Why you need brand values (and how to create them)
Building a brand that lasts requires you to go beyond just selling a great product or service. To create staying power, businesses have to build meaningful relationships with those they serve.
Brand values play an important role in establishing those deeper connections that turn one-time customers into lifelong brand advocates.
A brand's values get at the heart of who the business is, what they care about most, and how they work. Identifying these core values and communicating them to your audience is vital, yet so many businesses don't take the time to define and document these values—or they don't dig deep enough when creating their company brand values.
Let's dive into what brand values are, why they're important, and how you can create your own. We'll also give you a few examples of core values from popular brands that will inspire you to dig deep and discover those unique to your business.
What are brand values?
Brand values are the beliefs that drive your company. They're fundamental to your branding and help guide every part of your business from the stories you tell through your messaging to the important decisions you make regarding your company's future — strong brand values can even help hook prospects during the brutal task of sales cold calls.
Ultimately, brand values shape a company's culture and community of customers and fans. These core values should be meaningful in a way that resonates with both consumers and employees. Since these values help set businesses apart from their competition, they should also be a unique, memorable reflection of what's at the heart of the company.
Most of all, great brand values are sincere and clear. Successful brands choose values that truly reflect the way they think and operate. Being clear about these values and where they are applied through the business gives both customers and team members a better understanding of how a brand lives its values.
As you dive into creating your own brand values, note that these values are not about your product or service. It's easy to say that "quality" is a core value if you make a valuable physical product. But just making the tastiest taco in Texas or the best CRM on the market doesn't build customer loyalty.
Why brand values are important
Brand values are an important part of a company's overall brand identity. The aspects of your visual (logo, colors, and fonts) and verbal (voice, tone, and personality) brand identity play an important role in attracting your target audience.
However, it's the core brand values that allow your business to make the deeper connections that lead to the type of brand loyalty that attracts lifelong customers.
Your core brand values have a significant impact on how consumers view your brand. Consumers want to align themselves with brands that share their values. That's why it's so important to not only clearly define your brand values but also communicate them to consumers.
For instance, one of Kashi's values is “a responsibility to people and the planet.” They demonstrate this in their "plant-first" products and dedication to sustainable and ethical farming. Their approach to food appeals to consumers who also value these things—and the company makes its focus on sustainability clear across its website and in its mission statement: "Nourish People and Planet with Plant-Powered Passion."
In addition to helping a company connect with its customers on a deeper level and inspire brand loyalty, brand values are also beneficial to business owners as they support company culture.
Company values guide businesses in decision-making, and they also attract team members whose values align with the company. Employees who believe in and are dedicated to the values of the company they work for are more likely to be engaged and invested in its success.
How to create and document your brand values
No one really "creates" their brand values. Typically, the values are already there—it’s your job to unearth what they are and document them in your brand strategy so everyone is on the same page.
Here are the steps you can take to create and document your brand values:
Brainstorm with your team. Bring everyone together to brainstorm which values truly represent your brand. Get started by asking questions like, "What does this company value most?", "What do we stand for?", and "What does the way we work say about us?"
Consider the customer experience. What does the experience you provide for customers say about your business? For instance, your business may "tell it like it is" in your marketing, showing your dedication to transparency or honesty. Or maybe your team is obsessed with resolving help desk tickets in 24 hours, which demonstrates timeliness.
Identify values that resonate with your target audience. Which of the values you've identified resonate with your consumer audience most? While you may find that 10 or 15 values apply to your business, you'll want to really focus on those that resonate with your audience.
Narrow down your list. Once you have a list of potential brand values, it's time to narrow it down to three to five. Having too many values complicates the process of demonstrating these values through your brand story and messaging. Choose the ones that truly reflect what your company stands for.
Add your values to your brand guidelines. Just identifying your brand values isn't enough! You've got to document them so everyone on your team is on the same page. We suggest adding them to your brand guidelines where your employees can visit them frequently to ensure their work is aligned with these values.
Be consistent. Once you've documented your company values, you'll want to make sure that you are consistent with these values across assets and experiences. For example, your brand mission statement should reflect these values—the same applies to any brand experience you build.
3 examples of successful brand values
While it may be easy to understand the visual and messaging parts of a brand strategy, brand values are a little less tangible. So we've put together a list of brands that do an excellent job of communicating and demonstrating their brand values across the business.
IKEA is a brand that has built a community of life-long customers, in part by living its company values. Moreover, you don't have to guess what those values are because IKEA states them clearly on their website, dedicating a whole page to IKEA culture and values.
The eight IKEA key values are togetherness; caring for people and planet; cost-consciousness; simplicity; renew and improve; different with meaning; give and take responsibility; and lead by example. These values are not only apparent in the way the company operates but also in the products themselves. Consumers love IKEA for its unique design, affordability, and simplicity.
Part of their dedication to caring for people and planet is a focus on sustainability. By 2030, the company hopes to become climate positive and create a positive social impact for everyone in the IKEA value chain. The brand is committed to creating products that inspire and support people in living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
2. Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's is another company that's built a community of loyal fans through demonstrating its values in its messaging and operations. In fact, Ben & Jerry's is so dedicated to its values that "Values" is included as a button on the main homepage navigation—front and center for all to see!
Ben & Jerry's strives to "use ice cream to change the world," and its values are a big part of that promise. At every level of their business, Ben & Jerry's is guided by its core values: human rights and dignity; social and economic justice; and environmental protection, restoration, and regeneration.
Ben & Jerry's is unique in that it has three different mission statements, each driven by its values. They have a product mission ("to make fantastic ice cream—for its own sake"), an economic mission ("to manage the company for sustainable financial growth"), and a social mission ("to use the company in innovative ways to make the world a better place").
3. Virgin Media
You can't talk about company values without talking about Virgin Media. Virgin is a commonly used example of successful brand values because its core values are so clearly laid out and aligned with the company's bold, edgy branding.
In the true spirit of Virgin, its brand values are short, clever, and interesting:
Red Hot Relevance
These company values are communicated both in Virgin's client-facing messaging and in its messaging to potential employees and the current team members. This is a great example of a brand that not only wants to build a community of raving fans but also bring together a team of people who are aligned with the company's mission.
Get started documenting your company values
Now that you know what brand values are, why they're important, and how to create and document them for your business, it's time to put everything you've learned into practice. Take your time while discovering your core values and dig deep to ensure the values you choose really get to the heart of your business.
Including your values as part of your brand guidelines is a great place to start when documenting these values. While brand values aren’t always physical or digital assets, Air can help you manage your values and maintain consistency across teams — because making creativity easy, fast, and fun is a part of Air's brand values and mission.