Personal values, company values, brand values, this is a word that comes up all over the place. Values simply mean the things that are seen as most important to you or your business. But are ‘values’ new, what should they look like, and does anyone really care?
If you are a business owner, either starting out or already established, your personal values will affect your business. This is true whether you are aware of what they are and able to articulate them, or not.
For example, if you place high personal value on fairness, this will guide your relationships with suppliers, customers and employees. Seeing this value reap successful results will nuture your own business happiness. However, if you find yourself in a position where fairness isn’t returned, or where you have to make a critical decision that you know will be unfair to someone, it’s going to hurt, professionally and personally.
If you are a customer or employee of a business, the alignment between your own personal values and that of the business will play a key part in your decision to buy or work with them, as well as your loyalty.
There are times we may overlook our values, for necessity or because they reach a tension point. For example, as parent, I would like my children not to eat processed food, that connects to the value I place on health. But I would also like them to grow up not worrying about food, that connects to the value I place on fun. So when we are on a day trip and the Golden Arches call them in with the latest Happy Meal toy, I may have the ‘ick’, but I’m spending my pennies at McDonald’s that day. They have worked hard over the decades to reassure on food quality and charity support.
But the brands that really have my heart, and my pocket, are those that I connect with on a values level.
Despite the buzz, values are not a new concept. My Grandmother always shopped at John Lewis because they were ‘honest’. Rolls Royce has always been committed to ‘excellence’, The Body Shop was founded on being ‘a force for good’ in the 1970s.
So why is there so much talk about values now? My feeling, as a brand consultant and as a personal coach, is because it’s noisy out there. There are more brands than ever. More tension points similar to the McDonald’s one above. More adverts, more startups, more competition, more pressure and more visibility through social media. There are just so many places to look, and so many eyes to see!
As a brand, it’s increasingly impossible to have a truly unique product or service. Your USP is less likely to be revolutionary in terms of what you do, but it can certainly lead change in how you do it.
I’m going to put my neck out here though and say that the one thing values shouldn’t be confused with, it’s hygiene factors. If you run a party company and you are using ‘fun’ as a value to customers, you’re not impressing me. If you are a tradesperson who is going to take care of something in my home and you are ‘knowledgeable’, that’s not a selling point, it’s essential. If you are trying to sell a service to my business and you are ‘collaborative’, that’s not news. And if I am buying anything at all from you and you need to tell me you are ‘professional’, you’ve already lost me!
Fun, knowledgeable, collaborative and professional. They are the most common values that I see, in all industries. These things are important, but as values, they are terrible. If it should be a given, and it’s not, you’ve got a basic business problem.
Your values should be about what really matters to you, the things you won’t budge on (or at the very least the things that would really hurt to bend on if you didn’t have a choice). But even more importantly, they should be about why those things matter to the people who are buying from you.
When it comes to Brand Values, it’s not just what you believe in, but how these beliefs are projected from your brand. Ultimately it's not the values your write that matter, it's what you do with them. Below are three examples of Brand Values that I have worked on, for an electrician, a dog training and boarding business and a silk scarf brand. Behind each of these is a full brand definition and where there is a team working to them, a breakdown of what these values mean internally and externally.
Working as a Brand Coach directly with the owners of startups and SMEs, values are an integral part of the work that we do. When I am Brand Coaching, the line between personal and business is intentionally loose, until we reach the final brand definition, so that the values are strong and true to both. The end result is a brand that allows them to step deeper into their vision and power it forward.
If you would like to chat about your values, as a person, as a business, or both together, you can contact me at email@example.com.