Brand values are one of the first things you need to get right when creating your brand.
They underpin a lot of the further decisions you’ll make when creating your brand and growing your business.
They’re the guiding light that can help you take your business further than you thought possible.
Without them, you’ll struggle for a “frame of reference” or set of guidelines when you’re faced with important business questions.
Earlier on the blog, we covered brand strategy in an a mammoth bumper post, What is Brand Strategy? (The 10 Step Development Guide) which covered the basics of brand strategy.
In today’s post, we’re going to break brand values down further, explore what they are, what benefit they can bring to your business, what they should be, and how to define your core values.
Let’s dive in.
What are Brand Values?
We’ve talked a lot about brand values on the Canny blog already.
We talked about it in our What is Brand Strategy? Post, as well as in The Ultimate Small Business Branding Guide.
But we’ve never given that one line, easy to understand sentence that answers the question “what are brand values?”
So, here we go…
Brand values are the things that your business holds closest to it’s heart.
They’re a core set of beliefs that you can use to build your business activity around. They’ll also help you make key operating decisions.
At Canny, we have three key brand values.
- Outstanding design, every time.
- Transparency and clarity.
- Building partnerships with clients.
They’re a little rough around the edges, and could actually do with some tidying up.
But the sentiment rings true in everything we do.
No design is shipped, if we don’t believe it’s outstanding. A client will never lay eyes on something that we’re not 100% confident in.
We do everything we can to let clients into our mindset. We show them figures, facts, breakdowns, project hours, anything they like.
This helps with our third brand value, which is building partnerships with clients.
If our clients don’t see us as equal partners, or a trusted resource partner, then we’re handling that relationship wrong.
We want to be in a position of absolute trust and honesty, to provide our outstanding design and drive the maximum return for our clients.
These brand values, drive key decisions in our business:
“Should we send this round of design work to our client?”
Stop. Think. Is it outstanding?
No? Back to the drawing board.
Yes? Send away friend.
“Ryan wants to know more about the project breakdown.”
Sure, let’s bring Ryan in for a meeting and run him through how his project breaks down, so he can understand how the process works.
In turn, we’re building a relationship with Ryan that positions us as a trusted resource partner for his business.
What Are the Benefits of Defining Your Brand Values?
So what are the benefits of defining your business’ brand values?
There a number of different benefits, so let’s take a look.
Brand Values Help You Make Better Business Decisions
When making a key business decision, you can rely on your brand values.
“Is this decision in alignment with my brand values?”
We’ve had our three values outlined for quite a while at Canny. And we’ve not always had a team of people working here.
When it started, it was just me.
I was nervous about hiring for the first time. So why was I doing it?
Well… our customers weren’t becoming partners, I was servicing, but not building anything meaningful, because I was too busy.
I was also falling short on providing outstanding design, and the transparency. I was hard to contact.
Not through malice, but because I was rushed off my feet.
When it came to hiring for the first time, I was scared. What happens if it doesn’t work out? Do we have the money to pay? Why? What if? Who?
So many questions.
But then when I looked back at my values, and saw that I was falling short, I knew a hire had to be made.
And hiring was the best decision I ever made. Within two or three months, we had steadied the ship and restored the quality of work and service that our clients had become accustomed to.
They Help You to Assess New Partnership Opportunities
Your brand values will help you to assess new partnership opportunities that arise within your business.
When faced with the decision of something like a business merger, or the start of a referral scheme, you can assess what the other party values, and whether that’s in alignment with your own brand values.
This helps to assess compatibility and if you both share similar values, it will drive your business relationship forward.
And again, with hiring, brand values are a godsend.
You can make sure that your potential new employees are on the same page as you, by bringing out your brand values in the interview, and discussing them through.
Ask them what that means to them.
So in our case, it was;
“What does providing outstanding design mean to you?”
“How do you think we can demonstrate transparency and clarity to our clients?”
“What is the value of building partnerships with our clients?”
This helps you make sure new staff members share your values, or are at least the right fit for the business, and willing to take your values on board.
If they’re not, they’re not right.
If they are, welcome them to the team.
Brand Values Help to Improve Morale
Sounds strange doesn’t it?
But brand values can be a great yardstick to measure progress within the team, and allow team members to check their progress.
When team members all share the same set of core values as the company, and everyone walks the walk and talks the talk, morale can be boosted.
When morale is high, productivity increases, and staff stick around for longer.
When I worked stacking shelves at Morrisons, I didn’t know what the brand values were. They were never outlined. And frankly, I didn’t care.
Eventually, I left.
However, if someone had taken the time to outline what it is that Morrisons believe in, why we should be proud to work there, and how we can help the customers, that would’ve made things a lot better.
I’d have had a set of guiding lights (so to speak.)
That would’ve made the job a lot easier when you were asked to move the same display five times in one night.
It would’ve helped the staff understand what the company were trying to achieve, and that probably would’ve boosted the morale.
Stacking shelves is no fun, and morale is normally quite low. However, with the right brand values in place, it could’ve been palatable.
Brand Values Can Help You to Build Stronger Relationships
Building strong relationships is one of Canny’s brand values.
But having a set of brand values in the first place, allows us to do that.
When consumers can easily identify brand values and how they align with their own, they are able to make a faster connection and build a stronger relationship with your brand. – Jennifer Bourn
Understanding how your brand’s values aligns with your customers values, can really cement you as the “go to brand” in their mind for the thing you sell.
I align with Apple, because I like slick, modern, design that works. I also like companies that push the mould and break boundaries.
And as a result, I don’t mind paying a premium for the product, and now I own a lot of iDevices.
I also invest into the company when buying hardware for the Canny Creative team.
As a result of aligning with their brand values, I’ve spent a lot of money on Apple products.
This can also help to shorten the sales cycle.
When I need new hardware for work, I don’t go to Curry’s PC World to look at alternatives.
I drive straight to Apple, and pick up the new computer I need.
Sales cycle shortened.
What Should Your Brand Values Be?
Without digging into your business and hiring us to provide branding services, we’re not in a position to tell you exactly what your brand values should be.
But, just like effective logo design, there are a set of guides that you can follow to make your brand values as strong as possible.
So, what should a good set of brand values be?
Your brand values must be memorable. You need to be able to remember them, whenever you need them.
Making a key decision, but don’t have time to flip open your phone to refer to your brand strategy document?
You’ve got to have memorable brand values.
You need to remember them, your staff team need to remember them, and your customers need to remember them when they think of you or the products you sell.
How many brands have the values “honest and professional”?
All of them. That’s what all businesses should be.
But that’s not unique to you.
Your brand values are also a way to position your brand in the mind of your customers and clients.
Why you, why not a competitor?
“Well, because we actively try to reduce our carbon footprint, where our competitors are all driving round in 10L Diesel Trucks.”
Be unique. There’s nothing to be gained from being the same as everyone else.
Here’s something to think about:
What’s the point in having brand values, if you’re not going to do anything with them?
At Canny, we’re actively pushing our values through in everything we do.
It’s no good having “We value Planet Earth” as a brand value, if you don’t actually do anything about that.
Putting it on your website, or on your shop wall is all well and good, but you need to follow through on your brand values.
Brand values give you a chance to create real success in your business, but to do that, they need to be actionable.
Like I said at the very start of this post, your brand values are what your business holds the closest to it’s heart.
If the values you set out are meaningless, you’re not going to action them. They probably won’t be unique, and nobody will care if they’re memorable.
Your brand values should resonate with people. With you, with your team, with your customers.
Clear and Defined
Something we’ve noticed is people often say they have their brand values in place.
Then when we ask to see them, they say “ahhhh, well, we’re disruptors, erm, I’ll have to dig them out.”
This is bad for two reasons.
- I don’t think these people actually have their brand values defined, and if they do, they’re not clear.
- If they do have their values set out, they’re clearly not very memorable.
Your values are the foundation of your business. They should be present in everything you do.
You should never have to search for them, or “dig them out.”
Don’t get me wrong, brand values change, because companies change.
But from the outset, your brand should be timeless.
Your values should never age, expire, or go out of date.
Sure, you might change your direction, and therefore, change your values, which is when you can utilise the power of a rebrand.
However, time shouldn’t force your brand values to become obsolete.
And most importantly, Honest
This is the most obvious brand value guiding light of all.
Your brand values should be entirely honest.
Nothing will harm your business more than trying to pretend that you’re something you’re not.
Honesty always wins out.
Don’t say you’re something you’re not. Don’t pretend. Live your truth.
Brand values are hard to get right, but using these guidelines, you should be in a better position to start creating the brand values for your business.
The Five Step Process to Defining Your Core Brand Values
Now you understand the framework for creating successful brand values, let’s look at the actual process of creating your own.
Discover What Matters To You
Getting started with defining your brand values is the hardest part.
First things first, you need to move past “honest, reliable, and trustworthy.”
Put them straight in the bin.
They sound positive but they say nothing about you and your business. They’re a dime-a-dozen, seen it all before.
If you really want to create brand values that give you a foundation for growth, then you need to be different to all the other companies.
Perhaps you’re sick of seeing the same thing in your industry so you’re really going to disrupt the market.
Or maybe, you’re a true pioneer in the way you use technology in an antiquated field.
They’re much better starts to creating unique brand values than “being honest.”
Know What Your Customers Believe In
There’s rarely success in a business without an income stream.
So it’s important that you know your customers, and what they value.
If they value “keeping earth as pollution free as possible” and your CEO is driving around in a 10L Hummvee, and saying he values keeping earth pollution free too, then you’re going to have a problem.
You need to align the value of your target audience to the value your business provides.
The most powerful brand values align to existing problems in a marketplace. Rather than trying to storytell to your customers to change their minds, find out what they already believe, and work backwards from there.
Just like with small business advertising, you want to be more pulling than pushing!
You might even find that your target audience and your business aren’t a good match.
That seems like a big problem. But it allows you to kick on, and reposition yourself, or redefine your target audience.
Know What Your Competitors Are Offering Up
Your competitors can play a key role when it comes to defining your brand values.
You don’t want your brand values to be the same as a competitors. Otherwise, you could end up driving your customers towards them.
Differentiation is a key benefit of unique brand values.
By analysing your competitors, you might find a gap in the market that you can move in to.
Or, you might find the marketplace is saturated for what you were planning to do.
Again, sounds disastrous, but you should be able to quickly reposition and use a unique set of brand values that offers something different.
Make Sure You Can Live and Breathe Your Brand Values
You need to live up to your brand values. You need to stand for something.
You can do this one of two ways.
- Identify what it is you firmly believe in, and go “all in” on that
- Find out what your customers already think about you, and “double down” on that
If your customers appreciate your “direct, getting to the point” approach to conversations, then your brand value could be:
- Straight shooting, always direct
- …or if your brand is slightly bolder, “no bullshit”
Then you need to live and breathe that.
In this situation, you wouldn’t sugar coat anything. You’ll always tell it how it is.
If you can’t stand behind your brand values proudly, then they’re not right.
While your brand identity may change, and your brand might go through a whole rebranding process, your values should stay as consistent as possible.
To do this, you need to simplify everything you can. You don’t want sweeping statements. You want short punchy sentences.
From the way you communicate, to your website, to your social media channels, all content should be aligned with your brand values.
Your brand values need to be clear and easy to understand, giving your team the best possible chance of rolling them out across your associated media.
These are the key steps you need to follow when setting out your brand values.
Follow this process, and you should be left with a set of 3-5 brand values that you can use as a building brick for your brand strategy.
Things to Remember!
There a few key things to remember when it comes to your brand values.
You Must Revisit Your Brand Values
Brand values are not “set and forget” type things.
You should revisit them at least once a year to make sure that your brand values are still working in the best interest of your business.
Have you moved away or changed direction? Make sure you bring your brand values fall in line.
Little tweaks over time will help ensure your brand stays on point.
You Have to Live and Breathe Your Core Values
Brand values are great, and you absolutely should have them.
But you should also ensure that you live and breathe your core values.
If you’re not doing that, what’s the point in having them?
Usually, the brand values are set by the C-suite or Owners of a company, and usually they’re the first ones to drop the ball.
Remember, your brand values are there to help, and act as a guiding light for your business.
Use them. We all need all the help we can get.
Everyone Needs Brought Onboard
Defining your brand values for the very first time?
Then you need to get everyone in the company on board. No matter how big or small you are.
Team meetings, presentations, and one-to-one sessions are great ways to roll your brand values out across your organisation.
If you don’t do this, you run the risk of having a vital piece of your brand strategy ignored.
Conclusion: Establishing Brand Values That Give You a Foundation for Growth
Your brand values are a true foundation for growth.
They’re the core values that your company holds the most dear.
They form the basis for your brand strategy, and breathe life into your brand.
Your company values should never be ignored. In fact, ignoring your company values is gross misconduct and could lead to a serious issue within your organisation.
If you work to define your brand values, you need to ensure that your new company ethos is carried throughout the company, from top to bottom.
Your brand values are a key tool that can help guide many decisions across your business.
Create and use them properly, and they’ll help you to take your business to the next level.
What are your brand values? How do they work for your business? Let us know in the comments below.
reading time: 16 minutes