When’s the last time you boycotted a business?
In today’s political and cultural climate, it seems like there’s a new reason to disengage with some of our favorite brands every day. This cookie maker is responsible for the destruction of palm forests in Indonesia. This fast food chain contributes to a controversial cause. This retailer supports the opposing political party.
Whatever the reason, odds are, you’ve raised an eyebrow or put your wallet away when you’ve learned a business is operating in a way you don’t agree with.
Because their values don’t align with yours.
The flip side is that the values of that cookie maker, that fast food joint, and that retailer align nearly perfectly with their ideal client.
Every business embodies some list of values and so does every consumer. When those values are shared, that’s what makes them a good fit for the exchange of goods and services.
Why do values matter?
Values and culture are a big chunk of your brand, helping you, your products and services stand out in the crowd of similar providers. There are lots of drycleaners, coaches, fitness professionals, and financial planners in your market. Your clients choose to work with you because of YOU and how you interact with them, and those interactions are based on your values, whether they are inherent or designed. Your clients trust that you will show up and deliver your products and services in a way that reflects their own beliefs and values.
When you demonstrate your values in your marketing messages, products, services, pricing, delivery, and customer service, you create yet another vehicle for drawing your ideal client to your business (and excluding those who aren’t a good fit). Philanthropic causes, community service, and civic involvement are all obvious ways of communicating what’s important to you and your business. But what about more abstract values?
I have one client in the garment care industry who’s defined values are: fun, real, curious, passionate.
What’s fun about dry cleaning?
While dry cleaning itself might not be something you think of as “fun”, the business itself is. Part of their mission is to “measurably lift the lives of people around us” – doesn’t that just speak of positive energy? They’ve invested in colorful, whimsical corporate signage and branding. Their social media is a bit cheeky and silly while still conveying their professionalism and value. They frequently stock whimsical garment-care-related products at the point of sale.
They are speaking to the modern-day fashionista who wants to walk into a clean, bright shop with happy employees. They want their employees to BE happy and enjoy their workplace. They’ve created systems and messaging to reinforce that value.
How can you implement values in your business?
Every day, we see the values of the businesses around us in their advertising. Big corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars defining and purposefully creating a distinct culture and then communicating that to their audiences.
When I work with clients on their values and branding, I take them through these five steps:
- Brainstorm all the values they do (or wish to) bring to their business.
- Narrow down the top 3-5 words that most embody their values
- Define for themselves what those values mean to them; what they like most about it; and how it shows up in their business
- Consider and record any negative connotation of that value and consider how that fits into their definition of their culture and brand
Once my client has defined their values and has communicated that to their team, we create tools for conveying that message both in-house and to their audiences. We audit their products, services, and pricing to ensure that they’re aligned with the business values. Visual imagery that embodies those values and phrases that describe them are incorporated into their brand standards, hiring and onboarding practices, and employee training.
All human beings hold some list of personal values. We bring them to our businesses and places of employment, and we show our values through the businesses and products we choose. Understanding and defining your values allows you creatively add appeal to your brand, products, and services and thereby gain an edge with your audience.