What is meant by brand values?

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When we are asked what is meant by brand values, we have a choice.  We can revert to the theory – brand values are the key founding principles of a company, principles that guide how a company operates, communicates, and delivers for its customers.  

Alternatively (and more often if not always!) we fall back on our preferred definition …

… brand values are the things you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room.

Although both will be articulated slightly differently, they should always come down to the same things.  It should be a list of what your company stands for, how it operates, the ideals your business was founded on and what you pride yourself on being/providing/generating.  

These can be straightforward:

• Creativeness, playfulness, imagination, quality (Lego)

• Competition, challenging the status quo, and playing to win (adidas)

They can be more descriptive and closely assigned to customer expectations:

• Champion the mission, be a host, embrace the adventure, be a serial entrepreneur (Airbnb)

But more and more they are more idealistic, focussing on the environment, diversity, solidarity, and transparency rather than bare faced commerciality or financial ambition.  Ben and Jerry’s for example have tied their values to three hugely admirable masts:

1. Human Rights & Dignity

2. Social and Economic Justice

3. Environmental Protection, Restoration and Regeneration

Successful brand values always reflect what is truly important to the company behind the brand and the customers they want. This means they have to be honest.  There really is nothing more off putting than a set of weighty and worthy statements with no substance.

Successful brand values demand consistency (in fact all good marketing is demands consistency).  It needs to jump out from every part of the business and every internal and external touchpoint.  It should also be very clear your values have influenced all your strategic decisions and tactical choices.

Aside from honesty and consistency, here are three more things to bear in mind if you are planning on writing or revising a set of brand values for your business:

1. Identity

What do you represent?  Why are you different to (and better than) your competitors?

2. Behaviour

What behaviours do your values guide?  And this is as applicable internally in the way your employees act and interact as it is externally in terms of how your values influence your customers and other stakeholders.

3. Trust 

How will your values generate more trust from your existing customers and attract new customers so you can cultivate their loyalty?  We’ll give you a clue, it involves matching what you do to what they want!

If you are planning to create a new set of brand values or refresh your existing values and would like some help, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected].

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