Maliha Aqeel, Assistant Director of Brand, Marketing and Communications at Ernst & Young, is known for being a staunch advocate of the three C’s that drive brands: content, customer, and culture.
But when Maliha sat down with TopRank Marketing’s Joshua Nite for a Break Free B2B interview at Content Marketing World this past fall, she had one “C” at the top of her mind: culture, and its role as a driver for both employee and customer satisfaction.
“Whether we’re working for someone, or we’re actively purchasing their products, or just engaging with their brand, it matters to us what others think,” she says.
While many employees still see corporate culture as solely a function of HR, Maliha says this is not the case. She believes that all employees have a responsibility to help propagate and model a company’s values, both inside and outside the organization.
In particular, Maliha believes that marketers are key in cultivating and communicating corporate culture. “Marketers and communicators within organizations have to take the charge … Our job is to take all of those values and say, ‘Here’s how it could look. Here’s how the intangible becomes tangible,’” she asserts.
Marketers and communicators within organizations have to take the charge … Our job is to take all of those values and say, ‘Here’s how it could look. Here’s how the intangible becomes tangible.’ @MalihaQ on #CorporateCulture #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Learn how to score an A in building your (B)rand’s (C)ulture by watching Maliha’s interview, which also touches on important topics such as employee journey maps, the purported death of email, and an unlikely upside of social media.
Break Free B2B Interview with Maliha Aqeel
Use the following time markers to skip between topics. We’ve also included some valuable excerpts from the conversation below.
- 00:24 – The three C’s that drive your brand
- 00:39 – Company culture isn’t just an HR initiative
- 01:54 – B2B companies are starting to embrace culture
- 03:13 – You company must be considered before it can be preferred
- 04:24 – Who leads the charge towards a cultural change?
- 05:21 – Identifying the foundational values for your corporate culture
- 06:25 – Customers prefer to work with companies that share their values
- 09:40 – The rise of culture in the age of abundance
- 11:37 – Culture’s role in the fight for talent
- 13:22 – Marketing’s role in influencing culture
- 14:58 – Email is not dead (but we need to be smarter about how we use it)
- 16:25 – Segmenting your internal audiences
- 17:50 – Employee journey maps
- 19:17 – Building brands by breaking down silos
- 20:42 – Breaking free in B2B
Josh: Your presentation is on the three C’s that drive your B (or your brand), and that’s putting the focus on content, customer, and culture. What do you think we’re missing in that equation right now?
Maliha: Focus on culture. There’s still a misconception that culture is about only HR. But culture is something that’s pervasive throughout the organization, and why we choose to work somewhere, why we choose to engage with the brand.
It’s something that we can’t always see. It’s what I call the intangible because it’s aligned to our values. If your values are that you prefer a certain type of lifestyle, and a certain type of philanthropy or social causes, you automatically start to look for brands that align with those values because you believe that there’s something is common with them. And that applies in B2B as well, not just B2C.
I feel like that’s something marketers don’t always understand because we focus on knowing the customer, making sure our content is what they want, but we miss the values piece, and that’s where the gap can occur.
Culture is something that’s pervasive throughout the organization, and why we choose to work somewhere, why we choose to engage with the brand. @MalihaQ on #CorporateCulture #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet
Josh: Do you think there are B2B companies that are effectively developing culture?
Maliha: I think they are starting to. I’m not sure that all of them have quite cracked it yet. I certainly do see it at EY … When I joined, what I noticed was, there was a huge emphasis on our purpose, which is building a better working world. And everything that we were doing, we always remind ourselves that we were doing it for that purpose. The fact that the clients that choose to work with us … they believe that it’s important for companies to be part of building a better working world.
Josh: Who leads the charge towards better culture?
Maliha: I think that the charge is really led by the senior leadership. They have to set the tone from the top. The culture comes, in many organizations, it’s still top-down, and I think it’s going to take time for that to change. Because, just the way organizations are structured, the top-down approach works. So I think they have to set the tone.
But marketers and communicators within the organizations have to take the charge. And, they have to say, “Okay, we hear you, here’s how we think you should do it. And here’s how we can visualize that for you in the marketplace.” Whether it’s visualizing to the campaigns that we run or visualizing it through the internal communications that we work on, our job is to take all of those values and say, “Here’s how it could look. Here’s how the intangible becomes tangible.”
Josh: Where do you think that corporate culture is going in the next five years? What do you think we’re going to see with brands?
Maliha: I think we’re going to start to see that there’s almost an integration of … marketing, HR, communications — there’s going to be an integration between them so that you don’t have silos, working on different things, in their own little nation. But, rather, it’s likely going to be a broader function within a brand. And each of them will be expected to partner and they will be held to account for partnering in the right way. Because no one department owns a brand experience. It’s owned by everyone.
Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few interviews to whet your appetite: