The choice of values and the nature of those values comes up a lot in any team looking to change what it stands for. Sometimes it comes up overtly. More often, it comes out in a reluctance by some to ‘move on’ from what they know because they are concerned that leadership is not up to the task or they will end up compromising their professional integrity.
Sadly, as this article points out, too many organisations have brand (and indeed organisational) values that are little more than hygiene factors and that reflect how they wish to act and be seen, rather than the qualities they need to exhibit in order to be a distinctive brand built on a confident culture. Nick Liddell’s point that a unique set of values suggests that a company’s leadership has made a conscious effort to identify a clear, meaningful point of difference and is confident in its ability to defend it is a point well made.
Look beyond what you know
Values are the mindset under which you choose to compete, so it makes sense that they should be as different as possible from those of the industry and your competitors without being irrelevant. It’s easy to choose brand values that you just feel comfortable with or that you think are expected of you rather than those that take your brand to new places. I’m also not a fan of brand onions for the same reason – they’re so jam-packed full of motifs that in the end the values set itself is meaningless.
Instead I always advocate for a small, intense, focused set of values that represent a significant departure from how competitors choose to act and how consumers expect the industry to behave generally. At the same time though, the values themselves need to inspire and excite those working on the brand in-house and beyond in your supplier community to behave in ways that bring people together and lift what they aspire to achieve.
Look for interesting, colourful words or phrases that push for action.
And make sure that when you finally set your brand values set that you workshop what they mean and don’t mean, how they change your ways of working going forward and why customers will be overjoyed at the brand experiences they receive as a result. Without this level of litigation, values are just words.