The essential guide to defining your core brand values

Here's a helpful guide to take you through some steps to define your core brand values.Your core brand values are one of three foundational pillars of your brand, as I talked about in a previous post (purpose and brand personality are the other two). 

Since it’s such a key part of developing a strong brand, let’s dive into what your brand values are all about and how you can define core brand values that:

•  are genuine and true to your business,
• help you connect with your ideal clients,
• and set you apart from the competition.

I also have a bonus guide that’ll take you through a step-by-step process to choose your core brand values and communicate them to your audience. (Plus, it comes with a list of 200 examples to get you started!) You can get it free here.

What are core brand values?

Core brand values are the beliefs that you, as a business, stand for. They are how you communicate the attributes you find most important, and are the driving forces that guides every decision you make with your branding. Unlike your aims which define the things you hope your business will achieve, your brand values are more like promises for how your business will conduct itself.

Choosing authentic and strong core brand values can help you to set your business apart from others in the same industry. They’ll also allow you to develop meaningful relationships with your consumers, and can be even more important than having the best product or service available. Communicating your brand values well will help you to attract your ideal customers, and people who share your values are also more likely to become loyal to your brand.

Go beyond the obvious

When it comes to defining your brand values, you might start with words like “trust” or “heart” or “reliability”. While there’s nothing wrong with these values, it’s also important to think of how you can make these values more characteristic of your unique business. On their own, these kinds of values don’t do much to set you apart. Instead, they sound like generic values that every business stands for at a bare minimum.

Instead, consider how you can be a little more specific to your niche or industry. Think about what kind of experience your ideal customers are looking for, when choosing a business to go to. What are some negative aspects of your industry, that your business specifically overcomes? (More on that later.)

My own example

One of my core brand values is “building relationships”. It’s a concept that’s central to my approach to branding, and something I put a lot of emphasis on in my own business. As a solo business owner, I always work directly with my clients, at every step of their branding process. I’m the one who consults with them, develops their brand strategy and brings their identity design together. There’s no passing any of the work onto an unknown team member or outsourcing it.

It’s something I use as a selling point. Something that sets me apart from branding agencies where the person speaking directly to the client isn’t necessarily the same person who develops the designs or comes up with concepts. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with the way branding agencies do their work. It’s simply different than the way I run my business and I choose to point this out as a positive aspect of working with me. Doing so helps me to attract the kind of clients who prefer working this way.

When you choose your core brand values, make sure you’re highlighting values that showcase how and why they’re important to you and your clients.

Be authentic, to be unique

The best way to set your business apart, and find a way to be unique is to make sure you’re being authentic. Ask yourself:

  • What does my business stand for?
  • When conducting my business, what do I consider most important?
  • What do I believe in?

By working out why your business exists, you’ll discover values that clearly explain why you do what you do, and how it helps your ideal market. Set a standard of behaviour for your business and stick to it. Your brand values are promises to your customers about what they can expect from you.

The brand values you define should be values that are naturally infused into your everyday practices and the way you run your business. If they aren’t, then the values you’ve chosen are not a real representation of the things you truly find important. If your business says it values one thing and then behaves in a way that goes against those values, that creates a dishonest image. You’re not too likely to attract loyal customers this way.

On the other hand, if your brand values are a real representation of what you believe in as a business, then they become a strong part of your story and brand. This helps your business to make a stand, and stand out.

Related post: How to stand out with authentic branding

Stuck? Think about the negative.

If you’re struggling to specify the things you find important as a business, then it might help you consider the negative aspects of your industry. What are some of the typical downsides that your ideal customers face when trying to find or use the product or service you offer? What obstacles do they have to deal with? Maybe it’s confusion about the steps they need to take to order a product. Or they might be concerned about a lack of communication between them and their service provider. Perhaps timing is a big issue for them?

Then, think about how your business overcomes those negatives. What problem does your business have a solution to that you can highlight as a massive positive to your ideal customers? How do you reassure them that your business is the right choice to make?

Communicate your brand values

Once you know your values (and don’t go overboard with them —  I advise sticking to three!) then you want to let your audience know what they are. Use your brand values to attract your ideal clients. Use them as a selling point. Use them to maintain a highly consistent brand that strongly communicates what your business is all about.

You should also incorporate your brand values into the way you introduce your business. Don’t just state what you do. Explain why! This makes your business more memorable and meaningful. It’s the difference between, “I build lead-generating websites” and “I make it possible for business to grow exponentially by building lead-generating websites”.

Related post: Why brand values are important for connecting with clients

Defining your core brand values is a crucial part of establishing your brand's foundation. Read this guide to find tips and ideas for how to develop brand values that help your business to stand out.Last thoughts

While your external branding, such as your logo, art direction, and brand colours, might change over the lifetime of your business, your brand values should be steadfast and timeless. This is part of what makes them such a powerful part of your business, and why they are an important foundational block for your branding. Define them carefully by considering what you want your business to stand for, and treat them like promises. Do that and you’re sure to make great connections with your ideal customers, and grow a brand that really shines.

For a step-by-step guide to choosing your core brand values and communicating them to your audience, check out my free PDF guide.

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