How To Uncover Your Brand Values

How To Uncover Your Brand Values

Here are some things that Google can help you uncover:
– Why hasn’t Johnny Depp opted for cosmetic surgery?
– How to delete a text before he reads it
– Where to buy a private island
– Why I have a second stomach for dessert

And here are some things Google cannot help uncover, no matter how far down the page you scroll:
– The depths of your moral compass
– The soul-fulfilling drive that gets you out of bed in the morning
– The ins and outs of why you’re in business
– Where the eff all of your hair ties go to die

You won’t find the answer to life’s big questions online (nor, as previously imagined, inside a delectable fortune cookie). So from where do we derive value? Is it as simply as the nature versus nurture discussion? Are we conditioned to value what those before us have valued? Our values stem from a combination of what is inherent and what is learned — and we live in an age where why you do what you do is just as important as what you actually do. You have to settle on your moral compass at some point, and begin to magnetise like-minded people that sing to the same tune as you!

A big contender in whether you get someone’s business or not is often if they feel aligned to you. Sounds a bit daunting, but we all like to work with/buy from/feel connected with brands and services that we can relate too. These values not only help gather and keep ongoing clients, but also help you know your business, who you are and what you do.

Important: these are two different things, not to be confused like the Olsen twins. Your core values and mission statement should be kindred spirits (and release a string of mediocre yet highly watchable straight-to-VHS films), but both must actually differ in their form and delivery.
Mission Statement = what your company actually does. Short, sweet, easy to remember. It also needs to be concise and specific enough to what you offer and how you are different (better) than the rest.
Core Values = your backbone principles, reflecting why you’re in the game, what you stand for and what you believe in. They’re all the things that inform each and every decision you make as a business. You may be a business that sells gluten-free gingerbread cookies, but the fact that you send your customers gingerbread on their birthday and email gluten-free recipes for a bunch of meals you have nothing to do with reveals a business that flipping loves its people.

So how do you figure out what your values are? Identifying and establishing those core values central to your brand will help you understand yourself, and help others understand you that will either build your business with you, or (importantly!) buy your business.
You might feel inclined to enlist the help of an external consultant whiz to come in and whip you into shape with solidifying your core values. But, with a little brainstorming, a bucket full of passion and a few stiff G&T’s for good measure, you can likely work this out all on your own.
Firstly, gather the people closest to the the DNA of your business — your executives, your entire motley crew (all three of you), or your boyfriend and pet schnauzer Billy-Ray who have been in it with you since day dot. Together, you want to freely brainstorm words and phrases that you gladly associate with your business. Get that butcher’s paper out, put on some chill tunes, and get scribbling!

A few prompts:
– What do you believe defines the culture of the brand
– What moral principles influence daily decisions that are made at work?
– What do you truly stand for in your work?
– What do you believe your brand truly stands for?
– How do your customers perceive the brand?
– What do they believe we stand for?
– What values does our company consistently adhere to in the face of obstacles?
– What are our company’s greatest strengths?
– What are the most valued behaviours and traits we expect from every employee?

The goal? To discover the pre-existing values within your company. From there, you can build on these and talk about where you want be in 3, 5 and 10 years time. Using adjectives to talk about your company’s future self will give you a whole new bank of words that can be transformed and evolved into core values. A brand language — yippee!

The next step is to group these into similar categories and related themes. Values like ‘fun’, ‘stress-free’ and ‘leisure’ can all be grouped into the same category. Once you’ve established your similar groupings, highlight a central theme for each group. For example, ‘Lifestyle’ might work for the above collection of words.

But it’s not all sunshine and permanent marker fumes, no sir. You need to trim the fat and narrow these down to the most vital values that your baby just wouldn’t be your baby without.

Here are a few questions to help you whittle your list down:
– Which values are imperative to establishing and supporting the business culture you desire?
– Which values are absolutely essential to your work environment and employee’s happiness?
– Which values best represent the behaviours your organisation wants to encourage and stand by?
– Which values would you be comfortable plastering on the homepage of your website?
– Which values do you feel represent you each individually?
– Which values do you believe will most deeply resonate with your audience?
– Which values are best expressed by your existing products and services?

Once you’ve got a shortlist, congratu-bloody-lations. It’s a big gig and a huge win. My recommendation is to write it out on a big piece of paper and stick it somewhere that you will see and read everyday: the shower, above your bed, on the forehead of your daily barista. Leave it up for a week and then have another chat about whether the values all still feel fitting after that week. You might find that you need to go back to the drawing board and make some adjustments. Rinse and repeat until you feel like Goldilocks when she finds the right g-damn porridge.

    Too few values and you will struggle to capture all of the desired behaviours and identifying traits of your company, like a text from your nana that comprises three words. Too many and your brand essence will become convoluted, overwhelmed and hard to follow, like a Year 9 essay on Macbeth. Whilst the specific number of values will differ for each brand, I would say that the magic range falls between 4 and 8. The secret ingredient to the recipe of awesome-sauce here, is to try and make them as concise and compelling as possible.
    Taking the time to define your values, embody them, and to keep them pumping through everyone’s veins is one of the most vital things you can do to promote a thriving culture. It’s important that once you’ve established your core values, that you integrate them into every aspect of the business. Build them into your brand story, refer back to them when making decisions and use them as a moral compass when faced with difficult situations or challenges.
    The greatest impact comes from subtle and indirect messaging through your social content. Get creative, folks! Brainstorm new and interesting ways to create content that reflects your brand values. It’s essential to not spell it out too clearly for your audience, but rather leave the direct value or theme up to their imagination and allow them to put the clues together themselves. Otherwise, you might come across as preachy, disingenuous and perhaps a little awkward! Also, ensure that each piece of content you post on your social channels reflects or relates back to one of your core values. Everything you do and every time you connect with your audience you should be telling the same story and crafting the same message.Happy branding, and give it your all!

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