Define brand values that mean something

Your values are the enduring principles that should shape every aspect of your business. Your moral compass and unique way of doing things.

Having well defined and meaningful brand values help create a clear sense of purpose and direction. They guide organisational policies from how you conduct relationships, recruit the right talent and build a loyal following of like-minded customers.

All too often organisations only pay lip service to values, there are countless boardrooms festooned with boilerplate words. Generic values such as this mean nothing to anyone and do little to drive direction.

Below are three ways to ensure your brand values are more meaningful.

1) Be unique

Your values should reflect your unique brand DNA. For example, Virgin focuses one of its values on its disruptive brand positioning:

Smart Disruption – We love to outsmart the competition. Challenging the status quo we sidestep predictable thinking to punch above our weight.

This value instantly distinguishes how Virgin conducts itself. It articulates how they approach new markets but is also rooted in their purpose of “Changing business for good”.

If you’ve picked adjectives such as ‘trust’ or ‘integrity’, then consider that your competitors are likely to have them too.

Try this: Ensure to invest time in identifying a set of values that are unique to your organisation, but also consider how to differentiate yourself from competitors. Use your brand purpose and vision as a foundation point. Identify any beliefs, qualities and approaches that will help people to understand what you stand for.

2) Simplify

How many values do you have? If you have an overwhelming list of words, then you cannot expect people to remember them or interpret them correctly. Consequently, misinterpreted values lead to confusion and insincerity which is damaging. Strong brands embrace simplicity, so ensure your values are clear and easy for people to understand.

Try this: Distill your values down to a set of core guiding principles. If your values stretch beyond 5, then try clustering similar ones into a new single value. When articulating them, ensure you use plain and simple language that resonates.

3) Be authentic

What do your values really mean? Meaningless values are easily ignored because they feel irrelevant. If you received a single adjective such as ‘clear’ without context, how could you be expected to apply this to your everyday work?

Employees champion a brand when they can identify their own personal values within it. People grasp ideas better when they have a context to apply them to. One way to help this process is to ensure the values are broken down into simple to understand, bite-size supporting statements that describe what the value means.

Try this: Put together a project group from across your organisation. If you’re rebranding, this is an opportunity to understand what the existing values mean to people and help you define new ones. Once you have consensus, describe what these values look like in practice. Craft a simple-to-understand short supporting statement. For example, if you have ‘innovation’, question how your employees can use it to guide their daily work.

A competitive advantage

Brand values should weave throughout every facet of your organisation, guiding decisions and supporting your purpose, vision and mission. They should be relevant, concise and actionable. They are a set of relatable but simple assumptions that help people understand your brand, and how your brand will behave in any situation. Implemented correctly, the result will create coherence across your brand and deliver a brand experience that builds a competitive advantage.