Branding is more than a word that you throw at clients or managers because you are the marketing expert. It’s a real concept that exists in the marketplace. Consumers respond to branding whether they know, or admit, it or not. Your brand is a personality; it is a set of ideas that embodies itself in your products or services. It can and should be traced directly back to a company’s core values.
Advertising campaigns and promotions can help change the image of a brand, but if the company exists and operates by one set of core values and advertises that their brand exists and operates by another, the marketplace will eventually catch on. Once they do, you will have effectively branded the company….as being incompetent or–worse yet–dishonest. Core values should be taken into account when you want to work on branding. Resources are wasted when a company dumps money into a campaign depicting itself as progressive…and then gets cited by the media for making campaign contributions or funding lobbyists with contradictory platforms. There is nothing wrong with being yourself and, let’s face it, your core values are a big part of who you are. This holds true for individual people and for brands.
So start by deciding what your core values actually are. It’s easy to put together a superficial list of positive statements, but if you are wise, you won’t. If you are drawing a blank, look at your business model. How do you intend to do what you do? Do you focus on efficiency, innovation, customer service? Once you have decided how you intend to operate in a way that is both profitable and pleasing to customers, you are well on your way to identifying your core values. And once you have the list, you’re ready to start branding effectively.
Let’s illustrate the point with an example. Zappos is an online clothing retailer that began with selling only shoes. Currently the company is a subsidiary of Amazon and is a profitable and well branded member of Amazon’s online family. Their core values are stated as follows:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
As you can see, fun is one of their core values. They brand themselves as fun in quirky ways. If you go their website and scroll to the bottom you find a hyperlink marked “Don’t Ever Click Here.” That link redirects visitors to a Youtube page featuring a puppet music video. That’s right: Zappos values fun enough to redirect potential customers away from their retail page and lead them to a musical (and fun) puppet show. If you want to know what Zappos is all about they have put together a musical number where their employees sing their way through the corporate office.
On top of fun the company says it values humility and “Wowing” customers through service. This core value is substantiated by the awards that they have received including the first ever StellaService award for e-commerce. If the employees did not remain humble, communicate openly and honestly (core value #6) and “wow” customers, the company wouldn’t have earned so many awards, especially not for customer service. Happy customers have perceptions about a company and, like it or not, customer perception drives branding.
If you are interested in finding out more about core values and branding or would like to hear from an actual expert, the founder of Zappos will be speaking in Tampa. The event is set for October 18, 2010 and is being hosted by The American Marketing Association of Tampa Bay as well as Ballywho Interactive.