The Leader Magazine

SEP 2017

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F E A T U R E A R T I C L E Aligning workplace strategy with brand: Mazda's new North American headquarters by Anita Kamouri, James Lievois and Rumi Walsh 16 SEPTEMBER 2017 ThE lEadER U nder the leadership of Masahiro Moro (CEO Mazda North American Operations), Mazda has refocused its efforts on brand value management (BVM) – building on innovation as a central theme in all aspects of the manufacturing, marketing, selling and ownership of Mazda vehicles. Mazda recognizes the importance of customer experience and how the brand image is reaffirmed in customers' minds based on their everyday experiences with the company. Another key component of this philosophy, called inside-out approach, positions Mazda's own employees as the fi rst set of "customers" that should deeply value the brand. And so, the decision to move its North American headquarters facility in Irvine, California, provided the perfect catalyst for Mazda to apply its brand-evolution efforts to employees with an innovative, brand-based workplace strategy. But, how does one implement an internal branding focus? And, what factors are most important in creating a brand-based workplace strategy? We learned that it is important to take a holistic approach; focus on the employee experience; and provide a constant, tangible brand experience through a variety of touchpoints. As a result, this new workplace strategy has been instrumental in helping Mazda deliver on its BVM philosophy and what it is doing to evolve the brand. Evolving the brand A concrete demonstration of Mazda's brand evolution was the Retail Evolution dealership design program launched in 2014. These retail spaces are designed to show rather than tell customers about the brand by providing them with new brand experiences. The new design program includes an open fl oor plan and extensive use of glass to connect customers visually with dealership operations, high-quality natural materials to project a warm yet dignifi ed and upscale image, and enhanced customer amenities to create a comfortable and welcoming space. It is intended to send a strong message to customers about the new direction of Mazda's brand. Mazda considers all employees to be brand advocates, not just sales reps or executives. Every employee is expected to contribute to the customer experience by generating the ideas, innovations and interactions that defi ne customers' experiences. Internal rather than external branding is focused on the development of employees' understanding and advocacy of the brand. The inside-out approach starts with employees at corporate and ends with the employees or representatives who have direct contact with the customer. A key aspect of the brand evolution was aligning Mazda's corporate culture and brand through a cultural transformation (Mosley, 2007). However, just telling employees that the company is moving toward a new brand philosophy isn't necessarily suffi cient to change their minds, or behavior. Employees require the right tools and environment to enable the collaboration, innovative thinking, and insights needed to put brand philosophy into practice. Brand-focused workplace strategy Mazda recognized the importance of a new workplace strategy in providing the necessary tools and environment to foster transformation. By focusing on the idea of immersing the employee in the brand experience, a new, brand-focused workplace strategy was created. Placing employees at the center would create a new workspace strategy using a cultural, perceptual and behavioral transformation to embed brand values into the company's business practices. The workplace was considered to have a signifi cant role in brand promotion by creating user experiences that elicit Mazda's unique emotion signatures, resulting in deeper connections to brand values, cultural alignment with brand principles, and behaviors consistent with brand philosophy. The challenge was how to accomplish this through workplace strategy. In hindsight, three key approaches were critical to creating a successful workplace strategy around brand: 1. An integrated approach to workplace strategy 2. A focus on the employee experience 3. Embedding compelling brand touchpoints Integrated workplace strategy We started by identifying all the aspects of the workplace environment where brand expression could have impact, and brought those relevant parties together. CRE, IT, HR, Finance, Marketing,

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