When the Chief Marketing Officer mentions brand values in the boardroom they can be treated with disdain. Eyes roll. Disparaging glances are passed. Brand marketing mumbo jumbo. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brand values are important. They are powerful brand assets. This post explains why.
Values influence behaviour
Values influence our beliefs and our beliefs influence our behaviour. Whether you like it or not, the endgame of brand experiences is to influence behaviour.Buy, pay, recommend, travel, eat, drink or give are examples of things they encourage us to do more (or, sometimes, less) of. To influence behaviour you have to connect with stakeholders at a values level because this is what compels behavioural change.
Under Armour’s campaign, ‘I Will What I Want’, embodies values of being active, confident and competitive. The campaign encourages customers to use willpower to do things that help them accomplish their goals. It’s the customer connecting with the brand values that, ultimately, triggers a particular behavioural response.
Values make your brand magnetic
Values that resonate with customers and other stakeholders can draw them in. Toyota Prius consumers are drawn to the brand because they buy into its values of being progressive, tech-savvy, prudent and environmentally aware. Similarly, prospective employees will be drawn to working at your brand if they can identify with your values.
Just like a magnet, values have the potential to push someone away. If someone doesn’t identify with your values this could deter them from engaging with the experiences you build. Versace customers will be drawn to extrovert, gregarious and bold brand values – as expressed by the brand’s clothes and retail experiences. Armani customers won’t. They’re drawn to more refined, timeless and understated values. This isn’t a bad thing because in this sense your brand values can be used as a tool to make it clear who your brand is, and isn’t for.
Brand values help stakeholders express their values
‘I drive a Toyota Prius to show I’m progressive, tech-savvy, prudent and environmentally aware.’ The brand, or more specifically, the values that underpin the brand, become a means of self-expression that help Prius drivers make a statement to the world about their values. This is powerful because when this happens the brand (underpinned by its values) acts as a cue which signals actual or aspirational community membership. Vans, Burton and Billabong have utilised this knowledge to great effect with their skate, snowboard and surf communities.
Values guide how you bring your brand to life
Brand values provide guiding principles that inform how you build brand experiences. If a brand is shaped around values of being refreshing, bold and funky, it needs to express these through relevant employee behaviour, communications and design. A brand guided by such values would locate an experiential event in the heart of pop-up shops with a cool DJ spinning funky vinyl on Technics 1200 turntables. The backdrop would use bold and vibrant colours, and the employees would be ‘hipsters’ or ‘fashionistas’. Understanding brand values in this way is powerful because they will help you deliver more consistent and cohesive experiences, at scale. This language will be music to your CEO’s ears.
Values give a brand an opinion
According to research conducted by Edelman:
- 67% of respondents bought a brand for the first time because they agreed with its position on a controversial topic;
- 23% of respondents will pay at least a 25% premium for a brand that supports their position;
- 48% of respondents will advocate for your brand, defend it and criticise its competition if it speaks up compared to staying silent;
- 57% of respondents buy or boycott brands based on a brand’s position on a social or political issue.
Brands who voice a credible, authentic and authoritative opinion are powerful. When people agree with, or are intrigued by their point of view, they are drawn in.
During Ramadan 2016, Coca-Cola tackled the prickly topic of stereotyping and labelling people based on appearance in the Middle East. They invited six strangers to an Iftar (Ramadan meal where people break their fast at dusk) in a pitch-black room, and encouraged them to speak about their lives and interests. When the lights were turned on each participant received a box with two cans, absent of Coca-Cola branding, with the words ‘Labels are for cans, not people’. This became Coca-Cola’s second-most viewed video, delivering over US$30 million in earned media with a $50,000 spend.
Kenco uses its ‘Coffee vs Gangs’ to express an opinion on how a career in coffee provides an alternative to gang life. Salesforce made its opinion clear on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) legislation via #WelcomesAll. In India, Brooke Bond Red Label tea positioned itself as an ally of the transgender cause by partnering with the transgender community to launch Six Pack, India’s first transgender band. Their videos generated over 7.5 million YouTube views and contributed to a 1% increase in the brand’s market share in urban India.
These brands voice an opinion on issues they feel are important to them and this is shaped by their values. Customers and other stakeholders then make a decision on whether the brand, or more specifically its values, are relevant to them.
Brand values are intangible, elusive and slippery beasts. These kinds of characteristics don’t sit comfortably with the C-suite. They prefer to get a handle on things courtesy of concrete facts and figures. To help your C-suite get to grips with brand values it’s best to position them as a business asset, in tangible and practical terms that will deliver commercial value. This article should go some way to helping you do this.
 These are assumed values for illustrative purposes.
Photo by Rob Schreckhise
Also published on Medium.