Today on Branding Strategy Insider we field a timely marketing question for those working on their brand values. This one is from Phil a brand team leader in Los Angeles, California who asks this about defining them…
“We’re currently looking at revamping our brand values and there is a great deal of debate internally about what sort of values we should choose. Some believe we should choose values that reflect who we are so that we have a base that we are happy with and can build on. Others think that many of the proposed values are too generic and that we need to push for values that stretch us. What do you think, and why?”
This comes up a lot in any team looking to change its values, along with the number of values that a brand needs. Sometimes it comes up overtly, in the way that you have raised it here. More often, it comes out in a reluctance by some to ‘move on’ from what they know because they are concerned that leadership is not up to the task or they will end up compromising their professional integrity. Of the two options you present, personally I’m a fan of the latter. Values are the mindset under which you choose to compete, so it makes sense that they should be as different as possible from those of the industry and your competitors without being irrelevant.
Sadly, as Marketing Magazine points out, too many organizations have brand (and indeed organizational) values that are little more than hygiene factors and that reflect how they wish to act and be seen, rather than the qualities they need to exhibit in order to be a distinctive brand built on a confident culture. Nick Liddell’s point in the article that a unique set of values suggests that a company’s leadership has made a conscious effort to identify a clear, meaningful point of difference and is confident in its ability to defend it is a point well made.
The problem with selecting brand values that you like is that it’s too easy to choose brand values that you just feel comfortable with or that you think are expected of you rather than those that take your brand to new places – which surely is the point of the revamp you allude to. I’m also not a fan of brand onions for the same reason – they’re so jam-packed full of motifs that in the end the values set itself is meaningless.
So my advice would be to advocate for a small, intense, focused set of values that represent a significant departure from how your competitors choose to act and how consumers expect the industry to behave generally. At the same time, the values themselves need to inspire and excite those working on the brand in-house and beyond in your supplier community to behave in ways that bring people together and lift what they aspire to achieve.
Look for interesting, colorful words or phrases that push for action. And make sure that when you finally set your brand values set that you workshop what they mean and don’t mean, how they change your ways of working going forward and why customers will be overjoyed at the brand experiences they receive as a result. Without this level of litigation, values are just words.
A final thought to guide your decision-making: Change isn’t just decided by what you change. It’s also decided by what you decide to keep. Thanks for your question. All the best with agreeing on a values set that significantly lifts the bar.
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