During the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been plenty of focus on why brands must engage with their customers during this challenging period. This involves adapting marketing strategies and prioritising engagement by communicating brand values.
But do customers actually care about brand values? If 63% of customers prefer to buy from companies that stand for something, what about the 37% that don’t?
One problem may lie with the values themselves: if they come across as a carbon copy of pretty much everyone else’s values, what is there for a customer to actually engage with?
What are Brand Values Anyway?
The trouble with brand values is that, in striving for meaning, brands can end up sounding meaningless.
For example, pretty much everyone says that they put the customer first. And if everyone is saying it, what’s the point of adding to this general noise about your own brand?
The customer would expect you to put them first, whether you stated it or not. Just as they’d expect good customer service.
An alternative way of looking at these kinds of values is, if you didn’t state them, would people automatically think you stood for the opposite?
If you omit to state clearly that you go the extra mile, is the assumption going to be that you don’t. If you don’t state that you work carefully and diligently for the customer, will they then think that your approach is therefore lazy and careless?
The core values of your brand must be actionable words, sentences or phrases that represent what your brand stands for, and how you want others to perceive it.
What Should Your Brand Values Focus On?
Brand values start with brand purpose. What are you building your brand on? If you want your brand to last, it must have some sort of principle driving it.
The relationship between brand purpose and values is actually two-way and interdependent: values help shape your purpose, and purpose provides support for your values.
But however well worked-out these things are, they don’t in themselves guarantee that your audience, your customers and prospects, will care about your brand and what it stands for.
Brand values alone are not enough. Customers should feel that your brand is adding value to their lives. Therefore, to resonate with them, you must first identify what they want, and how your brand can fulfil these desires.
The customer, or consumer, should, ultimately, identify with your brand, because they see that it clicks with their own values.
What Makes Shared Values Important?
Shared values drive brand identification and form the basis of the relationship between brand and customer.
Look at it this way: a simple interaction with a customer is unlikely, in itself, to be enough to form a relationship.
According to research from Harvard Business Review (HBR) 77% of customers said they didn’t have a relationship with a brand.
Of those who said they did, 64% said this was based on shared values, rather than frequency of interactions.
There are various things to take from this:
- Not all customers have to form a relationship with brand for you to do business with them successfully, and
- Those that do will require more from you than your efforts to interact with them.
Therefore, when it comes to marketing your brand, you need to understand who it is you’re marketing to, and to what degree you want to build a relationship with them.
In this context, brand values have a strategic purpose, but one which you may not want to apply across all your activity.
But if you are trying to build relationships with brand values that reflect something your audience shares with you, what sort of values should these be?
What is your Brand Value Proposition?
Having a brand value proposition should differentiate you from your competitors, and help fix your brand in the minds of your target audience.
This is no easy task, and we have already looked at the pitfalls that can come with brand values that are too indistinct or general.
Whatever brand values you do develop and define, they should be:
How do you go about the process of creating and refining these values?
You must first go beyond the obvious and find what really matters to your audience, and how your brand can express it.
For this, you’ll need to find values that go deeper than general words such as friendly, trustworthy and reliable. Ignore these kind of idealised terms and find something that reflects the uniqueness of your brand.
In line with this, you need to know who your customers are, and your competitors. How would your customers describe your brand, and how would they compare it to a rival brand? Is there a gap in the market you can fill, and how would filling it help define your brand?
This is why it matters that your brand stands for something. Are there things that people already associate your brand with that could be a launchpad for developing your brand values?
Consistency is crucial. You should build your brand values to last, and they should be as simple a distillation as possible of what your business stands for.
Get the Tone Right
The tone of voice is how your brand speaks to the world. This tone should be consistent throughout everything you do, including anything stating your brand values.
Often, businesses seem to undergo a kind of personality transplant when it comes to expressing their values.
All the relatable stuff disappears, and instead of a conversational, witty or irreverent tone, you get a list of overly-sincere, portentous statements.
Brand values should be human and engaging. They can even be controversial, if that truly reflects what your brand is about.
Do Brand Values Matter?
Brand values work in connecting and engaging with your audience if they are a genuine expression of what your brand purpose is, and if this purpose resonates with your target market.
But they must be intrinsic to your business and brand development. You can’t simply bolt them on as an afterthought.
Your customers will care about them, if you can show that you do.
A Partisan Approach
We’re a Manchester-based brand consultancy and our focus is on promoting positive change in the region’s and cities. We’re here to help and support people, and brands, to find positive solutions to sustain future development.
For more information, please call us on 0161 860 7010, or email firstname.lastname@example.org