‘Brand Values, Not Bland Values’
Why your company’s brand and values should be absolutely inseparable
Brand values. Do you have them? Do you need them? Did your marketing agency give you some on a piece of paper years ago and they’ve been sat gathering dust in a drawer ever since? Like any element of brand identity and development, if something has been created without purpose, it’s pointless. There are plenty of other, far more valuable things on your marketing to-do list that you could invest that time in. But if done well, your values can help to shape the future of your business, attract a dream team of employees and allow you to stand out against your competitors for all the right reasons.
So what should your brand values be? Here’s a checklist of tips and tricks to help you find the right fit for your business:
1. NOT just buzz words on your board room wall
Be specific. A random word you’ve plucked from the thesaurus is not going to inspire anyone (you know the usual suspects: ‘innovate’, ‘communicate’ etc.). You should also be focusing on the internal rather than the external. If you initially try and create brand values that your customers will like then you’re already thinking in a sales mentality rather than creating something true to yourselves. They should also be implemented from the top down, from the CEO to the intern, and everyone in-between.
2. Active, buzzing with energy, not napping in the break out room
They should provide people with inspiration/instruction on how they can live and breathe them. Think about what behaviours your staff can carry out once they’ve read each one to bring them to life in practice. It’s also important to separate your values from your mission/vision statement. Your mission is about what you’ll do, your brand values are about how you’ll do it.
3. Complementary to your customer’s values
As we mentioned in point one, you shouldn’t start here. But once you’ve thought about what is authentic to you and your business and made sure your staff can live by them, it’s also important that they don’t completely clash with your target customer’s values. Is your dream customer someone who thinks outside the box or is prepared to take a punt on new ideas? Then your brand values shouldn’t be about playing it safe or ‘being nice to everyone’. Once you’ve settled on your list, do a sense check against your target audience and make sure that they’ll be drawn in, not turned off.
4. Future-facing and built to stand the test of time
Almost all aspects of your brand should evolve over time. Your brand is never a finished product and you should always be testing things, learning from the insights and making small but regular changes. Your brand grows as you do and that’s a really great thing. But your values are the one element that should underpin everything else. Think about your own personal values, chances are you’ve had them for a lot longer than your last five hairstyles. Visuals can change, products and services should change over time, what you fundamentally believe at the core should stick around.
Finally, let’s take a look at some companies who have got it right…
‘Treat our customers like human beings’ – LL. Bean
This is a brilliant brand value, because it is centred on people (aka the single most important aspect of any business) but it’s not getting lost in glib positivity. It doesn’t say ‘treat every customer like you’d treat your best friend’, because that’s not realistic. Human beings are flawed. Contrary to popular belief, customers are not always right. But by committing to treating everyone who walks through their door with humanity, this creates a culture of understanding, which is far more practical than offering to fall in love with all of them on sight.
‘The need for information crosses all borders’ – Google
This is a statement with purpose, Google aren’t just thinking about the swanky executive customers that look like their own here to try and sell in their product. They’re thinking about the ‘why’. There’s so much value in the transportation of information, and the need for this affects just about everyone on the planet, regardless of who you are and where you live.
‘Design is not a luxury’ – Squarespace
We use Squarespace for our own website, and this statement completely embodies the brand experience we’ve had. As a fledgling business that knew good aesthetic would be important to our business, we found Squarespace to be the perfect option for us when we started. It’s incredibly cost effective but offers the ability for anyone to create a really beautiful website to showcase their product, service or offering.
If you’re going to spend the time to create some really practical, realistic and most of all GENUINE values, then you might as well do it properly. Take the buzzwords, put them in the bin and write some very specific brand values that will inspire your dream staff to apply to work for your business. They will help you both attract and retain employees who embody the same values, and it’s a great starting point for a strong culture that means something to you and your business.
Oh and definitely, definitely do not use the word ‘synergy’.