When we speak to clients, particularly new ones and especially those wanting to ‘create a brand’, what they often really mean is ‘I want a logo’. Now that’s fine in itself, but there is more to branding than a new logo design.
Branding in the true sense of the word goes way beyond a logo, a colour palette or even the products you sell. These things are great and they help a customer connect to you, but these also may change over time as your business evolves.
At the core of all of these things are your brand values. It’s at this point we’re often met with a ‘huh?’ by a client, and that's fine too!
With this in mind, we thought it would be useful to give you some pointers to help build your own brand values. If it’s something you’re new to, or are struggling to come up with them yourself, this will hopefully help you craft a vision for your business going forward that you can use to grow your business without paying us anything. ;-)
Let’s start with answering the ‘huh?’ questions first…
WTF ARE BRAND VALUES?
Think of brand values as the constant in your business. Products change, marketing campaigns come and go, websites get updated, and employee turnover, but the brand values at the core of your business should be set in stone.
They are the guiding light around which everything else is governed. The foundations on which you build your business. If they’re not strong, then you know what will happen.
There’s no denying that you will undoubtedly get side-tracked by any number of different business issues on a day-to-day basis, but having core brand values defined will always help you find the light in the chaotic darkness. Your brand values should be non-negotiable.
All of those things we mentioned (websites, marketing, etc) will certainly help make customers aware of what you do and are definitely something they will identify with, but to establish real engagement and create a lasting affinity with them, you need to make sure your brand values are set.
It’s these words that will define who you are and how you will conduct yourself in your chosen marketplace. They’ll affect the choices you make AND the actions you take. They can inspire growth, help attract the best people and reach those all-important ideal customers.
They are a promise to your customers, suppliers and employees, so they’re not something you can afford to ignore.
In other words and to break it down as succinctly as possible, as a business, the question you need to answer to start building brand values is this…..What do you stand for? Let’s find out in 5 simple steps.
1 - FIND YOUR “WHY”
For almost all businesses, the ‘why’ already exists deep down, but it’s not always immediately obvious. You just have to unearth it, clean it up and give it a polish so you can use it as your own.
Every business is unique; there’s no other business that has the same staff, same offices, same procedures, same products packaged in the same way, so use that exclusivity as a starting point.
Many clients find their ‘why’ by having a brainstorming session, and whilst that can work, you have to be clear on what you’re looking for. It shouldn’t be about coming up with a list of words that sound nice. You’re not looking for ‘nice’.
Sessions will often throw up words like ‘timely’, ‘trusted’ or ‘reliable’ which sound nice and are important, but doesn’t everyone want to be those things? Shouldn’t they be the norm? You need to be looking for words that illicit a feeling or a positive emotion in your customers.
One way to achieve this is often to flip it and focus on the negative. Bad experiences or negative emotions trigger more passionate responses. That’s why we’re more likely to leave reviews when things go wrong that when things go swimmingly. You can start by using one of our forms (linked here).
‘Why’ questions always sound like a simple exercise, if they get asked at all, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.
If you don’t have a team to brainstorm with, then fear not, just ask yourself this. ‘Why’ do you do what you do? If your answer is to make money, that’s fine, but it’s not an answer, it’s the result of what you do, but not why you do it. WHY do you sell' ‘x’ or WHY do you provide ‘y’? Think about that for a minute.
The ‘Why’ question is actually the third one of this section that we go over with clients. The first two are pretty easy in comparison; ‘what’ do you do (pretty much EVERYONE knows what they do) and secondly ‘how’ do you do it (almost everyone can answer that one too), but why? That’s the question.
Whichever approach you use, 'why' is about finding your purpose, your belief, your reason for existing in the first place and also understanding why should anyone care that you do?
Why should they buy from you when they could buy from anyone else who does the same thing? It’s incredibly easy to ask the questions in the order we’ve laid out. What -> How -> Why. As human beings, we’re more comfortable starting with easy stuff then getting hard (that’s why exams start easy and become more difficult), but the successful companies, the really serious business people do it the other way. They, as we do, actually answer the ‘why’ question first. So let’s help you find your why.
We asked you to think about a question at the end of the second paragraph, so what do you come up with? Anything? It doesn’t really matter if you sell ‘thingamajigs’ and there are dozens of other people who sell them also. Why do YOU sell them?
Do you sell them in a more eco-friendly way? Do you sell them because your life changed when you found them? Are you trying to solve a problem for someone (or yourself)? Did you spot a gap in the market? Were you inspired by a personal experience that made you look at the world in a new light? Answer the question that’s relevant to you and you’ve found your why.
2 - DEFINE YOUR “WHO”
So we’ve got your ‘why’, now let’s look at defining your ‘who’. The ‘who’ is actually less about you, and more about who your ideal customer is.
Every business will have customers (hopefully), but you should focus your efforts on finding your target or ideal customer. Who are they? This will help you define your brand values.
Whatever you sell, regardless of whether it's a product or service, you will have an ideal customer (or customers). This will help you, for example, when devising marketing campaigns, where they are often referred to as personas, but to help you define who they are, think about who you are helping with what you do.
Do you target individual customers or do you look to help sections of a community or groups of people? Who are they? Do they work for small businesses, or are they sole traders, corporate officers, or non-profits?
When you understand who these people are, you can start to fill in more of your brand values, because you’ll understand what they’re looking for in you. If you were targeting CEOs, then they will have different needs than self-employed electricians.
When you’re trying to define your ‘who’, try not to get side-tracked on their day-to-day needs, but focus more on what needs they have that aren’t being met with the current market.
Maybe it’s something that’s not available currently that would help them solve a problem, or perhaps it’s something that does already exist and helps them to some degree but doesn’t completely solve their problem. How does your product or service fill in those gaps?
It’s also worth revisiting the first point and asking yourself why is it important to you that your product/service solves that problem for them.
3 - WALK THE WALK
So far we’ve only looked at talking the talk, but brand values go further than that. It’s time to walk the walk to show the world that you really do mean what you say.
Remember your brand values are at the heart of what you do, so it’s not enough to see it written on a wall, you actually have to get out of the office and do it.
This kind of thing goes hand-in-hand with finding your ‘why’ from Step 1. You want to show the world including your customers, clients, suppliers and communities that you really believe in your values.
What they are will vary from business to business, but an example could be if your service helps people recovering from drug misuse, outside of work you could volunteer at a local recovery organisation. If you have a music shop, you could donate old/used instruments to school projects.
If your ‘why’ is wanting to empower people, then create some online courses or developmental programs that are made available on your website (for free!). It really could be anything, so let your imagination run wild.
If you’re stuck for ideas, write a list that includes both your ‘why’ and some of the core values that you feel particularly strong about fostering within your business (great customer service, etc). Once you see them all written down, you’ll be surprised at what comes to mind.
4 - BUILD A TEAM THAT SHARES YOUR VALUES
It’s one thing for you to determine what your brand values are, it’s quite another to build (or find) a team around you that shares those values….. but you should.
Everyone should be aligned with what you’re creating and doing so will create a much better experience for everyone now and in the future.
The team you have will be more motivated and new hires will quickly feel like they’re part of something tangible. They’ll also fit in faster knowing who you are and what you stand for right from the start.
Once you have your brand values, incorporate them into all and every aspect of your business. You can start by structuring interview questions and your whole recruitment process around them.
Depending on what they are, build questions that interviewees can answer that show how they’ve demonstrated them in the past. If, for example, one of your values is persistence, ask for a time when they showed that quality. If your values are shown outside of the office (see Step 3), then talk about how they can be part of it or at the very least tell them what you do.
If you have a page on your website where you advertise vacancies within your business, then make sure your values are mentioned here too. You will, obviously, also need to build them into your site as a whole. It might even inspire someone to apply - who wouldn’t want to be part of what you’re building!
We’ve said it before on many occasions, but it bears repeating here. Branding is so much more than a logo or a slogan. It’s more than a font or colour scheme. Real branding doesn’t happen overnight, but it always has consistency at its heart and that includes your brand values.
Consistency comes from being true to your values at all times. They’re not a marketing slogan (they come and go), but brand values remain constant.
These values need to be aligned with your overall look and your overall look needs to be aligned with your values. If you have decided that one of your values is your commitment to the environment, then having a fleet of fuel-inefficient company cars isn’t going to help.
Consistency doesn’t necessarily mean that everything across all of your digital platforms has to look exactly the same. It does mean however that the image you’re projecting to the world needs to be consistent.
Logos can change, colour schemes can alter, and marketing campaigns ebb and flow over time, but throughout all of that, your brand values of [insert your brand values here] should always remain consistent because it’s that which is going to resonate with your customers.
We’d love to know what you came up with when defining your own brand values. If you came up with some, what steps did you take and what was the outcome? Let us know in the comments below, so others may be able to benefit from them.
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