Lately, a lot has been spoken about ‘values’ and how businesses should provide value to people, and also the value of value! It’s no surprise that value has become so…valuable! What would a brand without values be like? Perhaps like a cake without sugar or summer without beaches…
Well, let’s face it. We are living in a generation when the customer is extremely aware. Access to information is at fingertips and it can spread like wildfire. There is also a shift in how brands get to ‘fame’. It is no longer a matter of being into the business for years. This era of startups has seen brands grow like never before. What is pleasant to see in all this is the growing importance of brands living up to their values and not just leaving them as fancy statements to be put up in a company’s presentation slide.
I am a big believer in the connection between good values and building great brands. I feel without them, French fries could go missing. Oh! If you are caught wondering what am I saying, read my previous article on values, brand, and culture.
When you think about your brand values, firstly have it clear in your mind that values for your brand will be as integral as they would be for a human being. We happen to respect people with the right values. We often say, “He is a man of great values!”. So if values earn respect or could be a strong filter to earn respect for your brand, it’s almost obvious that you would want to frame them well.
In this article, I will talk about how to really ensure that your brand lives by its values, which are so fundamental for its existence.
Firstly, for values to be a living system for brands, it’s important to be conscious of how they are born in the first place. I believe that values for a brand should be born by going deep into understanding the life experiences, stories, learnings, mistakes, beliefs, and principles of the people behind the brand. Their life journey should reflect on the values. Why? Simply because this would be the first step to make values feel real and human. If they do not come from deep within, they will feel hollow when a brand takes them forward and they will not reflect in the brand’s culture. Life experiences of the people behind the brand should be translated into values which will also ensure that they flow down into practice right from the top.
A founder who has gone through the struggles of life might have immense empathy and respect for people, as a brand value. And because it will be so close to him, he will surely live them every day.
Broadly, think of Steve Jobs. He’s an example of how an individual’s values, beliefs, and passion translated into one of the biggest brands of the world. Apple is not just his business idea, it is a brand that has Jobs written all over it. And because these values were really being lived by Jobs himself, it wasn’t tough to infuse them into Apple’s life.
“Think like a human. Your brand values will just feel more real.”
Adding a human touch and making values sound like reflections of everyday life is another way to make them feel real. To drive this point, I googled, ‘brand value examples’, and the first link that came up showed that a brand could have values like integrity, boldness, honesty, and a list of other words. Of course, I don’t deny the importance of these and these are the kind of values that brands should have. But at the same time, don’t these sound too vague? And these almost give a feeling as they have just jumped from one brand to the other, without embracing anything unique. What will be unique about your brand? How are your people suppose to interpret them and implement them if they are unclear and sound just like others?
I feel making them more relatable is a good way to get over it. For example, if a brand values dedication and acknowledges performance, how about simply calling it “Work Hard, Party Harder.”
It suddenly makes it much more human and when an employee sees it, he can know exactly what he’s supposed to do, follow, and perhaps live by.
We can look into the example of Airbnb here. A company often talked about for its culture and values. One of its values is stated as “Champion the mission” – which is about believing in what you do.
Extending this example of Airbnb, I would say that another way to ensure values are lived by, is to hire right. To ensure that this value of Airbnb is a part of their culture and the mission is not diluted, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb talks about how he invested a huge amount of time to hire an employee. He talks about it in this speech at Stanford. He beautifully puts it as how one should think about the diversity of backgrounds in people, but not diversity of values or beliefs. In that space, they should be tied by a single thread. I totally believe, if the people are filtered through this lens, it can ensure that they will understand and respect your brand values, and putting it into practice would then become natural.
Another way to live by your values as a brand is to ensure that your brand’s personality and even your business model are reflecting it. They are almost inter-related. BMW is all about being premium and it is no surprise that its values encourage being at the best of your performance, innovation, and dignity. It’s almost like these values are nourishing your internal soul and your brand is reflecting them. Hence, if you have a clear understanding of your goals and beliefs, it will tie down the entire system of your business and brand, and your values will no longer be living just on papers.
Continuing on the values of Airbnb, they really stand for being open, curious, and joyful. It is something that is also a part of their offering! They create these amazing experiences for people. They are depicting openness, freedom, and adventure as a brand too.
Although these organic ways would go a long way in ensuring your values are not ‘life-less’, if push comes to shove, could a way to live by them also be evaluating employees as per how do they embrace your brand values? But I close it saying, if you believe in what you do yourself, get the right people on board, and follow it across your entire business’s system, this would not be needed, your values will guide your way of life for your business. Now and forever…
Cover image source: Morning Brew