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How to Define Your Core Brand Values (And Why You Should)
This post is part of a series calledSmall Business Branding.
7 Steps to Building a Head-Turning Personal Brand
Online Brand Development: 7 Web-Savvy Steps to Growing Your Business
Your core brand values are the compass that points to the true North of your business success. Which means, theyre pretty darn important.
But what exactly are they, how do you define them, and what do you do with them once you have them?
Lets start from the very beginning by taking up the relationship between a brand and its values.
Note: We have abrand values PDF worksheetyou can download for free and work with alongside this tutorial.
Values stand at the very core of your brand. Theyre the center from which everything radiatesincluding your brands look (design), message (voice), and relationships (customer service).
And unless youve been living under a rock with no wi-fi connection (which is pretty hard to find these days), Im sure you already know that you need to create a brand around your business.
If youve got not idea how to start thinking of your business as a brand or how having a brand can help your business, you can find out all about it in the following article. (Hint: It involves unicorns!)
If youve already got the basics of branding covered, then you may already know that branding can be quite an involved process. Contrary to what many small business owners tend to think, branding includes a lot more elements and goes way deeper than a simple logo you display on your website and products.
In case you havent gotten that far on your branding knowledge yet, you can learn all about the deeper aspects of branding your business right here:
On the whole, a brand consists of two main external aspects:
Your visual identitywhich includes your logo, colors, and typography.
Your voice identitywhich includes your tagline, tone, and communication styles.
But for a brand to be complete and substantial theres an important third internal aspect that every business owner needs to address before even thinking about designing a logo or coming up with a tagline to stick on every visible surface, and this is your:Brand Values.
Your brand values will help you capture thethree Ps of your brand: Proposition, Personality, and Purpose. Without values to guide you, your brand will seem like just any other businessrather than a distinct and recognizable brandand your growth and sales will suffer as a result.
Interesting question. Does the value of your brand have anything to do with your brand values?
Dont be too quick to say no! And dont be too quick to say yes, either! Lets break things down first so we can see how the two relate.
When we say brand value, we usually think about a monetary sum. How much is your brand worth? For example, a no-name pair of jeans could be worth $19 while a Levis branded pair of jeans could be worth $119. Clearly theres a difference in value based on the brand.
Seth Godin gave a nice definition whenhe wrote:
A brands value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.
As you can tell, now were getting into deeper ground. A brands value is not simply how much extra people will pay ($100 more for a pair of Levis jeans over an unbranded pair), but also howoftenthey choose that brand and for which reasons.
Example: A branded pair of jeans may cost $119. But if people choose them only once for a matter of prestige but never buy again, then the brand doesnt have much value. No one can survive on one-time customers.
But if lets say, another brand of jeans costs $79, but the people who buy once choose to buy again and again, then this second brand has a far greater value than the first one. Repeat customers are the lifeline of every business.
And repeat business is tightly tied to values.
The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, nicely summarized the connection when he said:
You dont buy Coke over Pepsi (or vice versa) because it tastes better. It doesnt. And countless studies have shown thatthe difference is all in our brains!
You buy it because you bought either into the happiness brand or the youthfulness brand, depending on which value you consider most important.
For your brand to be valuable,杭州夜网 you dont have to have the most expensive products or services in your industry. Your value gets multiplied every time a customer chooses to come back to you, chooses to do business with you over all the other brands in your industry andchoosesto recommendyourbrand to a friend.
And that choice is tightly connected to yourvalues.
So if you want to create deep and meaningful relationships with your customers that last for years bringing you repeat business and raising the value of your brand, you need to clearly define your brand values so that your audience can have something to connect to. Something to stay loyal to.
The most obvious way, perhaps, to start thinking about your business brand values is by thinking whats important to you and make a list. But theres a danger to this approach: A lot of things sound nice or noble when we think of them in theory.
But choosing standard values like timely, reliable, or trusted wont help you stand out from the crowd in any significant way. Theres no real feeling or emotion behind these words other than that they sound nice. But nice wont get you chosen; it will only get you ignored.
Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence their brands acquire no texture, no character. – Richard Branson
So how can you dig deeper with your values so you can go beyond an idealized version of you in a way that goes beyond nice? Forget about idealized perfections. Were talking about discovering the real and raw feelings that connect you (and your brand) to the world!
The best way to do this is to start with things you dont like. Thats because we often experience negative emotions more intensely than positive ones, and we can often articulate far better why we dont like something than why we like something else.
Think about a brand experience you had that you hated. Maybe the customer service was terrible. Maybe the project wasnt done on time. Or maybe it was finished on time, but it was done in a sloppy way. Maybe the company was very typical both in terms of time and quality but left you feeling like you just shook hands with a cold, heartless robot.
Download this free worksheetand fill in your negative experience into the first column of exercise one.
In the second column write the negative emotions or values that the specific experience communicated to you. What are the things, in other words, you like to avoid doing yourself?
In the third column, write the opposite value that youd like your brand to project instead as a way of connecting to your audience.
For example: Lets say that you stay in a glitzy glam hotel on a weekend getaway. Although the hotel is nice and the service good and timely, you didnt like the snobbery of the staff. So you write in column one snobby glitzy hotel stay.
The reason you disliked the experience was that it left you feeling empty and disconnected. You didnt like how the place looked like every other hotel youve ever been to. Plus, you felt like no one there was really interested in you but only in your money. And you write these negative emotions in the second column of your exercise.
So what are the opposite and positive values youd like to project instead? It could be homey, feeling like youve visited a friends house and not a faceless resort. Or friendly, by being made to feel like a valued guest, not simply a paying customer. Or even unique because you value experiences that stand out from the ordinary ones.
And this example isnt entirely imaginary, but it could be how Airbnb came up with brand concept and values of offering unique places to stay with local hosts around the world.
Make your list here starting with the negative brand experiences youve had or would hate to be associated with and turning those into specific positive values youd like to cultivate in your brand. Theres room for fiveon your worksheet, but feel free to experiment around with even more values.
Once you have a list of possible candidates, pick your top three values that mean the most to you and that youd like to focus your energies on.
If your customers were asked to describe your brand in just 2-3 sentences, what would they say about you? What would you want them to say about you?
As business owners, we often get into fancy and elaborate explanations of what we stand for and what we believe in. But no one will be able to remember or repeat that about our business.
When youre promoting your business in any way (through your website, customer service, advertising, etc.), you need to make sure you clearly promote the 2-3 values that you want customers to know about you.
Think about Apple. What are the words that come to your mind?
And its not by accident that we think these things.
During a 1997 presentation to his employees at Apple, Steve Jobs gave the following advice:
To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, its a very noisy world. And were not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.
In the same presentation, he goes on to say:
What were about isnt making boxes for people to get their job done Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core Its core values is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.
Thats what Apple believes in, and they make sure to promote those values through every aspect of their brand.
Another great example from a business that started off as a small, online business is Marie Forleo. In herAbout section, Marie writes the following about the purpose and values of her brand:
Im here to serve. My company is built on a bedrock of love, a passion for whats possible and a commitment to be an unstoppable force for good.
Through our free content, our paid online training programs and anything else we might offer were in this to make a difference. To help you build a life that you truly love. A life that is one of a kind, unique and brilliantly tailored for you.
Whether youre starting or growing your business or looking to make a big change in your personal life, were here to help you reach the highest levels of your creative potential and tap into the deepest wisdom within you.
And thats all great for the About page, where a brand gets to elaborate on who it is and what they believe in. But thats not something her audience will remember verbatim or be able to say about the brand.
So what about something shorter? Marie has boiled her business brand values down to this powerful sentence on her homepage:
And thats the essence of her brand: Encouraging others to reach fortheirdreams.
(Which, going back to our first exercise, could have been born out of negative experiences with a lack of support system that helped people discovered their unique gifts and talents.)
Start by elaborating your thoughts inthe second exercise of your worksheeton what the 2-3 values youve selected really mean to you and why. (Aim for something like Maries longer message on her About page, but packed with your values.)
And then try to condense everything into one short and powerful phrase that captures the essence of your brand. What do you stand for?
The most important thing after discovering your core values is staying consistent with them. Everything about your brand, from the colors you use to the logo you choose to the language you speak, have to represent those core values.
A logo isnt a brand. Neither is a slogan. Neither is a color. Nor even an ad.
Consistency is the true brand builder.
If you want to build a brand, you need to stay true to your values and consistent with them. Always.
One entrepreneur whos built a successful personal brand and has then leveraged it to launch an internationally-recognized marketing business is Gary Vaynerchuck. Gary is an outspoken person and a great proponent of hard work and constant hustle.
Just take a look at what his brand looks like across the internet:
The intensity of Garys personality comes through both the dark colors and intense fonts he uses across his brands. Just by looking through his profiles you can tell that hes all about entrepreneurship, leadership, and hustle.
Yet, none of his social media channels looks identical to the other. And thats a very important note to make about consistency. Consistency doesnt mean you have to be the same across all channels or throughout the years. It means that the image you project must be consistent with your core brand values.
In fact, if you scroll back enough into Garys social media channels, you can see how the look and imagery of his brand have evolved through the years to what it is today. The look may have changed, but the brand always remained consistent to core values of entrepreneurship, leadership, and hustle.
Are you staying consistent in the messages your brand puts out?
Once you clearly define your core brand values, it will be much easier to do so and much easier to promote your brand across various channels.
Do the exercises on the worksheet, discover what your brand really stands for, and share your core values with us!
Wed love to know: What does your brand stand for in the world?
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