Values that drive you and your brand

One of my favourite parts of the brand strategy process is hearing the heart behind peoples business. I find it incredibly inspiring to hear peoples stories. I prepared this for a talk I did at Christmas with Soar Collective and thought I’d share it as a blog post.

At this time of year, we’re busy. Really busy. But if we stop to think, the increased activities are often rooted in some of our core values. (or perhaps they work against your core values! – if those are things like simplicity or solitude…)

But for me? Thanking teachers for their hard work, filling hampers for those in need, buying presents for friends and family. Catching up with work friends, old friends, new friends to celebrate Christmas. The reason I make time for these things? Because I value things like friendship, generosity, celebration, gratitude.

I thought it was a good time to reflect for a minute on your personal values. Most everyone would generally agree on the examples I used. But what are your three core values? Can you name them easily?

Why are we talking about personal values?

Personal values are a foundation for the internal aspects of your brand – they should be a driving force behind the reason you started your business, how you run it, and what makes it special.

While a logo is the most obvious representation of a brand, it’s only one of many. Brands are portrayed in colours, words, sounds, smells, and how you make people feel.  That’s because a brand is intangible. Its about all the interactions,  attributes and values which present themselves in tangible ways.

You might be thinking – well that’s nice and all, but I need to focus on making money.

But as I said before, your values lay the foundation for your business. It helps you to make good decisions, hire the right staff and ultimately will attract the right customers. Having strong values in your brand is key to gaining new customers, and keeping them.

What’s more, living out your values through your work gives great self-satisfaction, being true to yourself.  “In a world with a lot of disappointment and mistrust, you can nurture an environment that builds trust and engages people more meaningfully.” (excerpt from Digital Doughnut’s article on How Brands can Navigate a World of Mistrust, Misinformation and Multiple Mindsets)

So back to your own brand values.

I’ve got a couple of exercises I use in my brand strategy workshops to help extract values. Grab a pen and paper if you like, and have a think about these…

1.     Childhood instilled values

What are the most significant values your parents or a significant adult taught you as a child? Are these the same values you still hold high?

Examples:

My Dad: This weekend as I was painting my house I could hear my dad in my head “If it’s not worth doing properly, it’s not worth doing” – See he clearly values quality workmanship. And as a result, this is a high one for me too.

My mum:  I went with her to deliver meals on wheels, helped make easter chocolates for neighbours, gingerbreads at Christmas – and from her I have inherited her values of celebration and hospitality, making people feel welcome.

2.     Try thinking about the opposite of what you value

Example – you might say…

I HATE when people are late = You probably value Reliability, Punctuality, Dependability

I HATE when a business makes me feel inferior or nervous =  Your values might be things like welcoming, friendly, safe

3.     More like…. Than…

Sometimes it’s hard not to avoid really obvious adjectives which are really just taken as a given. Things like “We’re Professional”, “We care about our customers”, it’s kinda just blah blah blah. Try to describe yourselves with a bit of personality. Be silly even.

Example: A recent Brand Strategy for a law firm I did included a value called “no dickheads”. This summarised for them the values of respect, collaboration and being motivated for things outside of themselves. In reality they decided this was maybe too edgy, so they settled with “No Drama”.

Another helpful tool is to use an analogy comparing two similar but different things. It could be another brand or it could be something more generic.

Example: More like Volkswagen than Porsche (This was also used in the law firm’s brand strategy. While a lot of law firms would have values like Porsche – Prestige, Status they wanted to differentiate and saw themselves more like Volkswagen – more approachable, but with very high focus on quality and worksmanship)

Another one might be: More like beer than champagne. Or more like Champagne than Passion Pop…

So… are your values reflected in your brand?

Building your brand is a long term process. It’s about how your business interacts with your customers over time. From the the visual brand identity, to the way someone answers the phone to how you package up your parcels.

I had a think about this myself. Sometimes you start a business quite organically, but as you get busy or get more staff, you may have let things slip. Mostly in the little ways…

So if you’re one of the people who valued reliability but you don’t have a system to reply to customer emails promptly, you are not delivering on your brand values.

Or if you value hospitality, or friendliness – but your staff don’t smile and welcome visitors into your shop, you are not delivering on your values. It’s important that everyone in the business knows what the brand values are, and have tangible ways of expressing them.

So what can you do?

Im not sure what the new year holds for you. But maybe take some time to reflect on your values, and making them the driving force behind your brand. Decisions will be simpler, you’ll attract the right people and you’ll feel much more fulfilled in your work.

If you’re a business owner and interested in finding out more about Brand Strategy I’d love to chat.

I’ve also started running Brand Strategy workshops for creative entrepreneurs or small startups.