Corporate Cultures: Peeling the Social Onion.

london-city.jpgby Vinitha Watson
Through the Live Exchange course, I gleaned a deep understanding of the human experience through communication. At the onset of the class, we didn’t dive straight into a business focus, but we first focused on ourselves as individuals, employees, friends, partners, and citizens.
As we studied our own psyche, I became fascinated by how modern day corporations address the needs of their consumers much like we as individuals relate to each other. This idea really sunk in when I arrived home after a long day at school, to find an unexpected package on my doorstep. To my surprise it was a box of chocolates from a local chocolatier who I usually turn to for gifts during the holidays. This unexpected gift not only created a thoughtful gesture, but was a strong reminder of the quality of their chocolate. What’s common between individual interactions and how a company’s persona interacts with their customer boils down to trust, frequent interactions, and a perception that the product communicates the consumer’s identity to the outside world. Corporations are now able to peel back the social onion through developing meaning and reality through a consistent “voice”.

The voice of the modern day corporation has evolved over the years from a stiff and monotone persona to a hip, conscious, and empathetic partner. Corporations have masterfully marketed their brand to involve all the senses and appeal to our deep need for human interaction. Through this consistent communication of their voice corporations evoke trust and acceptance into their branding.
Today there’s even a perception that companies have emotions, thoughts, and innovations. Companies go as far as to even own dogs like Darwin the “Yelp” dog. As a result, corporate personas simulate the actions and thoughts of an individual which signifies another complex relationship within our lives.
Also, it’s not just a one way street anymore. Today’s company wants to hear what consumers have to say and the company now listens and they take customer feedback into consideration. This parallels effective communication between individuals. As a small business owner, I ask feedback from each of my consumers in order to shape their experience, understand their needs, and remind them that their voice is strong. This feedback loop has provided me with strong relationships with my customers and is able to develop a loyal customer base.
Through these relationships, products become linked to the very core of our identity. At one time, I remember that I was judged by who I hung out with and now my crowd has suddenly shifted to include the crowd of belongings I own. My belongings now define who I am as a person, what I like to do and where I like to go to the outside world. It’s this complex nuanced relationship that continues to help define a corporation as a living entity.
As we the consumers get to know the personal side of corporations, it becomes clear that corporations are expected to behave as individuals and manage relationships. Companies should show empathy, trust, understanding, and altruism, and through this process come up with solutions that are not only cost effective but also not detrimental to the environment so that consumers continue to trust them and to rely on their products.
Because, as I’ve learned it to be so with interpersonal relationships, corporations now own the capital of trust.

These articles were created as part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. Read more about the project here.

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