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Culture trumps strategy in driving organizational performance. Everyone knows that, right? Or at least all the business wags seem to think so. The fact is, culture is an extremely powerful force in the organization. It’s at the root of employee experience and “the talent brand.” It’s at the root of customer experience and loyalty. And it’s a key factor in brand differentiation.

Through Thoma’s unique Live Your Brand discipline, our clients have proven many times over that culture trumps strategy. Or perhaps more nuanced: culture and strategy work hand-in-glove to conquer the competition, attract and retain top talent, drive performance and efficiency. Here are examples of how Thoma helps our clients drive brand culture. 

ARORA RESTORE! Internal Program

Thoma is working with client ARORA, the largest organ recovery organization in the state, on a staff-wide initiative to train, focus, encourage, and celebrate key performance attributes that will result in increased donations. The objectives of this program include continuing to build a culture of donation in Arkansas, celebrating success in 2021 and building momentum in 2022, supporting a positive work environment, and more. The program is scheduled to run throughout 2022 and has already included frequent informational email communications, virtual team-building activities, and educational units. Team members from the CEO to CMO to the frontlines have acclaimed the program for its engaging, compelling and inspiring impact. In 2021 ARORA recovered a record number of organs for transplant; it hopes its RESTORE! internal program will contribute to further growth and impact of this important mission 

FNBC Cultural Initiatives

Today FNBC is a $700+ million community bank serving communities throughout north Arkansas and southern Missouri. Starting in 2014, FNBC set goals to grow its market, grow its standing and re-energize the enterprise, which meant doubling down on its best competitive advantage – being a community bank. 

Working with Thoma, the bank clarified its brand value proposition, created a system of Brand Leadership Frames, and created an employee brand council consisting of employees, from frontline staff to senior managers. Council members meet quarterly with Thoma’s consultants for information, insight and tools for  brand leadership, then embody and spread what they’ve learned among their colleagues. Thoma also contributed to FNBC’s new-employee training program. The bank’s training process now covers their core values, emphasizes what it means to be and work for a community bank, and encourages newcomers to sign a commitment to live up to the company’s brand standards both at work and after hours.

The results of FNBC’s cultural initiative program speak voluments. FNBC has attracted top-talent banking teams based on its culture and reputation; these teams brought significant books of business with them, and formed the nucleus of bankers opening new markets. FNBC more than doubled the bank’s size through organic growth before buying branches in Missouri that pushed it over the $700 million mark. And the brand council continues to have a powerful influence with the the organization–keeping it fun, keeping it real and keeping culture alive.

Southern Bancorp Brand Development Program 

Considering Thoma’s expertise in working with community banks, it’s fitting that we paired with Southern Bancorp to develop initiatives that helped the bank leap from “good to great.” 

In its first 25 years, Southern Bancorp grew from a $10 million investment into a $1 billion community development financial institution, founded by visionaries such as Bill Clinton, Rob Walton and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. At age 25, however, and despite its exponential growth, the bank found its identity fragmented and brand message not cohesive, clear, or compelling.

To address this issue, Thoma conducted extensive research with all of Southern’s stakeholders and developed a brand framework built on our findings. To roll out the new brand framework to all employees, Thoma designed a road show for its then 360 employees and 40+ branches to introduce the new brand, aligned under a mantra that all employees could embrace. The “One Southern. One Mission” internal rallying cry succeeded in aligning the three distinct divisions of Southern into one cohesive unit.

The program drove employee engagement scores up by more than 25 percentage points in the first year, and set the stage for an effective external marketing and capital development campaign. Today, Southern has surpassed the $2 billion mark and won the largest ECIP funding from the Federal government; this investment will light the afterburners on Southern’s growth and community impact.

Thoma Thoma is a strategic brand development and marketing agency specializing in services that help you Live Your Brand. If you like what you’ve seen from Thoma’s work and you’d enjoy similar results in your organization, let’s connect

Author Lola Simmons

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