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It’s well-researched that companies with strong aligned brand values are the most successful.  Those companies who didn’t just go through the workshop but were also prepared to make values-based hires not just skills based. This is especially important in service-led businesses where your people and their expertise is the product your customers are paying for. 

Now is the time to re-align around your brand values.  Ask your team are they real, or not? Do they mean something?  If you’ve spent years talking about innovation, integrity, customer focus – then it’s time to put that to the test.  Your values should be a guiding light for your brand and your people at difficult times.  It’s time to test them but also make sure they are really aligned.

If your values aren’t helping you right now, then they’re either not real, or not orchestrated and aligned in your business.  Here are a few common issues I’ve experienced with brand values:

  1. You have too many brand values.  I’ve often joined companies who have a set of brand values and a set of employee values or principles which aren’t aligned.  In this scenario both lose their impact and everyone asks – are they the marketing ones or the HR ones?  They should be the same or what you want your customers to experience won’t fit with the types of people you hire to deliver your service. Build brand values together with HR.
  2. The brand values conflict with the leaders’ personal values.  The brand values may be created in marketing or HR but the leadership won’t model them if they don’t match their own personal values. This is especially true in smaller or owner-led businesses.  If the CEO is spontaneous and excitable and your brand values are about being calm and measured it will quickly become a problem!  When you launch the values everyone will look to leadership behaviours to validate whether they’re real or just another marketing exercise.  You have to align with the leader or owners personal values.
  3. The brand values are not translated into behaviours. Single word values are great for communicating simply.  But single words can be interpreted differently by different people.  What integrity means to one person is actually different to what it may mean to someone else.  You need to give examples and stories of the behaviours you expect and would reject so everyone is clear on what you’re asking them to do.
  4. The brand values aren’t used practically (or rewarded).  Your values should be what you hire and fire on.  If you’re not prepared to stand up for them, then they are worthless. Values should always be part of your interview process, your team objectives and appraisals, as well as your review of your marketing agency’s output.  If someone is hitting targets by flouting your values and you allow that, then no one else will follow them.
  5. They are not distinctive brand values.  If there’s nothing different about your values then they won’t help you build a culture, stand out from the competition or be memorable.  That doesn’t mean you need to get the thesaurus out, but using some of your more creative people in the process of articulating them might just pay dividends.  You might find a mnemonic helps but don’t force that.

How you express your brand values can be very different and I’m not wedded to any form. 

They might be single words with examples behind them.

They might be clear “we will…” type principles. 

They might be stories or a charter. 

The expression is part of your culture and should actually reflect your values and your proposition.  If you’re the most creative in the market then be zany in your expression; if your customers value you for objectivity and facts then make them rules and put them in a table.

When times are tough or we feel vulnerable, reverting to our values is a great way to stay grounded and build strong teams.

Seems like now is the perfect time.

Jill Pringle is a Brand and Marketing Strategy consultant working with service-led businesses. She’s the Author of The Brand Symphony book and speaks regularly about branding and marketing strategy. She’s a former marketing director in companies such as Gartner, Equifax, SCM World, Thomson Local and the Philharmonia Orchestra.  She studied music before she studied marketing and combines the two in her Brand Symphony Marketing services.

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