Why They Are Key to Differentiating Your Brand


Did you know that 80% of consumers forget branded content after 3 days?

Chew on that for a sec. Now think of all the content and assets your company has been releasing into the wild over the past few years. Are they leaving a lasting impression on your target audience? Are they resonating enough to make your brand top of mind?

In all fairness, brand awareness can be tricky to measure. So here’s a litmus test for you: Are your company’s visuals, messages, and actions consistently communicating your brand’s core values?

And does your company have well-defined core brand values to begin with?

If not, chances are the vast majority of your target audience has already forgotten about your brand.

You see, core brand values matter a great deal.

Core Values: What They Are And Why They Matter

Your core brand values are the beliefs that you, as a company, stand for. They serve as the compass that guides your brand story, actions, behaviors, and decision-making process. 

There will be times in business when you have to make tough choices. But when you have core values that constantly remind you of what’s important to your business and to the people you’re serving, making the right decision becomes an effortless task. To top it off, you can live with those choices knowing that they’re informed by values that are aligned with your brand’s overarching mission and vision.

Core brand values matter because they influence how consumers view your brand, which is important considering that consumers are more likely to support a brand whose core values align with their own. The same is true for employees, as well. In fact, multiple studies show that shared core values have a significant impact on employee engagement.

And the clincher? Building your brand around your core values allows you to grow a business that you can be proud of and be passionate about. And because those core values reflect you and your company, it becomes much easier to stay true to yourself. And in an era where consumer trust is at an all-time low, it pays to have a core set of values that helps you maintain brand authenticity.

The Benefits of Core Values

First off, it bears noting that your brand’s core values are not about your products and services alone. Just because you serve the best enchilada in town doesn’t mean you’ll earn your target audience’s undying loyalty. In the same vein, offering the most intuitive SaaS solution in the B2B market provides no guarantee that your subscribers will renew their subscription once it’s up.

If you want your consumer base to keep coming back for more, you must connect with them on a deeper level. 

Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman will agree. In his groundbreaking book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, Zaltman writes that 95% of purchasing decisions are triggered by the unconscious—which is precisely the place where our core values operate.

American Express is a good example of a company that wears its values on its sleeve. By consistently delivering exemplary customer service on all fronts, the credit card company stays true to its brand mission: “Provide the world’s best customer experience every day.”

So, how exactly did American Express pull it off? Being clear about the company’s mission and core values was a step in the right direction. But ultimately, it’s because of how effectively they enforced and implemented those values in the company’s operations, infrastructure, and culture.

“You can’t deliver great service unless your employees are engaged, motivated and feel personally responsible for bringing your brand to life,” says Raymond Joabar, the executive vice president at Amex. “One way we engage our employees is by encouraging them to offer up ideas to improve how we work,” 

“In each interaction, we want to keep things simple and easy, know and value our customers, and own and solve their issues.  We have a wealth of transactional information from our closed-loop network and we use those insights to deliver increasingly personalized service with memory.”

Your brand’s core values not only give your company a unique brand identity that differentiates it from competitors, but they also form the narrative that propels your brand storytelling. By communicating your values through your visuals (logos, typography, color motif, etc.) and messaging (tone of voice and brand identity), you can present your brand to the world in a way that resonates and forms deep connections with your customer base.

When you walk into a Starbucks establishment, you get a “feeling” that is unique to that brand, right? Sure, the coffee is terrific,  but at the end of the day what you remember most is the “culture of warmth and belonging” that embody the brand. 

Everything about the brand —the logo, color motif, their ad copy, customer interactions—adds to that overall experience. And what makes the experience even more powerful and resonant are the core values that bring all those brand elements together.

To sum up, defining and establishing your brand values helps you:

  • Make decisions that align with your brand’s mission
  • Boost employee engagement
  • Make your brand memorable
  • Build a deeper connection with your audience
  • Keep your brand stay authentic
  • Boost brand consistency
  • Inspire brand loyalty

Ways to Discover Your Company’s Core Values

The operative word here is “discover.” After all, you don’t create your company’s core values. They already exist. But you need to discover and define them before they can be of use to you and your brand.

So, what are your (or your company’s) core values? Here are 4 ways to discover them:

  • Do a brainstorm session. Round up your team and ask them to write down the top five values that represent your brand. You can also ask open-ended questions like: “What do we value most as a company?” “What does our company stand for?”
  • Draw from negative experiences. Think of a terrible experience you’ve had with a brand (ideally a competitor). Ask yourself, “How did that experience make you feel?” And: “What can your company do to ensure that you don’t deliver that same experience to your target consumers?”
  • Reflect on the things you’re already doing. Think about the things you’re already doing and ask yourself why you’re doing them. Do you go out of your way to make sure that your products are sent to your customers in less than 24 hours? That’s probably because you value timeliness. If you’re using only all-natural ingredients when manufacturing your skincare products, what does that tell about you? 
  • Look to brands you love for inspiration. Make a list of brands you love and think about what makes them resonate with you. For each company or brand, write down the qualities that make them special. Then identify the consistent themes and qualities that emerge and then use them as guideposts for developing your values.

Before you do any of the above, make sure that you clear away any preconceived notions you might have about yourself and your brand. It might also be a great idea to set some time aside for self-reflection. Deviating from the regular pattern of your day-to-day can help you break away from your personal biases, which can help bring your true core values into stark relief. 

Best Practices in Documenting Your Brand’s Core Values

Once you’ve decided what your target core values are (five would be ideal), your next step is to document and define them.

Here are essential documentation tips to make your core values have the intended effect:

  • Use action words. Your core values are not just pretty words on a piece of paper or a website. If you want your company’s employees to live by those values, document them in a way that will prompt action. Words like “diversity,” “innovation,” and “integrity” aren’t enough. Use action words like “respect,” “strive,” and “recognize” instead.
  • Use vernacular language. Short, punchy phrases are easier to recall and are more likely to trigger a response. The language used should also mirror how your employees talk.
  • Make them unique to your brand. Every company is unique, and your core values should reflect that uniqueness. If you want your brand to differentiate itself from competitors, draw from your brand’s DNA when you’re documenting and defining your core values.
  • Be specific. Don’t leave any room for vagueness. Go straight to the point and make sure no word is wasted.

Final Word

Your brand’s core values are at the heart of what your company is and does. They help you frame your brand story in a way that resonates with your target consumers. Core values matter because they serve as a reminder that behind every brand or business is a human being. 

Time to give your brand a human face. What are your core values?