I was going to title this post “make your values your brand” but then I thought I should go back a step and talk about what values – and whose values – I’m talking about.
The reality is that too many organisations of all sizes fall into the trap of trying to be something they aren’t (or at least aren’t yet) because they think that’s what customers want. Sometimes it’s an innocent mistake based on a vision to be the best they can, but at other times it is a cynical attempt to buy recognition and respect by telling people how they should think of them rather than showing them.
I’ve had first-hand experience of this first category, and one case in particular was instructive. We had done some market research showing that the company’s greatest asset was a reputation for reliability – a reputation many businesses would die for – but one of the bosses wasn’t quite happy. He didn’t want to be reliable, which he saw as dull. He wanted to be “innovative and cutting edge”.
Related Article: Don’t take risk – be consistent
So I asked him what that actually meant and what it would require to earn that reputation. Did he have the resources to do it? If so, was this the best use of those resources? And would this really make customers choose him over competitors?
The discussion that followed led us to the conclusion that customers wanted his business to be across the latest ideas and technology, but they didn’t have to invent them. Not everyone has to keep innovating like Apple to stay ahead. And the risk was that investing too much effort in innovation may affect their performance and hard-won reliability tag. Cutting edge can be bleeding edge if you don’t get it right.
As I said, at least situations such as these are based on good intentions. Staff, customers and the market may question the boss’s ideas, but not his or her integrity. Real problems occur when management just writes down a set of values and expects to get everyone to live by them and convince others it is legit.
This is a common problem in larger companies working in a very competitive environment, particularly if it is the kind of business or industry where management tends to turn over every two or three years.
Related Article: How staff can build your brand
Management, marketing and product development can change but values are usually locked in because they are based on reality. And that’s why you should build your brand on them.
Have any questions regarding your brand values? Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org