How to define brand values: Creating the living brand world

brand values sign example

Brand values form an integral part of your brand. Drawing on the very soul of your organisation, they are designed to unite, inspire and guide brand-led behaviour, enabling employees and customers to emotionally connect with your brand. They also empower your people to deliver memorable and valuable brand experiences for your customers. When defined correctly, brand values provide your organisation and your team with a sense of purpose and identity which leads to great engagement, performance and productivity.

Why are brand values important?

They allow you to develop a purposeful set of behaviours that are strong and aligns to your culture. Without a conscious decision around values, they can develop organically and may take your organisation in an unintended direction. Once set they guide your employees behaviours, the decisions that the business makes and they way customers come to expect interactions with you.

By acting in a way that embodies your values you attract like minded people (both customers and employees) who are more likely to be supporters and advocates of your brand, influencing others to do the same.

How to define brand values?

This process will look different depending on the size of your organisation. If you are small you can involve the whole team however if you’re larger you may want to do this exercise with senior leaders in your team and get thoughts and feedback from employees at other levels.

Think about:

  • What do we stand for?
  • What do we value most?
  • What do we believe as a company?
  • What don’t we like and why? (look at the opposite of this)

If you’re in a group start by gathering some key words from participants and then collate these thoughts into common themes and areas. Once you end up with themes think about the words to best express them and that meet the following criteria:

Make them different: When you are defining your brand values choose values that help you stand out from other brands, go beyond the obvious ones such as “reliable”, “trustworthy”, “innovative”. Think about what really makes you different and what values are important to your organisation. They should have personality and character but they also need to be unique.

Make them memorable: Everyone in your organisation should be able to recite them. Choose values which are easy to remember.

Make them meaningful: They should be authentic and real for your organisation. They should mean something and be inspiring for everyone in the organisation.

Make them ambitious: Your values should very much reflect the realities of your organisaiton but you should also have an element of ambition so it’s something that you aspire too.

Make them actionable: people should be able to act on the values, make the descriptors easy to understand and make sure they are action focused e.g. Do the right thing, go beyond, be inspiring.

No more than four or five: If values are short and easy to remember employees are more likely to be able to recite them and think about them in relation to the their behaviour.

Engaging employees

Quite often brands spend money communicating their brand values to customers and the marketing but often miss the important step of engaging employees. It’s one thing to generate a list of brand values but if you don’t engage your employees and bring them along the journey of why these values are important and demonstrate examples of behaviors that bring these brand values to life then the whole exercise will be a waste of time.  Senior leaders need to communicate the vision, mission and values of the business regularly to show that it is important to them – they need to lead by example.

Staff training and development should be focussed on living the brand values so that everyone in the organisation knows what it means to embody the values. Your employees will be communicating with your customers on the front line and if they don’t act in line with your values your customers won’t experience your true brand offering.

Living your brand values – actions speak louder than words

Customer and employees are smart, if you simply state what your brand values are and don’t live them through your actions and your behaviours this will soon be found out and will do more harm than good. Your values need to live beyond the document they are written on.

Staff on-boarding – your employees are the most impressionable when they first start with you. Try creating short induction activities around each value so that they understand what behaviour around that value looks like. You need to do more than just re-produce it in a manual.

Reward employees for values-led behaviour – have reward and recognition for staff who have demonstrated behaviours in line with your values and communicate this to your team so that they understand the type of behaviours you’re expecting.

Communicate values – make sure your values are accessible to all employees, put them on your walls, in staff handbooks in staff communication. Make sure they are a part of all regular communications.

Encourage conversations about your brand values – at regular team meetings make it an agenda item to talk about a brand value and how behaviors and actions relate to this value.

Lead by example – senior leaders need to show behavious that align with brand values as employees will be taking cues from them. Values should be embedded across your entire business. It’s crucial that leaders and managers at all levels model the right behaviour and lead by example. It should form part of the formal appraisal process and be a key performance indicator.

Values led decisions – when making business decisions explain what value the decision is aligning too to help your employees understand the behaviour.

Supporting your employer branding

Employees have more choice than ever before about who they work for.  They are often influenced by the culture and values of an organisation, seeking to choose somewhere that aligns with their personal values. This is a win/win as organisations attract talent with similar values that will enable them to achieve their vision and employees can work at an organisation where they fit-in contributing to a great sense of job satisfaction.

When you are looking for new talent it’s vital to check that there is alignment between the candidates values and the values of your organisation. If there is a misalignment in values it will lead to tensions within the team and in the long run won’t lead to positive outcomes for either party. Values are something which are hard to teach and often difficult to change as they are inherent within each person.

By defining your values and clearly articulating what you stand for as a brand, you can attract better employees and customers who share your beliefs.

Gemma Dittmar
Director of Brand Projects

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