Built on Values – Why Brands Are About Much More Than Aesthetics

Brand values are like a compass that points to your true North as an organization. They are the layer living beneath what everyone else sees – like your name, logo, packaging, website, and advertisements. Without core values, your brand is just a pretty design without true meaning.

Brands that focus on the internal do a better job of articulating the external.

Brands consist of attributes that are both external and internal. When most people think of branding they think it’s primarily focused on the external elements (your logo, colors, fonts), but in reality it’s the internal elements that help define a strong brand.

Your values form your brand’s base, and everything else stems from there. By looking inward and gaining clarity on your core values, you start to focus on who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

We want people to remember you by who you are, not by what you look like. A pretty face only goes so far, but strong relationships are deeper than that.

Once you build a strong foundation, it then becomes a lot easier to explain the brand through visuals and messaging, because you know what you stand for and what needs to be communicated overall. Having a big picture view of what you’re all about will end up driving your design choices moving forward.

So when we say brands have an internal component, it’s because the best brands are the ones who discover what they stand for, position themselves around their beliefs, and then talk about it time and time again in their messaging and marketing efforts.

And branding is for more than just differentiation in the marketplace – it’s for internal company development as well. There is no better way to get everyone in your company on the same page than to clearly communicate your brand values to your team day in and day out. If an employee is asked what the company values are, they shouldn’t hesitate with their response.

Communicating company values allows customers to align with common beliefs.

Apple values thinking differently. Virgin values a free-spirited lifestyle. Nike values action. People attach these values to what they believe about themselves and their own values, and that’s a huge reason they end up purchasing.

They purchase because it aligns with who they are. It allows them to let other people know what they stand for based on who they choose to align themselves with.

Successful brands find a way to communicate their values in everything they do.

Strong messaging backed by authentic values is the part of your brand strategy that helps you mold relationships and build trust with your customers and team alike – effectively allowing you to adopt each of them as part of your family and turn them into brand evangelists.

Values also give your brand a clear sense of purpose and direction for marketing initiatives. It gives everyone a foundation to build off of when it comes to delivering new creative materials and content that is supposed to be “on-brand”. When everyone is on the same page, it’s a lot easier to know what the company does and doesn’t want to communicate to the public.

Good marketing gets people through the door, but the brand is what keeps them coming back for more.

And when you successfully execute the marketing-branding cycle, you increase the lifetime value of each customer. Your brand values allow you to create meaningful relationships, and relationships are great for business.

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

Howard Schultz – CEO of Starbucks

What are the must-haves for your brand values?

While choosing values based on your ideals sounds like a good idea, it’s not the best way to build an authentic brand. Your values should reflect exactly who you are, today, and what you actively do to support those values every day – otherwise they don’t actually mean anything. You have to practice what you preach.

Your values should be:

  • Unique, bold, and memorable
  • Easy to communicate
  • Paired with actionable examples of how you live or operate by your values
  • Consistent within all of your messaging
  • Timeless and long lasting

“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 – Founder of Virgin

How do we make sure our values are implemented in our business?

The last thing we want is to build a brand around our values, and then never talk about them again – it defeats the purpose of doing it at all. We need to live and breathe our values, talk about them often, and constantly rethink and revise what we believe. Here are a few ways we can be active in using values to shape our brand culture.

  • Stand up for your values no matter what. When it comes time to make difficult business decisions, you can fall back on these values to guide you down the right path
  • Hire and promote your team based on their values, not just their abilities
  • Talk about your values in conversation. When discussing new ideas and suggestions for the business, bring up your brand values and see if they align
  • Ingrain your values in your staff training sessions with examples of what actions should be taken in given circumstances
  • Encourage your team to point out breaches in values
  • Make your values visible to everyone. Include them in on your website and in common work areas as a reminder of why you’re all there together and what you’re working to accomplish

What to do from here.

Brands that are built on strong core values have the biggest advantage in the marketplace. We all need to know that we’re supporting what we believe in. I encourage everyone to take some time and reflect on your values and how they relate to your business, job, and life overall.

Of course, there are also many processes for discovering your values, and everyone does it differently. You just need to find the right process for you.

For us, we have a series of exercises we like to dive into so we can get to the bottom of what people really value. We like to cut deep and challenge surface level beliefs. If you want to learn more about it, feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to help.

We’ll send you off with this – we think it’s time companies start building themselves around real meaning, and choosing to stand up for something and stick to it. A business is only as strong as it’s brand, and a brand might mean more than you think.

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