In the ‘90’s, we talked a lot about whether or not character matters. If you’re wondering, your values are the most real thing in the world, informing how you live out your brand values. Here’s why values — and character — both matter. To put it another way, values inform character. And character pays the bills.
Understanding Brand Value(s)
Brand allows you to express your personality and character. It also reflects what people think about you, based on your past performance. But if you don’t understand how it works, it’s just another buzzword. And if you don’t know if you have the heart for living out your brand, you’ll waste your time trying to create authentic values when there’s no authenticity or you haven’t decided what you’re authentic about yet. Incidentally, this is a great reason to get with an experienced brand person who can help parse relevant, valuable values from those that are irrelevant to customers.
Brand value can be used in two ways: sell your brand for parts or build it with every interaction:
You can sell it for parts. You can use your good reputation to slap your name on products or services that can’t fulfill your brand promise. You’ll make a little money in the short term until people find out what you’re doing. Then your brand will become a commodity, eroded with each broken promise.
Before we go further, let’s define “commodity.” In branding, we call something a “commodity” when it’s a product or service that’s interchangeable with anything else by that name. Most people consider gas for their car as a commodity. They’re just looking for the lowest price. Brands build value by building something special into their products and services, so they demand a premium in the market because their specialness is worth more money to customers.
You can build it with every interaction. The second way to use your brand involves selling. With each interaction, you build value — that special value that your brand promises — with each and every transaction. In this way, your brand is growing with each transaction.
At Resound, we work hard to nail down values that actually exist in the company. After all, you’re going to have to own these and live them out in your business. If they’re not dear to you, this will be a slog.
Not everyone has the heart for it. How do you know if you’re one of these people? How do you know if you’re able to execute your brand? Here’s the test.
But before we get to that, remember, there are a few things that go into values that makes them powerful, so that your character consistently shows, even when you’re not there and other people, like employees, are speaking for you. For a utilitarian approach on this, to see some of the results you can get, check out this Forbes.com article.
The test: The maturity of your values — the extent to which you can talk about and live out your values in your business — informs the character of your business. It involves discussion, demonstration of support and winning others in your organization over to your way of thinking.
- Discussion and engagement. It all starts in the minds of the people. If it doesn’t exist there, it won’t be lived out.
- Demonstrated adherence to the values, even when it costs you money.
- Convincing others of your values as they relate to your business.
The last bullet warrants further explanation:
- “As they relate to your business:” Chick-Fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy has said that he regrets publicly stating his opposition to homosexual marriage because it didn’t have to do with the restaurant and its operation. So take your stand, but don’t get tied up in something that has nothing to do with your business. It could be a distraction.
- “Convincing others.” Why not relate it to your business? Once that’s settled, why not make it a part of your mission to do something that doesn’t necessarily help you directly, but shows your commitment to your values…and invites others to participate.
So your culture is what happens when a set of values becomes real in an organization. Personality traits emerge from that. You choose whether you have a bureaucracy or a creative culture where people are happy. Culture, in other words, means values in action.
3 Ways Brand Values Build Your Business:
Now that we understand the test, and have the prerequisites out of the way, let’s talk about how the values really start to impact your business through alignment, initiative, and trust.
Values give everyone in your company a north star, so they can start to see purpose that’s bigger than themselves. Brand alignment means that decisions made at every level correspond to your values, including how to evaluate new opportunities, new partnerships, new market needs, and new staff members, for instance.
What if your top-level employees were completely aligned with your brand? In other words, what if they generated ideas that were built on your brand values, and began executing those values through new, money-making initiatives, harnessing the competence that those values bring?
- Internal initiatives example: An organization that stresses leadership development might find that those values transfer to instilling leadership principles in salespeople as well, helping them to be better servant-leaders in the sales process.
- You might then share your process in a book and develop speaking opportunities.
What if charitable initiatives were made with organizations that most closely align with who you are as an organization, further cementing you in the minds of everyone around as an organization that cares about that value enough to engage in living it out and partner with others?
For example, you care about developing leaders, which helps inside your company and benefits everyone around you. So maybe you decide to financially support a prep school that’s preparing people who share your values to lead.
What if you cared enough to stay acquainted with the philosophy of those values enough to stay curious about new business opportunities that can and should only be filled by someone with your values and commitment?
You then see a business opportunity to work with a university to share your built-out leadership process with them for a profit. You likely would not have thought of that had you not committed to that goal and the community of people who care about that goal.
Improved courage at every level, since employees are now able to be convinced of where they stand, they know their fit and their place, and they know the company.
- What would you give to have employees that knew their jobs, knew your values and felt the power to live them out every day in the name of the company?
- What if employees knew when to give something away to a customer or employee or spend money in some other way because they know they’ll receive backup.
- What if employees knew how to handle each job and make suggestions for how to further align their daily efforts, including processes and interactions, to the brand?
Better relationships that happen faster. Customers find it easier to understand who they’re dealing with, which builds trust and compresses the sales cycle.
- What if you made sense to customers almost the first time they saw your logo and tagline or message?
- What if your brand clicked with people right off the bat, or at least were informative enough to get them curious?
- What if, immediately after their first interactions with you, they were confident enough to start a conversation and quickly move through the sales cycle, simply because there was nothing weird…everything about you aligned, from your brand promise, down to the daily interactions they have with you?
A Reputation for Good Character is Worth More than Gold
It’s been said that a good name is better than riches. Resound is a member of Conscious Capitalism. Groups like this can encourage all of us and help us get started in leadership in our industry, creating more power behind your character and coordinating it with the business world. But as powerful as that is, what’s more important is that your character emerges from you and those working closely with you. Without your own ownership of those values, they will always be for sale when times get tough. And if they’re for sale, you don’t really own them.
For help, check out our brand workshops and let our thinking mingle with your values and watch something beautiful and concrete develop.