Why establishing brand values is an essential step in your branding journey

How do you build a brand? Sure, there’s the obvious: perfecting the products or services you sell.

Establishing brand values
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, September 22, 2021

Then there's picking out a name that represents the business. Plus creating brand design guidelines and choosing logos, colours, and fonts; researching your target audience and working out how to reach and communicate with them. 

Another key element to building a brand is establishing a brand personality that will shape your tone of voice, the content you create, and the marketing materials that you use.

There’s no denying that all of these steps are vital to building your brand, and they’re necessary assets for your overall marketing strategy. But a solid brand focuses on more than just the aesthetic or personal attributes of your business. 

By digging a little deeper and establishing core, unchanging brand values, you can grow your business, build client trust, and improve your overarching brand strategy. 

What are brand values?

Brand values are the core principles behind your business. They are the unwavering beliefs that build the foundation of your brand.  As such, they will be the basis for the decisions that you make internally, as well the way that the brand is represented externally. Your brand values are the ethos behind your company, and will likely have a huge influence on other aspects of your brand, like it’s personality, processes, and overall mission. 

Like all things, brand values can change, developing slightly over time as your business grows and progresses, particularly if you eventually elect to rebrand. But even if your company goes from a tiny start-up to a global business, the values you adopt in its earliest stages will likely still be at least some of the core beliefs you work by. 

It’s important to choose values that for the most part remain timeless, relevant and can withstand fundamental changes to your business or sector. Some of your initial brand values, for example, could actually influence the shape of a future rebrand. While you shouldn’t be afraid to alter or even create new brand values later, your initial brand values shouldn’t be seen as placeholders - you should establish beliefs that you truly care about. 

Why do brand values matter?

Brand values are important because they add a layer of depth to your business. Not only that, but they can be fundamental in the overall growth of your brand.

Having a set of brand values you abide by can help to make informed business decisions that can drive the progress of your brand. This could include the partnerships you make, the people that you employ, and even the clients that you take on.

Brand values hold you accountable, both to your employees and their level of satisfaction and morale, but also to your clients. A brand value is essentially a promise to operate in a certain way, to a specific standard. When you uphold that promise, you boost the level of trust between both clients and staff members.

They help you to make choices that’ll benefit the business as a whole and everybody.

For example, if your brand values include a promise to be an eco-friendly company, your clients trust you to uphold that by making environmentally conscious decisions. 

If you then entered a partnership with a company who were notorious for having poor sustainability practices, that could damage your reputation with clients who built a relationship with you based on that particular brand value.

How do you establish your own set of brand values?

If you want to ensure your brand values stand the test of time and company progression, it’s important to make sure that you’re choosing brand values that actually represent your company. Certain words or phrases may sound great on paper - but are you going to commit to them long term?

There are a number of factors you can consider when establishing your own brand values.

Personal values

As a CEO or founder, one good way to start is by incorporating some of your own unshakeable values that you want to incorporate into your brand’s mission. 

Personal values can be beneficial for making business decisions like partnerships  (do the company/people you are partnering with share your core beliefs?) or even hiring decisions (does this candidate match your values and will they use those values to drive their role in the company?). 

Make sure these values are clear-cut, not generic or fluffy. Before adding something as a value, consider what it actually means.

Is it succinct and clear? Is it easy to remember? Is it genuinely what you believe, and will you commit to it as your brand grows? 

Audience values

Who are your target audience? What are their values? How do they align with your own?

Why does this matter? Because clients simply expect more from the brands that they work with. What’s more, the competition for businesses in pretty much every sector have multiplied in recent years; if a client’s values don’t align with yours, they don’t have to work with you. 

People these days are more likely to pick brands whose values align with their own. By understanding the brand values that matter to your target audience, you can connect with them on a deeper level, increasing engagement and most importantly, building brand loyalty.

That said, remember our previous point; your brand values are supposed to be something that you believe in, and commit to. If you adopt certain values just to gain custom and then make business decisions that go against them, you are very likely to damage that trust and lose business. Researching your target audience is a helpful way to establish values that resonate with both parties, but it shouldn’t be deceitful.

Competitor values

No matter what industry you’re operating in, you’re more than likely facing a lot of competition. The market for pretty much everything is oversaturated. How do you stand out?

We mentioned that audience beliefs are a good starting point for brand values, and they are. So, because your brand values can set you apart in the eyes of a consumer, you should look at the values of your competitors, too. 

Not to emulate them, but to think about what sets you apart. Instead of picking a generic set of values that don’t mean much, think of the values your brand holds that not only differentiate it within your sector, but that make it a cut above the rest.

What is missing in your sector? How are you solving your clients’ pain points? 

Excellent relationship building and communication? A higher standard of work? Innovation and the desire to bring new solutions on the table?

These can all be incorporated into your brand values.

By establishing brand values, you can add depth to your brand, make decisions that make sense and most importantly, build the client trust and brand loyalty that will keep your business growing. 

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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