How often do we say, in other forums, to make sure we start with the consumer and not our own egos? The consumer now owns the brand relationship, not the other way around. We, as brand owners, are no longer in charge and can no longer dictate the terms of the brand relationship. Knowing that, it is incumbent that you begin the process of developing your brand values by immersing yourself in the values, vocabulary, and lives of consumers.
Start with answering four key questions.
1. What Brand Values Can We Own?
Heroic credibility is about the willingness of brands and leaders to commit to a set of values and then stand by them. To do this, you need to develop a mission statement and a set of values that are credible and believable. They are the DNA of your brand. They are your reason for being beyond making money.
The Levi Strauss values of “originality, integrity, empathy, and courage” act as guideposts for everything the company does. Originality drives its product development process. Integrity drives its sustainability policies. Empathy drives its employment practices and relationship with the communities where it does business. And courage drives the actions it takes on social issues.
Choose values that are authentic to you, that you can believe in and are believable to others. Make sure they are intrinsically connected to the products and services you offer. Select values you have a passion for. If your values are at the heart of who you are— deep in your DNA— they will guide your everyday actions as well as your strategy decisions. Commit to your values for the long term.
Ask yourself, what values should we own? What values will define who we are?
2. Do We Want To Do More Than Just Make Money For Our Shareholders?
The year 2019 marked the turning point for capitalism as we have always known it. When the Business Roundtable declared that the purpose of business should be to deliver value to customers, invest in employees, deal fairly and ethically with suppliers, support the communities where they did business, as well as generate long-term value for shareholders, it put the last nail in the coffin of shareholder primacy. The BRT validated the view that companies need to hold themselves to a higher purpose and need to demonstrate that commitment in everything they do. They need to embody it in their planning, their strategy, and their actions. The Business Roundtable validated the importance of heroic credibility. Now, make it one of your guiding principles.
3. How Are We Going To Attract The Best Talent And Keep Them?
Companies like Levi Strauss & Co. are enduring proof that if you want to attract the best and the brightest and then keep them, be a values-driven company hallmarked by heroic credibility. In the past, such companies were the exception, not the rule. Today, however, if you want to attract the best talent, especially Millennials and Generation Z, you need to offer them more than a competitive wage; you need to offer them a job with a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning.
The lesson here: to succeed and thrive in the second decade of the twenty- first century, make it clear to prospective employees that you are a company driven by your values and committed to heroic credibility.
4. How Are We Going To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Brand Militancy?
Do not get involved in social or political causes that have nothing to do with your brand, product category, or history. Just because you have a board member who is passionate about something or a viral campaign is pushing you to take a stand on some social or political issue, don’t do it. If you do, you may see a short-term gain, but in the long run you will lose the support of your customers, and revenues will suffer.
The Responsibility Of Heroic Credibility
The concept of heroic credibility begins with the belief that companies need to do more than just meet the financial goals of their owners or shareholders. They have a responsibility to invest in their employees, deal ethically and fairly with their vendors, and support the communities where they do business (paraphrase of the Business Roundtable’s new purpose of the corporation). Heroic credibility takes the concept of stakeholder responsibility one step further. Heroic credibility is about the willingness of brands and leaders to live by a set of values. Heroic credibility is about values-driven leadership.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: Paul Leinberger and Stephen Denny, authors of the new book, Unfiltered Marketing: 5 Rules to Win Back Trust, Credibility, and Customers in a Digitally Distracted World (Career Press)
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