November 27, 2021
The importance of core values in brand development can’t be overstated. Like with friends and family, we relate to brands because we connect with shared values.
Let’s learn about what brand development is and how brand values play a crucial role in creating your brand. We’ll also learn how to create brand core values and how The Golden Circle approach can put you years ahead of your competitors.
Brand development has one overarching long-term goal.
To make a positive emotional connection with not just your audience but with the public in general.
Several elements go into brand development, but they all work together to reach that one goal.
The goal of creating a positive emotional connection isn’t like climbing a mountain or running a mile in under 4 minutes. You can’t look at it and say, “We did it. We created a positive emotional connection, and now we can focus on other work.”
No, a goal of this nature requires constant care, revision, adjustment, and nurturing. But, like any relationship, the work is never truly done.
That’s a good thing though!
Since the work never stops, that means we have the opportunity to strengthen that connection, creating lifetime loyal customers and pushing ourselves to innovate new ways to improve people’s lives.
Brand development consists of three elements:
Since this article covers brand core values, let’s briefly overview brand positioning and brand identity.
Brand positioning is the position your brand takes in your customer’s mind.
For example, let’s say that you decide you want to start running. One of the first things you’ll need to buy is running shoes.
What is the first brand that comes to mind when I say running shoes?
The brand that came to mind first has the best brand position with you. Therefore, when working on brand positioning, the goal is always to be the first brand that comes to mind.
Brand identity is all of the visual identifications for your brand and how you communicate with your target audience, including a memorable logo, color palette, typography, tagline, personality, and tone of voice.
While each element of brand development is equally important, core values are a first among equals.
Everything stems from the core values.
For example, the tone of voice you decide to take with your target audience will be determined through your core values. How you communicate with people should reflect what your core values state.
Core values are the beliefs that your company stands for, and they will dictate how your company will behave going into the future.
When a problem arises that receives a lot of attention, and the public is waiting to see how you respond, you turn to your core values. Your actions will be decided based on what your company believes is the right thing to do.
Creating your values might take some time, but it is crucial.
63% of consumers worldwide prefer to buy from a company whose values resonate with their own.
There are four elements to brand core values.
When creating your core values, it all starts with purpose. Purpose is your ‘why.’ It’s the reason you are doing what you are doing.
Why you do something is what people connect with more than anything else. It creates an emotional and intuitive bond with your customer.
Let’s say you need to buy a pair of sunglasses. You find two brands that are the same, except one donates ten percent of their proceeds to charity (something that is very important to you on a personal level), and the other doesn’t. You’re going to buy the brand you feel aligns with your values.
Don’t ever lose sight of your business’s purpose and never turn your back on it for profit.
In recent news, a California-based meat company named Belcampo Meat, who proudly boasted their business model of growing, processing, and distributing their own meat, had to close all of their restaurants and butcher shops due to a scandal that went directly against their purpose and core brand values.
In an Instagram post that went viral, a butcher at their Santa Monica location revealed that Belcampo Meat had been buying meat from other purveyors and selling it as their own, all while raising prices.
The entire purpose of Belcampo Meat was “to create meat that’s good for people, planet, and animals. What started as one mom’s desire to feed her family the healthiest meat possible became a mission to revolutionize the industry from the inside out.”
That quote is taken directly from the Belcampo Meat website as their purpose statement.
They go on to say that their goal is to always provide “meat you can trace- transparency, start to finish.”
To so blatantly go against what they had set as their core values and purpose was the single nail in the coffin that did Belcampo in.
They lost all trust and credibility with their customer base and target audience. When a company takes a hit that hard there is no recovery.
Belcampo launched their own investigation and found that only their Santa Monica location had participated in the acts of selling meat not grown on their own farms, but the damage was done.
It doesn’t matter how PR was managed, how many apologies were said, or how well written an explanation was given stating that only one store had committed the act; they had gone against their core purpose in the public’s eyes. Belcampo realized they couldn’t go back to how it was before and shut down their stores.
The Belcampo Meat scandal is an excellent example of when cutting corners and going against your fundamental core values and purpose can go horribly wrong.
If Purpose is your reason for doing business, then vision is your roadmap for the future. It’s filled with short and long-term goals and is your guide to reaching those goals.
Seeing the big picture is extremely important, but it’s best to make sure that your vision is based in reality. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
What ol’ Teddy here is saying is that we need to dream big, but to be sure, the steps to make those dreams a reality are based in the real world. If your vision is too lofty, your target audience won’t take you seriously, and you don’t want to be seen falling short of your goals.
Writing a vision statement needs to be simple, concise, and clearly state its intentions.
One of my favorite vision statements is from Ben & Jerry’s: “Making the best ice cream in the nicest way possible.”
Their vision tells me that their ice cream will be of high quality, that it’ll taste good, and that their practices for making ice cream will be ethical.
Ben & Jerry’s has backed this up by becoming a B Corporation. To receive this designation, a corporation must meet and maintain stringent social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency standards.
A vision statement should easily encompass what you do, how you do it, and what it will look like in the future in one short sentence.
The whole point of building a brand is to make an emotional connection with people that lasts years, decades if possible, and beyond. So there needs to be something to which people can connect.
Let’s say there’s a shoe company that donates five percent of its profits to impoverished neighborhoods of large cities.
Later it comes out that those shoes are made by people who live in poor parts of the world and are getting paid very little money to no money while having to work long brutal hours.
The shoe company doesn’t have its values straight.
The gesture of donating money to help people living in poor neighborhoods is hollow because of their choice of labor to make their shoes.
Clearly, they’re donating just to look good for their target audience (who they are hoping to keep in the dark about who makes the shoes), not because they believe in helping people.
Values are the principles that guide you in any situation, and they set the standards on which you, your company, and your staff shall behave.
The base of your values should reflect honesty and integrity, so any actions you take are done fairly and responsibly.
A promise is what a customer can expect when using a product or service.
I like BMW’s promise: “The ultimate driving machine.”
It tells you all you need to know about driving a BMW and having driven one before, I can say that it was a much better experience than driving my current economic vehicle.
A promise is merely an extension of your values. Values set the stage, and the Promise is what delivers.
A brand promise is essential not only for your customers but also for your employees. It gives them a focal point and how to make future decisions and how to handle customer relations.
Creating brand values can be difficult because you’re trying to fit everything that you stand for into, at most, a few sentences. However, following these five steps, you’ll be able to create brand values that encompass what you do and what you stand for.
What values do you hold in your day-to-day life? Don’t leave out a value you hold dear because you feel it will rub your target audience the wrong way. This sort of thing will grind against every day, so it’s best to feel one hundred percent about what you do.
When asking yourself what matters, stay away from generic terms that could be put into any old brand value. Your brand values should distinguish you from the competition, not make you get lost in the crowd.
Words like ‘honest’ and ‘trustworthy’ are admirable values, but I would assume they are inherent to any business. Plus, anyone who has to come out and say that is a little suspicious to me. So get creative with how you show people you value those traits.
Look at what problems customers are constantly facing in your industry and figure out how to fix that.
Maybe you work in an industry that is notorious for being uncommunicative. Be the business that’s upfront about lines of communication and the best ways to get a real person on the line.
If necessary, reverse engineer people’s problems to create a value that connects with people.
One of the goals of brand values is to show your customers how you are different from the other guys. The last thing you want is to look and sound exactly like your direct competition.
Do your research and look for holes in their offers, read customer reviews of your competitors, and address the issues that your competitors just aren’t covering.
Differentiating yourself is how you get ahead of the pack and rise to the top.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew.
In this article’s ‘vision’ portion, we learned that it’s essential to dream big and keep your feet on the ground.
If you write a value that your gut is telling you is too ambitious, first ask yourself if you’re just scared of the challenge, and be very honest about that question.
If you know that you can’t do it, put it to the side and start again. Perhaps down the road, you can pick it back up, but it’s better to err on the side of caution than to fall flat on your face in a professional setting.
There’s a lot to be said of consistency, and a brand that always stays on track is a brand that can always be counted on.
You can make minor adjustments to your values as your business grows, and maybe the direction of what you do goes through lots of evolutions, but the core of what you stand for should stay the same.
If your brand becomes successful, don’t change one of the fundamental things that attracted people to your brand in the first place. People don’t like it, and it will make them cautious of you in the future.
The best and most often used analogy for understanding branding is comparing it to a person you are meeting for the first time.
If you have an excellent first impression of someone, you feel compelled to know more about them. What are their interests? Do you enjoy the same activities? Have the same sense of humor? Do you VALUE the same things in life?
If the answer is yes, there is an immediate emotional connection. We get a flood of oxytocin, a feel-good chemical in our brain, often called the ‘love hormone.’
When this happens, it’s our mind’s way of telling us that we have found our people, the ones we can be around and let our guard down, and the people who truly understand us.
The same thing happens when people find a brand they love, and one of the pivotal ways to do this is through your brand values.
The whole point of brand development is to create a positive emotional connection with all people who come across your brand. So while you could have amazingly eye-catching aesthetics, people won’t do business with you if you operate unethically.
It boils down to just doing the right thing.
There will undoubtedly be differences in opinions on what ‘the right thing’ might be when it comes to, say, using products produced from animals or sourcing materials that aren’t one hundred percent recyclable and biodegradable.
This grey area is where people just have to agree to disagree, and people will find the brands that share those values, but there’s one thing that we all agree on; outright lying to your customers is wrong.
We’ve already discussed the disastrous results that Belcampo Meat experienced when they lied and went against their primary purpose of providing meat with transparency that can be sourced from start to finish.
In 2016, Volkswagen had to pay a $14.7 billion settlement after it was found they were lying about emission levels on their diesel cars.
The cars were installed with software to detect when they were being tested for emission levels. But once the cars were in regular operating mode, they would switch back to their actual emission levels, which broke federal emission laws.
Volkswagen had installed this software on over 11 million cars worldwide. The car company did this while at the same time promoting their diesel cars as environmentally friendly alternatives to electric and hybrid vehicles.
That’s a pretty big lie, and there’s no way to address this to make it sound like a manufacturing error.
Volkswagen profits dropped over 20%.
TOMS shoes is an excellent example of a company doing it right.
TOMS started with their One-for-One program, which offered one pair of shoes to a person in need in another part of the world for every pair bought in-store.
TOMS started to get pressure to change their business model when it was brought to light that they were creating a free shoe dependency in these parts of the world while at the same time destroying the local shoe market for regional shoe manufacturers.
To stick with their values of helping people, TOMS donates one-third, that’s $1 of every $3, to grassroots campaigns that help people with many issues, like safe drinking water, proper medicine, and prescription glasses.
Simon Sinek is an author and motivational speaker who came up with a fantastic concept called The Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle looks like a target with three concentric circles. In the center is the word ‘why,’ the next circle has the word ‘how,’ and the last is ‘what.’
The concentric circles represent the order in which companies should be approaching their brand development and marketing strategies—starting in the center with their company’s ‘why.’
Sinek explains that nearly all companies have this backward, starting with what they do, and presenting this to their target audience, and hoping that they make an emotional connection with what they do.
The example he uses is Apple, and it’s a good one, so we’ll use it here too.
Apple marketing follows The Golden Circle, and it’s one of the reasons they are so wildly successful. If Apple were not to follow The Golden Circle, this is the order they would present to their audience.
“We make great computers that are beautifully designed. You won’t be disappointed. Would you like to buy one?”
The statement here is obviously a very dumbed-down version of what marketing would actually say, but for the sake of this example, we want it to be right on the nose.
The ‘why’ isn’t even in this statement.
It starts with the ‘what’ they sell. Great computers.
And ends with the ‘how.’ They are beautifully designed.
Most marketing is done this way. It’s uninspiring.
Were the process reversed, which is how Apple actually sells its products, it would sound more like this.
“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo by making things that are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly, we just happen to make computers. Want to buy one?”
While this statement is smacking you right in the face and would be absurd in an actual marketing setting, it drives the point home that starting with your ‘why’ is more impactful, engaging, and inspiring.
We hope this has shed some light on the importance of core values in your overall brand development. You’ll be able to create brand core values with the five steps that we provided or maybe revamp the values you already have in place.
Consider hiring a branding agency to help you, and with this information, you’ll understand what is going into the process of making a brand that will last decades. Getting your brand right the first time is critical and extremely difficult, especially if you try to do it yourself.
Feel free to reach out to us at any time.
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