Since you decided to start your business, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk from the marketing world, coaches, and gurus about defining your brand values.

Why do you even need to do that? Is it a virtue-signalling exercise? Or, is it genuinely worthwhile? 

If it is worthwhile, how do you do it? Defining your brand values is not just some branding exercise for you to tick off and then forget about.

What are brand values?

Your values as a brand, your core values, influence every decision you make and every action you take. The values you define as a brand influences everything that you commit to and everything that you say no to.

The brand values you set out define what matters to you, and your brand. They define how you want to be perceived by the world. Not only that, they define the morality and the ethics of your brand. Most of all, they create a clear set of guidelines for you to live by.

The marketing guru BS

If you were to ask people in the marketing world they would tell you that your values are uncompromising truths and guiding principles that articulate what you stand for. That they are the primary driving force behind your brand, business behaviours and decisions. 

The BS-free, real-world definition

That’s a bit of a mouthful, don’t you think? As well as being a mouthful, it’s also nonsensical bullshit. What your defining your core values is really do for you, other than define what’s important to you and provide guidance with the choices you make, they influence consumer buying decisions. They influence the decision-making process of your customers. 

Your customers look out into the world, and they have a problem that they need to solve. They have some idea what a solution would look like. So they look for brands, companies, businesses, to provide them with a solution. And, they could well be faced with 10 different options, all providing pretty much the same solution. In those instances, the deciding factor is, more often than not, the core values of the brand. 

People are fickle and extremely nuanced creatures

Are those values aligned with the customer’s values? Or more accurately, are they aligned with what they want the world to think their values are? Because let’s face it, people are fickle creatures. 

What people put out into the world, what they project into the world, is not always an accurate representation of who they are. But, that projection has power. That is what they want to be. That is what they aspire to be. If your values can connect with the values of that projection then you, your brand, are going to be the one that they choose.

Your brand values need to be more than just words

Some businesses define their core values and they’ll plaster the words all over their marketing and then that’s, that’s it. They tend not to do well because their values mean very little. They are just words, they are hollow, and they’re empty and that becomes just more virtue signalling nonsense in the world. 

The brands that do well are the ones that weave those values into every decision that they make, every step they take is sculpted and moulded by those values. They infuse those values into every aspect of their company, their team, their message, their sales techniques, the marketing, the way they deliver their services, the offers that they put out into the world, and so on. 

Core values ensure that the company is always moving in the right direction, that it is always striving to achieve the state of being that you would like to project into the world.

The benefits of defining your brand values

I’ve mentioned some of the benefits of defining your core values but, when you are a company that is willing to weave those values into every aspect of everything that you do there are some clear, and quite frankly, important benefits beyond just customer perceptions. 

Brand value benefit #1: Making better decisions

So first and foremost, it can help you make better decisions. Decisions that you’re going to be willing to live with the consequences that come as a result. Because you can stop and ask yourself, “does this align with my values?” 

Brand value benefit #2: Gain credibility as a leader

Defining your core values also helps you gain more credibility as a leader in your industry, in your field, and even within your company. Because when you commit to living by the very values that you have set out, you gain a great deal of respect from the people around you. Because that is difficult, it’s hard, it’s not easy. People see that effort, and they respect it. People always respect the effort. So it helps you to gain that credibility as a leader. 

Brand value benefit #3: Stability for your team

Having clearly defined values also ensures that the people that serve under you, the members of your team and so on, feel like you are a stable leader. They feel like you are unwavering and that gives them strength, that gives them security and reassurance because they know that you’re not just going to chop and change your mind every five minutes. 

Brand value benefit #4: Hiring the perfect team

Defining your core values also helps you to hire the right people to join your team. Because you can talk to those people and investigate their values. You have to do so subtly because if you just ask them, they’ll just blurt out compassion, empathy, and whatever, all the regular bullshit. If you do so subtly and you get the truth out of them, you can get a good idea about what their values are. Also, you can make sure that they align with what you’re trying to do as a brand. 

Brand value benefit #5: Boosting your team’s morale

Another advantage of having a clearly defined set of core values can also help improve the morale of your team. This is because when you have used those values in your hiring process and you have hired people that have those values as individuals, they feel happier and better about working for a company that is aligned with who they are as a person. So when they come together as a team, more often than not, that means that they work much better together. They’re much more able to pull together during the hard times, and so on. And that, in turn, makes for a happier, stronger, and more productive team. 

Brand value benefit #6: Creating and maintaining stronger, healthier relationships

Your core values will also help you build stronger relationships with your team members, with your customers, with your suppliers, and so on. Because you will pull people into your world that have the same, or similar, values. You will have that point of commonality between you all which will ensure that you have a close-knit community. A stronger community, a community that is more active, more useful and productive towards your goals. 

Brand value benefit #7: Shorten the sales cycle

When you have your core values clearly defined it can also help shorten the sales cycle. Because the offer attracts people then from there, they could see that a few people are offering a similar thing. Next, they take a look at the brand values and then they make a decision based on those values. So if you are clearly defining those values in your marketing and your messaging then that helps shorten that part of the cycle. People go from being interested to buying a little bit quicker. Or, quite a lot quicker in some cases. 

The risks that come with not defining your brand values

So those are some benefits from defining your core values. Some risks come with not defining your core values. I’m going to share what are, in my opinion, the two biggest risks that arise when you do not clearly define your brand values.

Undefined brand value big risk #1: People are easily spooked when the reality doesn’t match the perception

The most prominent from your customers perspective is the stress and the anxiety that comes with not truly knowing who they are dealing with. When a customer approaches you and at first things seem alright but then, things get a little bit weird. 

Why do they get weird? Well, more often than not, the customer has been spooked. Up until that point, everything has been fine and then all of a sudden they’ve seen something, or they’ve heard something, or you’ve presented yourself in a way that doesn’t fit with the customers perceived idea of your brand.

That causes a great deal of anxiety for the customer, and you as well, because it makes that whole relation relationship rocky. It makes the customer begin to question everything. So having your core values clearly defined helps prevent that from happening because they understand you straight off the bat. Their perception of you is accurate.

Undefined brand value big risk #2: Your decision making process can (and probably will) become erratic and ineffective

When you don’t have your values clearly defined it can also impact your decision making because there is the possibility that you start making decisions based upon panic. And that’s no good. That is an emotional knee jerk reaction, and that is not good for you or your customers. It is not good for you, not good for your business, not good for your customers, not good for your team, or anybody. You need to make decisions based on logic. So you need to be calm. 

Having your values clearly defined gives you a quick reprieve because it means that there’s an extra step involved before you go from problem to decision. You have to apply some thought in the middle. If you’re panicking, you can figure out whether it aligns with your values or not. 

That has a couple of benefits, it slows you down and it gives you time to think. And once you start thinking, other things come to mind. It also gives you a quick checklist of things that you can run through to make sure that you’re not making a decision that you’re later going to regret. Which is important, immeasurably so. 

Those are some of the potential risks that come with not defining your core values and there is a great deal more. I think you get the idea by now. 

Nothing is ever fixed, everything in life is dynamic and that includes your brand values

In terms of actually defining your core values, it’s not a one and done task.

It’s not something you can do as a set and forget activity. It’s something that evolves and changes over time, it is something that you need to continually analyse, and it is something that you need to assess against the data that you have at all times.

How to define your brand values in a sensible, honest, and bullshit-free way

There are a few different ways that you could go about defining your core values. But the one that I have found has the most power, and is the most effective, is something that I call the eulogy approach. 

When a person dies, someone who says something at their funeral will give the eulogy. They’ll say a few words about their friend, relative, or whatever. About how much they meant to them and reminisce over some of the memories they share and so on. And I think you’d agree that we want people to say nice things in our eulogy. 

So if your brand was a person and it was dead, what would you want people to say in the eulogy? What would you want people to stand up and say about that brand?

The eulogy approach is a simple way of discovering and defining your brand values

Start by writing down everything that you want people to say about your brand in the eulogy. Then, when you’ve done that, you need to step away from it and take some time doing something else to cleanse your palate, so to speak. To give you space between it and you. 

When you come back to it you need to look through what you’ve written, because there will be recurring things that will be patterns that exist in that. Those recurring themes, those patterns that show up in that eulogy, will be based around your core values as an individual and as a brand. Those are the things that you can pull out of that eulogy that will help you to define your core values. The things that will help you to see clearly and understand what those values truly are. 

So that’s one way of doing it and that, in my opinion, is the most powerful and effective way of determining your core values. There are other approaches that I will cover in another post on another day.

Your brand values stem from your “why”

Why do you do what you do? You provide a particular product or service to the world. You could have done anything but you chose that, so why?

There is a great deal of power that can be derived from truly understanding your “why.” This is not some marketing guru bollocks, it is a useful insight into who you are as an individual and who you are as a brand. Spend some time realigning with your why BEFORE you sit down and write your brand’s eulogy.

Discovering and understanding your “why” is not that hard. In fact, it is something I have already written about here 

If you are stuck, ask for help

Defining brand values is one of the many things I help my 1:1 clients with so if you are stuck then you can head over to my company website, drop me a message and tell me that you need some help. I will be more than happy to have a chat and get you in for a 1:1 session to get to the root of it all 

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