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  • brucemckinnon


"Do you have company values?" I once asked a client. "Yes," I was told, "you'll find them in the kitchen."

Turns out this particular company had six kitchens and to this day I don't know in which kitchen they were kept! Of course, you can't keep values in kitchen cupboards because it's not possible to interact with other humans without displaying values.

This is the last in the series of introducing what a brand strategy is and the role it can play in shaping how a brand behaves and the direction it takes. What separates a brand strategy from say, a marketing strategy, or an ad campaign is that it needs to provide direction to both the customer and the brand owner - and values play a vital role in shaping the 'way we do things' and the 'way we share things'.

So what are brand values?

They describe the character of an organization – how it behaves, how it treats its staff, the tone it uses in communications, how it presents itself to the world, and the products or services that it produces. Values play a vital role in keeping you and your customers focused on what your brand stands for.

For your team, brand values can be used both as a source of inspiration and guidance when developing new brand-related initiatives. They also enable the team to sense-check whether their resulting work reflects the brand values. For your customers, brand values help them recognise your brand, reinforce the relationship they have with it and, critically, act as a benchmark for the brand to live up to.

Making each value valuable

So, you can see how each value is directive, and each has a strategic role to play in shaping how the brand is presented. What we don't want to do though is to waste this chance to define the brand by citing generic values like honesty and professionalism; clearly, they are important, but you would expect both to be a matter of course for any organisation. So, values are a platform to communicate the best things about the organisation, but they can also be used as a way of dealing with the worst things too, or at least, acknowledging a problem and defining a means of dealing with it. Here's an example:

I worked with a client whose geographical base of operations could not have been further apart – organising a conference call meant that at least one party would either have to stay up very late or get up with the sparrows! One of the repercussions was the regions were not always in synch. To deal with the need to be more cohesive and collaborative, we chose 'united' as a value for the team to work towards - it also chimed very well with how the brand delivered value to its customers. So yes, sometimes a value can reflect a commonly held ambition in the company, and putting that ambition in the brand strategy means the team becomes accountable to that value.

To sum up the series, a brand strategy is about helping a brand head towards its vision or destination, and by defining a vision we can identify the drivers to help us move towards it and the barriers that will slow us down. The Positioning is the golden thread that runs through a brand, almost like its DNA and the Proposition is how you share that thread with your team and your customers. Finally, your values act as a benchmark for your team to live up to and a hallmark for your customers to recognise you by.

In my next series we will focus on what you do with a brand strategy, how it can shape your messaging, marketing campaigns, product development, sales strategy and even the interior of your head office!

To receive free content and a chance to win a copy of What’s Your Point?, my award-winning book on brand strategy, click here.

As well as the four steps, the book explores how brand strategy can fuel business growth, referencing some of the world’s most successful brands as well as sharing case studies from my own global consulting practice, Brand Arrow.

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