Turn on the Light of Culture

October 23, 2019

by Oliver Young, Sales Director, Young Automotive Group | serves on the Business Advisory Council for the Goddard School of Business & Economics at WSU 

John Wanamaker, a department store entrepreneur, famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” This saying rings true in many organizations and sheds light on the complexity and art of marketing. Companies try to solve the problem using advanced technologies that are changing the landscape of marketing. Through deeper analytics and complex metrics, companies want to eliminate waste and prove there is a return for the marketing dollars spent. Most companies, however, miss a crucial part of marketing — internal marketing.

Marketing plans and strategies are like a kaleidoscope. Inside the kaleidoscope are different colors of glass that overlap, twist and bend to make a compelling and intricate design. The beautiful and colorful design is similar to a marketing message. Marketers spend hours, days, sometimes years, on a single piece of a single color of glass to figure out how to create something that will have an impact and inspire a potential client. They are concerned with how the prospective customer will view the effort, how it will blend with the other pieces and how to measure results. The one thing marketers miss is the one thing that makes the kaleidoscope work — light. The light that illuminates the beautiful colors and turns a dark tube into an amazing kaleidoscope is the people of the organization.

Marketers often forget the importance of marketing to the most important stakeholders — the employees of the organization. Oftentimes they feel employees already know enough about the organization, or it is the employee’s role to stay up to date on the company. This is more common in larger organizations. Employees are often the last people marketers think of when they roll out new marketing plans or seek new business. This is why half of a market campaign can be a waste. In these situations, a campaign may have a huge impact with the general population, but employees are uninformed and are not on the same page. When the customer acts on the marketing campaign and interacts with an employee, they find an organization out of sync on the message.

Turning your marketers’ attention to the employees of the organization is a great way to turn on the light of the kaleidoscope and make your marketing campaigns shine. Start by ensuring all employees know and understand the current and important marketing messages. This communication allows employees to feel included, prepared to act on and in harmony with the organization’s correct marketing messages. 

It is important for organizations to make sure they have a way to gather employee input on marketing messages. Sometimes the best ideas come from the frontlines. This allows an employee to have more buy in for the messaging and take ownership as someone who represents the company.

Probably the most important way marketers can drive employee engagement in the message of the company is to have internal campaigns on a regular basis that are intended for employees only and are meant to drive the culture of the business forward. Usually these campaigns are cost-effective but take an investment of time, effort and thought. Sincere effort to drive the culture of an organization is a slow and challenging process but can create long-term benefits for the organization. The three key aspects of culture all companies should have are: Mission Statement, Values and Artifacts. 


Although most companies have mission statements, most don’t use them effectively. A mission statement can be a great unifier. It allows all employees to understand their given job. It is also an equalizer because regardless of what role the employee plays in the company, everyone has one mission and the statement reflects that. Although we know the power of what a statement like this can have, most companies let their mission statement die from boredom. Executives and managers take long retreats to carefully write these important statements. They painstakingly review every word to ensure they have defined their organization’s mission. They return with great fanfare to roll out their work. The executive team commits to the principles and may even have employees sign the same agreement. Then after six to 12 months, most have become bored talking about it, and the mission statement fades out of memory and becomes the writing on the wall that nobody can remember. Marketers must get both executives and employees to consistently review and commit to the organization’s mission. They must even find ways to add meaning to the mission statement for the organization’s future growth.


The values of an organization, much like the mission statement, are unifiers. They create a common language employees can use to describe desirable actions the company promotes. The key to ingraining values in the organization is to not only ensure that employees have them memorized but also to make sure they are sharing stories around the values. These stories are how the values make a difference. When employees can explain how the values lead their colleagues to act in positive and productive ways, they then follow that positive behavior. Marketers can seize on the stories and distribute them among employees, generating a deeper commitment to the values, and driving the culture of the organization forward. 


A great culture creates artifacts — physical objects that represent what the organization stands for. These physical items are an important piece of any organization. This can be the employee uniform or maybe something available at all company locations. At our organization, we ask all employees to carry a card listing our values and mission statement. They are required to have it with them at all times. We regularly check on this by doing a “card check” at meetings and company activities. We do this so we can point to something physical that represents our culture. We believe the card’s message we carry. We believe in our mission statement and our core values, and the card is a constant reminder. As a marketer, consider what artifacts your organization has that can drive your culture forward. What physical items can you modify or create to deepen the organization’s culture for an employee.

Culture is the light of any organization. It exists regardless of whether you have decided to acknowledge it consciously or not. Executives and marketers who drive the culture forward and generate campaigns not only get employees on the same page, but also energize employees about new campaigns and fill their kaleidoscope with light. This means that your marketing and advertising campaigns will be much brighter and more impactful because you have the entire organization making them successful, not just the marketing team. Turn on the light of culture in your organization.



Oliver Young is a 4th generation automotive professional and a highly skilled marketing professional.  He currently works as Sales Director at the Young Automotive Group.  Although the automotive industry is in his blood, Oliver started his career as an entrepreneur.  He has successfully owned and operated 2 businesses, including Oz Marketing, a full-service marketing agency.  Oliver currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Davis Education Foundation, the board of directors of Ski Utah and serves on the Weber State University Goddard School of Business Advisory Council. 

Higher education has always been a priority for Oliver.  He holds a B.S. in Economics from the University of Utah and an MBA from Westminster College.

When Oliver isn’t helping clients succeed, you can find him in the mountains with his wife and two children.