Own the values that inspire what’s next for your organisation.
Why is it brand values so often end up being meaningless words few can remember let alone live up to? The clue is in the name: they’re values — not unattainable, lofty virtues. Here’s what you can do to make yours work for you.
Stop saluting Captain Obvious.
You value your people. We get it. You value teamwork? Look out world! And let’s not forget that all-time values fav — integrity.
Thing is, integrity is a given for any good human. If you have to remind your people to be honest and morally responsible by making it a value, you might have bigger problems. Either way, claiming integrity as a value is like water claiming wet. It’s not going to inspire change in your organisation.
Brand values have never been more important.
Whether you’re priming an organisation for the future, or creating a new business for what’s next, the brand values that worked in the past probably won’t deliver the shift you need to progress.
Whatever your brand values are, they need to serve your greater purpose. To do so they must be unique and ownable by the whole organisation. That means everyone from the board down. Hello big banks!
Choosing the right brand values.
Here’s a thought: you don’t actually choose brand values, you uncover them. Brand values are the beliefs that bring out your organisation’s best. More than a winning formula, they’re a driving force guiding the big wins and getting you through tough times.
Ambitious brands identify and own enduring values that support them to adapt and grow. This is far more authentic than simply picking fresh ones off the values vine from year to year.
Checklist: Questions your brand values need to answer.
Here’s our take on owning authentic brand values that align people around your purpose — rather than unite them in cynical amusement.
1. Taken together, do these values reflect the fundamental principles and behaviours that are important to the organisation?
Purposeful and united, these values must infuse and further the organisational mission. They should be a shorthand code that supports the purpose, shapes the culture and guides decisions and growth.
2. What action is implied by each value? Do these values clearly guide action that is aligned with our purpose?
Truly effective values are best expressed as a call to action. Values drive behaviour and behaviour reinforces values in a virtuous circle, so be explicit. Instead of ‘brave’, try ‘do the right thing, not the easy thing’.
3. Does the style and expression of these values convey our identity and organisational personality?
Your organisation owns (or should own) a unique personality that shapes your distinct brand voice. You stand out because of the values and goals you stand for and how you share them.
4. The big one: Are these values going to stick?
Be memorable. Core values mean little if your team can’t remember them. Or worse, they sound like everyone else’s. Values should be in colloquial words or phrases that everyone can easily remember.
Be engaging. If there’s no real feeling behind the words they’ll end up sounding nice and polite. You’ll have ticked all the boxes but nice and polite won’t get you noticed or chosen. Nice and polite will get you ignored.
Be succinct. Each value must have a clear, distinct meaning. Each must be unambiguous and need no explanation. Each must be whole and fully formed. Direct, plain English is the go.
We could go on.
If you’re investing time and resources in cultivating brand values, you owe it to yourself to make sure they’re right for all the reasons above.
As branding professionals, we’re often handed values after they’ve been through weeks of employee workshops.
We see them emerge blinking at the sun, wondering why they’re here and what they’re supposed to do. Yes, employees should absolutely have a say. But beware of values that reinforce “the way things are done around here” rather than spark behaviours that will take your organisation into the future.