Leveraging core values for stronger branding
Core values are the very fundamental beliefs of an organization — its highest priorities and deeply-held ideals. They serve to ground companies in their identity and purpose.
Establishing a clear set of core values and sticking to them helps to create a strong brand, attracting the support and loyalty of customers who care about those same principles.
Core values also help companies attract and retain employees who align with those values. And employees who believe in a brand’s mission and ideals are more likely to remain loyal and provide top-notch customer service — important elements that contribute to sustained business growth and success.
Having a clear set of values can also guide decision-making, help resolve conflicts, and provide a framework for measuring and assessing performance. Pre-defined values and principles can also help a company to navigate ethical dilemmas and maintain a positive reputation.
Branding that focuses on core values is common when assessing some of the world’s biggest brands, and that’s not coincidental.
Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee house, built its brand largely on its inclusive culture and core values. According to Starbucks, its goal has always been to create spaces that are warm and where people feel like they belong. And, while the coffee is good, it’s the atmosphere that has helped grow the company to where it is today — with more than 32,000 locations in 80 countries.
Moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of the right core values and a steadfast commitment to them.
But what if your company’s core values aren’t popular in a conservative society?
While it can be intimidating to go against the grain, taking a firm stance and communicating brand values that don’t align with a conservative society can be a bold choice that pays off.
Nike’s 2018 decision to make NFL quarterback-turned-activist, Colin Kaepernick, the face of its advertising campaign was a controversial one. Kaepernick, after sitting through the playing U.S. national anthem before a 2016 NFL preseason game, quickly came to be viewed as the human embodiment of a brewing culture war in the U.S.. His personal act of protest followed several Black Lives Matter demonstrations to protest repeated instances of police brutality against black people. The issue was already one that polarized the country., but Kaepernick’s decision to sit, and later kneel, for the anthem on a regular basis made him a lightning rod for claims of disrespect for the flag and the U.S. at large.
The fallout ultimately led to a premature end to Kaepernick’s NFL career, as teams viewed him as a considerable reputational risk. So, Nike’s decision months later to endorse Kaepernick — and his message — was not made lightly. In fact, it was reported that it was made only because it was relentlessly pushed by Nike’s longtime advertising firm. But it was a decision that paid off. Nike’s stock soared to an all-time high following the campaign unveiling, and it added some $6 billion to its market value.
The campaign established Nike as a pacesetting brand — one in tune with calls for social justice and the concerns of minority populations and committed to the values that matter to young generations.
Remember, the key role of core values is to reflect and communicate to the world the beliefs and principles of the leadership and the organization. Those values should be determined by the moral and ethical code and the vision of decision-makers within the company, not external factors like societal norms or expectations. Being authentic, transparent, and consistent when communicating values and beliefs helps brands build trust and credibility with employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
But while a company’s values should be determined internally, they should never be discriminatory or demeaning to members of society. Communication, though it should be authentic and true to core values, must also be respectful.
And though it’s ultimately up to a company’s executives to determine the perception they wish to establish, sometimes brands will face consequences when deciding to firmly support values that don’t resonate with large portions of the community. But it’s always worth considering that the reward might be worth the risk.
The truth is that sometimes figuring out the best way to own and leverage core values can be tricky. So, brands should consult with experts in public relations, marketing, or other relevant fields to help craft the best communication strategy from the start to avoid potential fallout.
How does a communication strategy help?
A communication strategy helps organizations craft a brand that is recognizable and that resonates as intended and with the right audience.
Firstly, a good communication strategy helps to ensure that the organization's message is clear and consistent across all channels of communication. This can help to build trust and credibility with employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
Second, it helps to target specific audiences and tailor the message to their needs and interests. This can help to increase the effectiveness of the communication and the likelihood that it will be well-received.
Third, a communication strategy can help an organization anticipate and respond to any potential issues or crises that may arise. This can help to minimize any negative impact on the organization's reputation and maintain a positive relationship with stakeholders.
Fourth, a communication strategy also helps to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the communication efforts and make necessary adjustments. This can help to continuously improve the organization's communication efforts.
Having a clear and effective communication strategy helps a company establish its guiding values and beliefs and communicate them effectively, both internally and externally. This means companies can leverage their values to build an authentic internal and external brand, potentially leading to more engaged employees that provide better service to customers. Better service can lead to an increase in customer lifetime value and, ultimately, more company growth.