In a previous blog post, we covered the basics of a popular and essential topic in the marketing sphere: core values. We discussed what core values mean in the context of your business, and why they’re important to both your company mission and your bottom line; as well as how to play archaeologist when digging in to core values in branding. This is all extremely useful in your continuing journey of defining your brand’s identity, but we’re still missing one very important piece of the puzzle: Once you have your business’s core values, how do you implement them practically into your branding?
It’s a crucial question to ask, because core values aren’t just an entrepreneurial buzzword or trendy internal team building exercise—they’re public assets that allow consumers to choose to give their hard-earned money to businesses that reflect their own beliefs and sense of self. The 5W Public Relations 2020 Consumer Report revealed that 71% of consumers prefer to buy from companies that are aligned with their own values. If you don’t make your core values exceedingly clear, it won’t necessarily kill your business—but you’ll miss out on opportunities to build both revenue and brand loyalty.
The basics of implementing your values
To take full advantage of your core values, you’ll need to feature them in every aspect of your brand strategy—from your internal operations to your website layout to your content creation. This article will give you practical strategies on how to do just that—but first, let’s go over a few general best practices for implementing your core values into your brand.
- Don’t make it all about you. When communicating your core values to your clients, be careful not to slide into virtue signaling or boasting about the moral superiority of your brand. Instead, redirect the focus to your audience. How do your business’s core values support your target audience in getting what they want? How does your commitment to your values positively impact your clients’ lives, or the lives of people in their community?
- Don’t steamroll your audience. There are some times when you’ll want to spell out your core values to the letter—for instance, many companies have their values clearly listed on their website. But in general, you can keep things more subtle. Your audience should be able to get a good idea of your core values without you having to explicitly state them multiple times.
- Be consistent. When deciding on how you’ll reflect your brand values across various aspects of your business (more on that below), remember to keep your message consistent. For instance, imagine if one of your core values was boldness. If your social media content frequently discusses ways to stand out in the crowd, but your brand design uses pastel colors and lowercase letters, your core value isn’t being properly or consistently represented. Keeping your core value implementation consistent across the board will mitigate audience confusion and make your brand recognizable.
- Walk the walk. Nothing decreases credibility or increases cynicism as much as a brand saying one thing and doing another. Take Amazon—the internet titan sparked a major conversation about brand values when it was reported that managers regularly hire new employees with the intention of firing them, in order to hit company metrics and incentives. This “hire to fire” practice would already raise ethical questions, but has been especially controversial since one of Amazon’s core values is “Hire and develop the best.” The media furor resulting from this revelation is a perfect demonstration of the consequences when a brand’s practices are out of alignment with their publicly advertised values.
How to implement your core values in every part of your brand
We’ve compared a brand’s growth with the growth of a tree in the past, and with good reason—a thriving brand has as many branches as a mighty oak. Each of those branches has its own special considerations when it comes to implementing your core values. Let’s take a look at some strategies and ideas for pouring your values into just a few of these branches.
In our earlier blog post on core values, we mentioned there are several advantages to having every member of your team aware of your company’s core values. It can help to improve office culture and foster positivity and a common drive among employees. It can also help to create a consistent client experience based on these core values, and to hold team members accountable when that experience isn’t met.
To reap these benefits, however, you’ll need to make sure to clearly communicate your brand values to each of your team members. This communication is most impactful when it comes directly from one of your business’s leaders—a CEO or founder, for example—but that won’t always be feasible as your brand grows. However, even the largest companies have found meaningful ways of communicating their brand values to employees. For instance, Netflix uses an easy-to-access “culture deck” (that is, a slideshow) called “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility” to clearly communicate their values to employees, as well as to anyone from the general public who cares to read it.
The deck was so influential that Sheryl Sandberg referred to it as “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”
Note that the design of this presentation is just as important as its content. Although it’s a pioneer in communication of core values, the Netflix culture deck isn’t particularly easy to read or otherwise aesthetically pleasing. If you put care into your presentation’s design, your employees will be more likely to read, remember, and engage with your values. Don’t be afraid to get creative—slide decks and PDFs are useful, but booklets, T-shirts, tote bags, and other swag are even more unique and engaging for your team.
After you communicate your core values to your employees, make sure you revisit them periodically. One great way of doing this is to include questions about your brand values, and how well your business is upholding them, in your regular employee surveys. Your employees also can provide important feedback on how well you’re implementing your values when you include them in your decision making processes.
Although you won’t always need to explicitly state your core values in order to effectively integrate them into your brand, it doesn’t hurt to spell them out on your website. Many businesses include a list of their core values in their website’s “About” or “Home” page. This reinforces the idea that a company’s core values are a public asset, and instills a sense of trust and transparency between you and your audience.
However, there are more subtle ways you can integrate your core values into your website—the layout itself can reflect your core values. Has your brand positioned itself as being efficient and no-nonsense? A single-page design is a great illustrator of that. Do you pride yourself on your thorough attention to detail? A more in-depth sitemap, complete with multiple headers and drop-down menus, can reflect your values in action.
Just as you can subtly implement your brand values into your website design, you can do the same with all aspects of your brand’s design. All the tiny elements that we love here at Miss Details can reflect the values most important to your brand identity, from colors to fonts to logos. If your brand values minimalism, opt for black-and-white designs and san serif fonts. If you’re passionate about creativity and imagination, infuse your marketing materials with bright colors and unexpected patterns.
Your brand’s use of images can also be tailored to your values. Don’t be afraid to leave standard stock images behind—there are plenty of alternatives out there. If community involvement is one of your core values, you may consider hiring a local artist to create illustrations for your branding materials, and then encouraging others to commission their work.
Content is one of the areas where you can most clearly articulate your brand’s core values. Here you can take a direct approach in communicating your brand’s values to your audience—you might consider a series of blog posts, with one diving into each core value; or make your core values one of your common topics in your social media posts.
You can also use storytelling to connect emotionally with your audience—in our earlier blog post on core values, we discussed how oftentimes, your brand’s core values have their foundations in your business’s origin story. Sharing your stories with your audience is a powerful way to connect with your clients and emphasize the human experiences and values behind your business.
In addition to the content itself, your brand’s overall content strategy can be another vehicle for your core values. Think about how your brand values and identity could determine which content platforms you use most frequently. For instance, if your brand is committed to innovation and technological advancements, you’ll need to be prepared to move quickly when new social platforms enter the scene. If consistency and ease are driving forces behind your business, regular email marketing may be your most on-brand strategy.
No matter how you publish your content, it’s important to make sure your voice and tone reflect your core values consistently across platforms. Some amount of difference is acceptable and even strategic, since certain segments of your audience may be more active on some platforms than on others. But if your brand only posts about social issues on Instagram, or if you strike a witty, sarcastic tone on Twitter but a professional, reserved one on Facebook, you’ll risk confusing and alienating your audience.
Cause marketing might be the most obvious method of implementing your core values into your branding. After all, if your business publicly supports certain organizations and champions certain causes, it’s only reasonable for your audience to assume you value the principles behind those causes.
The most effective way to implement cause marketing is to “put your money where your mouth is”—that is, donate funds or offer services to charitable organizations whose work reflects your core values. Over the past decade, for instance, more and more major brands have publicly voiced their commitment to diversity and to LGBTQ+ communities by donating a portion of their sales to nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project during Pride month. Meanwhile, we at Miss Details believe all creatures deserve care and respect—so, we donate 10% of our profits to animal charities, and offer pro bono marketing services to Greyhound nonprofits in the Southwest.
Some brands hesitate to engage in cause marketing for fear of alienating their audience. However, as long as you’re supporting the organizations that truly reflect your core values, cause marketing is an incredibly impactful way to attract the clients who share those values—and to repel those who don’t.
Brand values in action
One of the most common questions we get from clients at Miss Details is “How can I make my brand stand out?” Although there are dozens of positioning strategies available, using your core values to define your brand is one of our personal favorites.
Remember your core values aren’t just a corporate exercise—they’re a critical piece of your brand identity as well as a powerful strategic tool. Once you document your core values, you can evaluate your current branding and marketing assets to see if they accurately represent your values. If not, you might be due for a values-driven refresh.
Not sure whether your current brand strategy makes your values shine? Miss Details can help. Take a look at our Brand Checkup—a self-guided audit for your business that examines some of your brand’s vitals, including core values.
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