Why brands need campfires, not water coolers

CampfireCompanies everywhere have a proverbial watercooler. It's the place to chat about sports, or a new Dilbert-esque project from above. Yawn. The special ones—high growth companies who rely on innovative employees—have a roaring campfire.

The water cooler atmosphere is a little like treading water. Low energy. Maybe it breeds a little negativity. The campfire, on the other hand, is the place to come together. Sing songs, roast marshmallows—and tell stories.

What's your lore?
Every company has a story. How did the company start? What were the founders thinking? Did their funding come from investors or credit cards? What purpose drives us?

Rapidly growing companies are writing stories every day. There are fresh achievements, challenges to beat and more than a few near-misses. "Remember when the dog crashed through our window?" The triumphs are exhilarating. This is part of your lore.

As the company grows, the new people who come on board haven't experienced the same history. Unless someone takes the time to tell them—and really draw them into the magic—they'll never be as connected to the brand as the original team. A strong internal brand keeps moving the company forward. But the new people need to drink the kool-aid (the hot chocolate?) so everyone's moving ahead together.

Do you have a place to gather?
Besides telling stories, you need a place for people to bond. Feel safe. Make up silly song lyrics that lead to big ideas and innovations. This sense of place can be digital or physical. Hopefully, it's both.

Consider changing up a few break rooms or a small conference room to invite brainstorming and different, better thinking.

Create some online sharing tools, an intranet and some internal social media to foster branded, purposeful fun and work.

Everyone loves a camp fire
In the rush, never forget to carve out time for team building retreats, group picnics or planning sessions. Celebrate successes and spot the next thing to conquer together. Reinforce the love of the brand and why it's special. Use these times to build camaraderie and keep everyone focused on the company's goals.

I hope your brand—on the inside and outside—is like a crackling fire and the invitation of s'mores. Impossible to resist.

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