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Mila Grigg quoted by the Society for Human Resource Management on Starbucks and Brand
We are always honored to be a resource for corporations, associations and publications across the globe. The Society for Human Resource Management recently contacted MODA to discuss the new policies that Starbucks has instituted and hear our feedback on brand and image.
We were quoted in the column, but you can see the pieces of our interview below that were not included in the final column. These questions are what corporations are asking us daily. How do we help our employees to build their personal brand while also supporting and complementing the corporate brand? Employee brand training is the answer. It is not enough to say, this is our brand and hand employees a brand manual if they read it, they may not understand its value or how it relates to them daily. Your employees are the brand ambassadors for your company they either represent you or help you to blend into mediocrity. If you haven't trained your employees, don't have a brand manual or are wondering what your brand is call us!
From the column, "Starbucks' decision this month to let its 150,000 U.S. and Canadian workers sport any hair color they like-whether brown, blond, purple or green-illustrates how the company is balancing the dress code demands of employees with the organization's brand and reputation."
Click here to read the column and read below to see our full answers based upon the questions we were asked.
- Can you envision some customers being turned off by bright purple hair and a nose ring? Might some people even equate this look with sloppiness or lack of hygiene and maybe get creeped out by someone who looks like this handling their food and coffee?
MILA: The answer is absolutely. There will be certain people who will question the hygiene of the people serving them. The norms of society continue to shift and I would suggest that the bulk of our current culture, while accepting anyone who chooses to dye their hair various colors, perhaps miss the message those same people are trying to make and may perceive a lack of quality in their work and in the products they serve.
- This is at least the second time that Starbucks has changed its dress code in response to online petitions signed, in large part, by Starbucks employees. While some would call this responsive to employee demands, are there instances in which bending to workers' will on dress and appearance isn't advisable?
MILA: Yes, there are times when it is not advisable to bend to employee demands. If they go against the very brand message of a company, bending to demands may in fact take the company to a place where it cannot survive. History records several times when a population wanted to head into one direction, but strong leaders maintained their current course for the benefit of the company and the country. Starbucks has a very proactive response to the request of their employees/partners, and I believe leaders should determine each situation individually when making policy changes in reference to personal and professional brand.
What you are seeing is a cultural change at Starbucks within the brand of the leadership of the company Brand should dictate the culture of the business. In this case, they are allowing the culture to dictate the brand. For a company that prides itself on superior service and an atmosphere that is conducive to community, one has to be careful of not alienating the masses for the benefit of the few. Good leaders can discern the difference.
- Starbucks' rationale for allowing unnaturally colored hair, tattoos and multiple piercings is to let workers "express" their personalities. Is this rationale best suited for certain types of workplaces, but not for others? If so, at what types of workplaces might such leniency be well suited? For instance, we can't say "coffee shops," because I can't imagine that Bob's Big Boy allowing this type of appearance, or IHOP.
MILA: Certain companies have built a brand based upon the attitude of the people who work for them which is very important. The corporate brand of Starbucks is to be responsive to the will of their customers while also being responsive to the will of their employees. This may be a tenuous situation in the future, but there will always be corporate brands where individual expression is limited and the brand of the company supersedes what the employees wish to communicate personally. For instance, the individuality of a child and what they want to share with the community is not the same of that as a mature individual. As particular individuals tastes change, or individuals go through various maturing steps in growing up, a company must remain consistent in its focus. Again, leaders who understand the difference between a corporate and personal brand can discern the right time for individual expression.
How brand is communicated through employees to end users/clients/customer is crucial. The Disney brand is solid and serves many demographics the brand drives the culture. A company that has a brand that changes to the needs of the community may be more apt to allow personal expression and change with the demands of the employees who represent the community.
The ultimate wisdom lies within the companies that understand how to take the diversity of their employee base and create a unified brand while also building the personal brand of each employee.
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