Eastern European business and creative growth. Brand leaders, marketing managers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and other like-minded professionals join 20 international speakers in an exploration of improvement.
Following a sound success in its first edition in 2018, REBELS AND RULERS is now at its second iteration and comes about with one of the most pressing topics in the business world — Brand Culture: Inside & Out. We have decided to dedicate a special series of interviews with our speakers to this topic, giving you a glimpse into their insights and the happenings that take place on the “branding stage” of Eastern Europe.
Viorela Marcu, the employer branding leader EMEA of UiPath, is one of the expert voices to tackle the theme of brand culture in this year’s program. Read her interview below and learn more about Viorela, the event, and the other international speakers here on the official website.
Brandingmag: How do you define the brand culture of an organization, be it a for- or non-profit?
Viorela Marcu: The brand culture is your organization’s DNA. Starting with the values, building into behaviors and going deeper into mission, vision, and the purpose of the organization, culture is embedded into everything you do both within a company and outside of it. Brand culture influences how you’re perceived by the market as an employer, as a service/product, and as a partner for your clients. At UiPath, we believe our brand culture is one of our main competitive advantages, helping us deliver powerfully, consistently, and competitively. For us, it acts as a collection of guiding principles inspiring employees, providing them with direction and ultimately helping them see the impact they have on other people’s lives.
Bm: You are a decisive factor in the management of your brand’s culture – how do you include it in your everyday decision-making process?
VM: Culture is our compass, always being part of the decision-making process, helping us choose what works and what doesn’t for UiPath. We are also lucky to have colleagues who will speak up if there are any misalignments, challenging us to bring more arguments to the table. We are a debate-first, decide-after, commit-to-it kind of culture.
Bm: Is longevity achievable, for a company, without harnessing a sustainable, active brand culture model?
VM: As Yuval Noah Harari wrote, “Sapiens rule the world because we are the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. We can create mass cooperation networks, in which thousands and millions of complete strangers work together towards common goals. Any attempt to understand our unique role in the world by studying our brains, our bodies, or our family relations, is doomed to failure.” If we bring this reference into our day-today, we need the brand culture to help us move further towards a common purpose, guided by common values, inspired by stories of success. Not having an active brand culture will eventually make things more difficult: people will be less engaged, and they will, eventually, deliver less or even pursue other opportunities.
Bm: Can ethics be considered the starting point of any type of culture? If so, then what do you think of the brands that build cultures around unethical behavior? Can they last?
VM: People want to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world. Good working practices are more likely to inspire your employees and make them hang around more. If ethics is one of your starting points, then there’s a great chance your company will keep that deeply embedded in its DNA, throughout the entire lifecycle of the company. It’s difficult to comment on what others are doing. Very passionate entrepreneurs and their teams think that the world should not continue to exist without their idea having come to fruition — we’ve seen cases where this can also lead to unethical behavior, just like we have seen cases where our understanding of what is ethical has evolved. Think of the oil and gas industry. We did not know some of the damage it would do, when that industry took off — we just thought it would power the world.
Bm: Is anticipation of culture possible in today’s rapid commercial environment? How can a brand create behavior based on anticipation?
VM: If you throw scarcity in the game, anticipation can be possible even in today’s market. Enthusiasm and love for the brand because of its impact throughout the world is also a driver for anticipation. So, if anything, anticipation of culture is even more possible today than it was 100 years ago.
Bm: The power of CSR on (external) brand reputation is well known (and abused) by now – but what can you tell us about using social responsibility as a tool for internal culture?
VM: For us, CSR includes the Employee Volunteering program and the UiPath Foundation, which has as a mission to empower children in underprivileged communities through access to education. Everybody needs to feel they have a purpose and that they have a positive impact on society, and we give them the context to do just that. It taps directly into employee engagement. And it speaks clearly about where we come from and what we care about.
Bm: Talent management is crucial for brand culture yet so many organizations have a superficial understanding of it and its role in brand-building. Is HR not taken seriously enough in high-level decision making? How can companies improve this and, subsequently, improve their talent acquisition and retention rates?
VM: No wonder then, that one of the most popular topics among HR professionals is, “Is HR strategic enough to have a say?” Looking at the industry, I can say we’ve made some progress in the last years, but we still miss some key competencies. We need to build our business acumen and be more data-driven to become genuine partners for our stakeholders. Understanding the business needs and goals, and making decisions based on data will improve all people-related areas, not only talent acquisition or retention. It will also improve the perception of HR: from paper-pushers to real business partners.
Bm: Can you share an example of how a brand has used storytelling as a tool for creating or steering brand culture?
VM: I can tell you how we do this at UiPath. We have an inspiring story, and the values we have now were our drivers from the beginning. They are not just words put in a frame that hangs on a wall; they are behaviors that help us become better and better. We use any occasion to share our story: conferences, videos for our clients, users or partners, recruitment processes, onboarding, and many more. That’s how we make sure people understand what we stand for and move in the same direction. Our core value, humbleness, actually stems from the experience we had with our first customer, in India. They were the first to discover the potential of our product to alleviate the burden of repetitive tasks on employees’ workloads and drive business efficiency. That made us realize we must always listen to our customers, partners, and developer community, as our success is dependent on that. We keep telling that story.
Bm: What advice would you give to brands looking to improve their culture and better understand their cultures’ influence on reputation, sales, and sustainability?
VM: There’s no doubt that your culture influences all of those factors. Everything you have within your organization will be mirrored externally to some extent. If I were to build a checklist, it would be something like this:
• Understand or define your culture — mission, vision, and values;
• Define your purpose;
• Build brand identity;
• Find proof points — stories that can sustain your brand and make sure you share them.