Brand values are the ideals, beliefs, principles, and standards a company adheres to. These are its attitudes and approach toward the world.
Company values distinguish your business from the competition, align you with the right customers, and let customers understand who you are and what you stand for.
Core brand values can also be thought of as a business’ general ethos and code of conduct. The values are demonstrated in how vendors, employees, and customers are treated. They influence choices that will impact the environment, value chain, and public.
Brand values are critical for major enterprises and small businesses. Having clear values is essential to connecting with ethical-minded and conscious customers. It also helps when dealing with customers that have ESG or CSR-related concerns.
Brand Values versus Brand Purpose, Mission, and Goals
Brand values sometimes get confused with other ways to discuss what a company stands for and wants to contribute to the world. Values, purpose, mission, and goals are all intertwined – but these are clear differences and it’s important to distinguish these.
- Brand purpose: the reason the business exists
- Brand mission: the change or difference it aims to make in the world
- Brand goals: milestones towards carrying out the purpose and achieving the mission
- Brand values: the ideals, principles, standards, and ethos adhered to along the way
These all work together and influence each other. The purpose and mission determine the goals to reach. Values guide how those goals are met. The values are an extension of the mission and purpose. The mission can be derived from certain deep-felt values and the purpose can reflect a greater goal.
McKinsey offers a perfect example of how these can be delineated. Its purpose is “to help create positive, enduring change in the world.” Its mission is “to help our clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their performance and to build a great firm that attracts, develops, excites, and retains exceptional people.”
It then outlines three core brand values: “adhere to the highest professional standards,” “improve our clients’ performance significantly,” and “create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people.”
See how these are distinct, but work together in an interconnected manner?
Deciding on your business’ brand values
Dive into your vision, mission, and brand purpose. Revisit your goals, look over your market, and think about your customers. Think about what matters to you along with negative issues you’d like to change. What kind of a difference do you want to make? What will you uphold? What don’t you like about the way things are done? What are you going to change for the market and customers?
You can consider the following areas to help get started:
- Principles that matter
- Ideals the business seeks to live up to
- Standards it adheres to
- Traits, qualities, and emotional aspects it may express
- Your customers’ values, priorities, and needs
Use these topics to start brainstorming a set of core values. You can also look over the following word list for some inspiration.
Brand Value Word Inspiration
Brand Value Creation
Found a few key values or themes? A brand value can be one word, a short statement, or summed up into a motto. So, you can either stop there or continue to expand.
You can also follow McKinsey’s example of describing a few core values and then breaking those down further.
Here are two tools that can help to flesh things out:
Making Brand Values Clear
Brand values are infused throughout a company – informing, shaping, guiding, and influencing everything that happens. Messaging, operations, supply chain choices, HR practices, employee management, customer relations, stakeholder engagement, brand strategy, and other corporate activities must be guided by, conform to, and reflect these values.
It’s communicated through the messaging’s tone, word choices, copy, and phrases. It guides decision-making on internal operations and supply chain management. It sets standards and policies on how employees, customers, and other stakeholders are treated.
Company culture reflects core values and employees live them out every day. Consumers experience it when interacting with the brand, leading to deeper levels of connection, market affinity, and customer loyalty.
Advertising must adhere to core brand values and campaigns can be done purely to communicate and promote them. Brand values can also be demonstrated in the community through social initiatives and other charitable endeavors.
These are underlying principles that might be invisible to consumers, yet they always remain tangible.
Standing out from other businesses with your values
Your company values must set it apart from the competition and give it a unique place in the customers’ minds.
That might seem difficult. Certain core brand values might be near-universal, especially within a particular industry or market. You and a competitor could both value an ethical supply chain, carbon-neutral operations, reliability, genuine products, or excellent customer service.
However, these values must always be expressed differently than any competitors and communicated in a way that’s distinct.
That’s fine. Just make sure that your brand values are expressed differently than any competitors.
Dive back into your brand purpose, mission, and overall company story. Your unique slant may be in the why or the how. Think about what drives you and what’s different about the way you put values into action.
Let customers experience this across all brand dimensions – that means the messaging, interactions, and way you relate to them.
Strong Brand Values in Action
We looked at a written example of brand values, courtesy of McKinsey. But that’s just a statement and guide to its principles. Now here’s an example of how one company puts its brand purpose into action, with endeavors reaching out to the wider community.
Selena Gomez’s makeup brand, Rare Beauty, is centered around mental well-being. Its core brand values are supporting self-love, self-acceptance, and mental health. Its brand purpose is to help people access mental health services.
The company carries out this mission through its “Rare Impact Fund” foundation and by supporting other philanthropic ventures. 1% of every Rare Beauty sale is donated to the Rare Impact Fund and additional funds are raised as needed or for individual campaigns.
Some of its fundraising promotions have taken place over the holidays. Rare Beauty runs customized Shop for Good campaigns aimed at raising money and elevating community awareness. Their campaigns use two donation mechanisms to do so: Donate for Discount and Round-Up with Custom Donations.
Donate for Discount offered shoppers 10% off if they donated $5. Round-Up with Custom Donations let Rare Beauty customers round up their purchase total to a certain amount and give the difference to Rare Impact.
These charity pushes are highly successful. Rare Beauty’s Shop for Good promotions fire up its loyal customers and engage people outside its base. The Rare Beauty and its Impact Fund boost awareness, spark conversations, and support mental health access.
The company also benefits and sees an increase in average order value (AOV).
One of its Donate for Discount campaigns ran between Thanksgiving and GivingTuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) of 2020. 35.5% of shoppers gave a donation and Rare’s average order value was raised by 34%. After the campaign ended, 17% of Rare customers continued to offer a donation without being further incentivized. Its AOV surge continued, with a 14.63% lift through the Spring of 2021.
Results like this are consistent for Rare Beauty and have become a key part of integrating values and brand strategy.
The Rare Impact Fund is a three-times award–nominated corporate social impact initiative. Its ongoing Shop for Good donations provides the organization with steady, reliable funding, while the seasonal campaigns are effective ways to stir up consumer contributions and awareness at critical moments.