I’ve talked about how crucial it is to build a solid brand foundation as the first step of creating good branding. In a previous post I wrote about that topic, I named brand values as one of the three foundational blocks that you need to define for your business (with purpose and brand personality being the other two).
In this post, I want to dive a little deeper into what brand values are all about, and how you can go about defining your core brand values so that they:
- are genuine and true to your business,
- help you connect with your ideal customers,
- and set you apart from the competition.
Let’s get started!
What are core brand values?
Core brand values are the beliefs that you, as a business, stand for. They are how you communicate the things you find most important and are the driving force 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 “dedicated, one-to-one support”. I promise to always work directly with my clients, at every step of their branding process. I am the one who consults with them, develops their branding strategy and brings their identity together. There’s no passing any of the work onto a 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.
So while a brand value like “support” wouldn’t give me much of a point of difference, I took it a little further by defining how I offer support. I can tell you why it’s important to me and my 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 — three or four is plenty!) then you want to let your audience know. Use your brand values to attract your ideal customers. Use them as a selling point. Use them to maintain a highly consistent brand that strongly communicates what your business is all about.
My own brand value of “dedicated, one-to-one support” along with my other strong values of “the importance of expressing your value” and “strategic, purpose-driven branding” are all very clearly stated on the homepage, and in the copy throughout my website.
Related post: How to use consistent branding to grow your business
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”.
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.
What are your core brand values?
Looking for more content? Try these:
- What is branding, and why is it so important?
- A complete guide to creating a brand that perfectly suits your business
- Should you hire a graphic designer for your small business?
- When it’s time to rebrand – signs your brand needs reviving
- 5 essential elements your visual brand identity needs
- How to check that you have a consistent brand
- How a strong foundation will ensure an engaging, profitable brand