Creating brand values that matter

February 13, 2023
B2B Brand strategy Employer branding

Does your organisation have a defined set of values?

Probably – plenty of organisations do.

If so, do you remember them? And more importantly, do you live by them?

If you are like many, or perhaps most, organisations, you are probably shaking your head or even rolling your eyes at this point. Values are generally seen as part of that much maligned trio of mission, vision, values – corporate tools that sound good in theory, but that are more likely to be launched with great fanfare, and then sit on the shelf, ignored and unloved.

But brand values can be very powerful – and worth investing the time in to get right and embed with your employees.

To focus on theory for a moment, values can be defined as beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable. Or to put it more simply, values are deeply-held beliefs about the right way of doing things.

Strong brand values have a major influence on a brand’s behaviour and help to guide decision making. They act as a set of guidelines to ensure that the brand and the individuals within it know how to behave to stay on message.

Read about the values that guide the BrandMatters team here.

They sound great, right? Why, then, don’t they play a bigger role?

Here’s a clue – do any of these words sound familiar?

  • Integrity
  • Collaboration
  • Respect
  • Achievement
  • Accountability

These are all good words when taken at face value. After all, who doesn’t want to deal with an organisation that has integrity? The problem is that the same roll-call of words can be found in the published values of many businesses, which means they risk seeming tokenistic and lose the opportunity to express the true spirit and uniqueness of an organisation.

So what makes great brand values? Three characteristics stand out:

  • Authenticity: the language is real, fresh and reflects the brand personality and corporate culture.
  • Memorability: they are short and snappy, distinctive and meaningful enough to easily remember.
  • Simplicity: they are easy to live by, and reflect behaviours and beliefs that already exist within a brand or organisation.

Atlassian, an Australian software success story, is a brilliant example of values at their best. You can read Atlassian’s values (and watch the video) here. Not only are the values clearly expressed with a unique Atlassian voice, they are also referenced widely across everything Atlassian does. When I read the values, I get a very strong sense of what it would be like to be an Atlassian customer or to work for Atlassian.

Some other great examples include online retailers Zappos and Air New Zealand.

One question you may be asking yourself is what is the difference between corporate or brand values. This is a grey area, but broadly depends on how the brand or brands within your company are organised. For a branded house organisation – one in which all parts of the organisation fall under one brand, like American Express or Macquarie Bank – organisation and brand values are generally the same. The story is more complicated for organisations that operate as a house of brands, in which many brands sit within the one corporation, such as Wesfarmers. In this case the Bunnings or Coles brand values are probably quite separate to the Wesfarmers corporate values.

A few months ago at BrandMatters, we realised that a few of us didn’t remember our brand values. The meaning of the words we had chosen was fine, but there was nothing about them that felt distinctive or authentic. And for some of the team they certainly failed the memorability test!

This somewhat sobering realisation opened up a fantastic opportunity for us to “eat our own cooking” – to run the type of exercise we might do with our clients with our own team instead. We put the team through a series of homework and workshop tasks. Some were straightforward and others were more creative, but all were designed to uncover authentic ways of expressing what matters to us at BrandMatters. After several rounds of crafting and refining, we are excited to launch our values. To make them more prominent (and us more accountable), we have published these values on our website. You can read them here.

What do you think? Do they reflect the BrandMatters experience? Let us know – we’d love to know your thoughts.

And of course, if you’d like to talk to us about your own organisation or brand values, please get in touch.

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