Bulbstorm is a marketing startup based in Phoenix with 25 employees that offers a social engagement platform that allows users to create interactive Web experiences. The company’s employees are always looking for creative ways to get people to engage online, ideally for six-plus minutes at a time.
Bulbstorm also likes to engage people offline, and that’s where the three-piece orange suit and alligator shoes come in. Its employees wear this memorable getup to every conference and sales meeting they attend. What started as an inside joke in a company with the official corporate color of orange has become a critical element of the Bulbstorm culture.
“The orange coats stand out in public settings,” proudly claims Matt Simpson, Bulbstorm’s director of marketing. “They show that we’re completely open-minded, that we’re nerdy and daring. Also, we’re proud of where we work. Instead of being guns for hire, we’re building a company, and that differentiates us from other marketing and development firms drawing from the same talent pool.”
The Value of Uniformity
Having a visible company brand helps from a recruiting standpoint, certainly, but it also reminds Bulbstorm employees of their solidarity. The orange outfits make employees feel like they belong to something special and superior, a concept that resonated with Simpson as he read Jim Collins’s book Built to Last. “We know that we’re all in this together, and this impacts the quality of our work,” Simpson says. “We’re more creative because we listen to everyone’s ideas, and we’re more reliable because we truly care for one another.”
But is Bulbstorm going to be able to sustain its outlandish brand as it grows? Well, that’s the plan. Although the company has experienced its growing pains, most of the original team members have personal ownership in the culture and have diligently passed it down to new employees. Bulbstorm’s leaders also feel strongly about staying “orange” because dress is a tangible way to show the world who they are. “For a fast-growing company with a steady influx of fresh hires, it’s vital that culture manifests itself in a very concrete way,” notes Simpson.
Start With the Adjective Test
The first step to creating an unforgettable brand is to come up with two or three adjectives that describe your culture, and then examine all of the points at which you interface with your customer to make sure your adjectives come across clearly.
For example, one of my friends has a wedding planning business with 10 consultants. The team describes its culture as “sophisticated, social and cool under pressure.” Sure enough, the company’s website resembles that of an elegant, world-class hotel and, at the lightly accented and uncluttered office, the receptionist greets each prospective client with a martini. On the job, consultants wear black cocktail dresses and chat easily with guests.
Like its sister culture, brand is ever-evolving and should always be top of mind. To that end, talk with your employees often to get fresh ideas for how you can communicate your brand in a way that is memorable and also constantly reinforces your vision and direction. When you hit upon something that works, strive for power and consistency by considering ways you can expand on it in your virtual and real worlds.
What do you think of Bulbstorm’s approach? Why would (or wouldn’t) a bold statement like orange-wear work for your culture?
Alexandra Levit is a former nationally-syndicated business and workplace columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. Money magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year, she regularly speaks at organizations and conferences on issues facing modern employees.
Illustration by Russell Christian