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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

How to define brand values (are why they’re important)

Don't forget these brand values! Message

Brand values underpin everything that your business is – and always will be. Brand Values are a core set of beliefs that connect you, your team and your customers. We think that having a well-defined set of brand values are important for any business and so have created a useful guide to explain what brand values are and help you define your own.

What are brand values?

Put simply, brand values are 3–5 short and snappy phrases that communicate who your company is and what it stands for.

Of course, it’s not that simple though. Defining your brand values is not something to take lightly. They can be an incredibly powerful tool that gives you, your team and your customers something to engage and bond with.

What’s more, they are a filter that everything to do with your business should go through. When making important business decisions, you should refer back to your values to see if they align. The same goes for new hires. Talk about your brand values at interviews and listen to responses – it will filter out those that aren’t right for your company.

Example 1 – If one of your values was, for example, “Passion”, you would want all of your employees to show this and feel excited about their work. When interviewing, ask candidates to talk about the industry and the role then look for signals that they show true passion. It’s these employees that will be the best fit for you.

Example 2 – Imagine that one of your values was “Transparency” and you’re looking for a new supplier. The supplier that shows openness and a commitment to collaboration is probably the right fit for you. The cagey provider with the hidden fees is probably not!

Going beyond external aspects such as logos, signage, packaging and tone of voice, values are also very much an internal part of your brand. They must stand true now – and for as long as you occupy your chosen marketplace.

Think of them as your wedding vows to your company or as the North Star that helps you find the right path again when you’ve gone off track.

Whichever way you choose to understand brand values, they are essential to every business and spending time defining them is an investment that will pay off in business growth for a long time to come.

The word is not enough

Before we go too far, I want to clarify something. When most people think of brand values, they will often think of a list of keywords. While this is often the case, make sure that your keywords are each backed up by a description that relates to your business.

It’s this part that gives each brand value word real context, helps to make them yours and helps to reassure employees that they are real and should be taken seriously (rather than just a list of words in the employee handbook).

Why is it important to define brand values?

Customers are looking for connections these days. They want more than just a product or service.

They want a brand they can identify with, that believes in what they believe in. This can be from outstanding customer service to saving the planet. It doesn’t matter what it is, but defining brand values that communicate it loud and clear is massively important.

It’s not just about your customers, though. It’s about you and your employees too.

Employee morale can be hugely heightened by ensuring that brand values are clear and making it obvious that they are very much integral to them. What you’re aiming for is creating a community that your brand brings together. This includes everyone who invests in your brand – be that through working with it or purchasing from it. A community, a tribe, followers – call it what you will – but by defining your brand values, you will be bringing your ‘people’ together and standing stronger.

The ‘non-negotiables’

Brand values should be very personal to your business and your offering. This is natural, given that they are the essence of your brand. However, there are a few non-negotiables that need to be adhered to and that will help in defining your values:

  1. Memorable – brand values are your mantra. They should be in the heads of everyone connected to your business – staff, investors, partners, and, not least, your customers. When anyone thinks of your brand, your values should be part of that.

  2. Unique – like DNA is to humans, brand values have to be totally unique to your organisation. Sure, look for inspiration, but don’t copy. Don’t be ‘run of the mill’ either. Generic, empty words aren’t going to resonate. All businesses should be ‘honest’, ‘professional’ and ‘reliable’ – don’t waste space on repeating the obvious. The only way to stand out is by being different.

  3. Meaningful and actionable – your brand values need to be things you believe in and will fight for. They need to have meaning. By actually acting on them, you build trust within your company as well as with your customers. So if your brand values say you’re environmentally-friendly, don’t provide your products wrapped in stacks of plastic. If you profess to 24-hour turnarounds, you absolutely must stay within that timeline.

  4. Clear and defined – brand values need to be short, snappy and to the point. They should be at the front of everyone’s mind, easy to locate and quick to identify with. Not too wordy and definitely not vague.

  5. Timeless – values should stand the test of time. Brand values are no different from personal values. It’s very unlikely you are going to see a total turnaround. So while small adjustments and tweaks will be needed as your business evolves and grows, your values and beliefs shouldn’t stray too much from their original form.

  6. Honest – don’t try to be something you’re not. That’s never going to end well. Define your brand values from your strengths. Build on who you already are and what you already have.

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5 steps to writing your brand values

The page shouldn’t be blank when you sit down to define your brand values. You have a business, and you know deep down where you want to take it and what you want from it. However, digging deeper and honing those thoughts into 3–5 short and snappy values can be a daunting and difficult task. These five steps should make the process easier.

1 – Find your ‘thing’

This can take a bit of soul-searching. What is it you’re passionate about? What do you want to be known for? When people think of your brand, what words do you want them to think of?

This could be about personalised customer service instead of treating customers just as numbers, or it could be that you’re discreet if privacy is a key element. Whatever it is, you have to be totally committed to it.

By finding your ‘thing’, you’ll be able to engage more effectively with customers and your team.

2 – Understand your customers

The values of your business need to coincide with the values of your customers. This is how you will breed real engagement and create that all-important community and following. What’s the best way to find this out? Ask them. Depending on the size of your business, this may involve simply speaking to your existing customers directly, or it may mean carrying out market research. Your target audience and the ethos of your business have to match. If they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board.

3 – Tap into your competitors

There are two main reasons for tapping into what your competitors are doing. Firstly, you find out if there’s space in the market for what you are offering. If it’s already been filled, and filled well, then you need to adjust. Secondly, you look at how your competitors are putting themselves across. You need to actively do it differently so that they are no longer your competition. Differentiation is what makes you unique.

4 – Get everyone to jump on board

For your brand values to really work, everybody and anybody that is involved internally or externally with your brand needs to be on board. A large part of this is your employees. Workshops and presentations are great ways to instil values and motivate people to promote and live by them. Team spirit flourishes much more if you’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.

5 – Be your ‘thing’

There is no room for empty promises. You need to proudly stand behind your brand values and deliver on them. Nothing annoys and disappoints people more than being told one thing and experiencing another. Brand values are the essence of your company – live and breathe them.

Defining brand values isn’t an easy task, though. And it can be a very scary one. What if you discover that they don’t match with your target audience, or that the market is already saturated? As much as this can throw you off track (read: instil panic, fear and visions of bankruptcy!), it can also provide huge opportunities to reposition your brand, find a new niche, unveil a gap in the market or redefine your target audience. If done well, any or all of these will lead to even more success than you’d originally imagined – brand values are the foundations for growth.

Get help with your brand values

Need a bit of help defining your brand values? Having worked with many organisations like yours, our expert branding team can help. Find out more today by calling 0115 9061320 or dropping us a message.

A specialist brand agency

An award-winning branding agency, Threerooms has spent over 15 years making brands stronger and businesses more successful. Whether modernising brands with meaning or crafting effective marketing campaigns, our amazing team is focused on delivering brand transformation while providing exceptional customer service.

Want to work together? Get in touch today.


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