Brands, just like people, have values – bedrock principals they stand for and hold near and dear to the heart. These principals form the reason brands exist. Brand values influence two important business assets – relationships and reputation. Relationships are built on trust and reputation is built on delivering on your promise.
In our over-crowded, me-too marketplace, points of difference that are function and feature based are no longer sustainable. Consumers today are tuning out marketing and tuning in to those brands that represent shared values. Forward thinking marketers recognize their brand building initiatives must focus on relationships and reputation.
Nothing else really matters.
Connections Begin With Respect And Empathy
Brands aren’t human, they have no consciousness, brands are not things, nor do they do anything. Brands are nothing more than a shared idea of value– mirrors of our interactions and transactions with each other. Of course, it’s fashionable and fun to talk about brand in the parlance of our industry, brand managers and brand consultants love jargon and thinking models that they can write on a white board.
At the end of the day, we’re still talking about an idea of value in the mind. And one idea human beings value is connection to other humans and being part of the tribe. When people share values they’re more likely to hang with their like-minded mates. And so it is with brands. The power of brands lies in shared connections based in shared values.
Shared Values Form The Basis For All Relationships
Wherever we go in business and in life, we bring are own values along as well. When others share our values, this becomes a powerful and attractive force to bind us closer together. Shared values form the very basis for every relationship.
Enlightened brand owners realize in our time-compressed days, most of us have little time for things (and people) that don’t really matter to us. For brands to matter, the customer must believe the brand is bringing something more valuable to them than the cash exchanged. In effect brands have to provide more “use value” than they ask in cash value.
It is the shared experience of value that binds customers to the brand and the organization behind it. When brands deliver at this level, they lead markets and shift the culture. The result is massive financial gain for the brand owner.
Building A Values-Based Brand
No longer can brands be differentiated on features, benefits or price. There’s just too much stuff out there these days. Customers have so much choice everything is white noise.
Leading brands are always differentiated by their shared values. If the values your brand represents are not aligned to the values of your customer, no amount of marketing will change their mind. And never try amending brand values to line up with the customers.
That’s a recipe for disaster.
Trust is the foundation of a value-based brand. As in all relationships, trust is what holds things together and defines the quality of brand reputation. You’re the real deal or not–it’s just that simple. Here’s a list of things brand owners of values-based brands always do to build trusted relationships with customers:
– focus on the things money can’t buy
– live their convictions rather than conform to markets
– listen more and market less
– elevate the quality of life for the tribe
It’s As Simple – And As Difficult – As Doing The Right Thing
Values-based brands are always “doing the right thing.” It’s a simple principle, but one that foils many brand owners because many don’t take the time to know what the right thing is. It’s inevitable that every brand will face some form of change, controversy, and crisis. And it’s in these challenging times, that a brand’s actions broadcast its values. In a marketplace hyper-focused on the next best thing, values-based brands are disciplined focused, consistent, and credible.
The objective of values-based brand management is to do the right thing without agonizing over the specific issues. When brand owners know what values for which their brands stand, one can see choices more clearly, make decisions more easily, and serve the tribe with more humility.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education