As Jon Shapiro described in his recent blog, a brand’s values are key for it to become its best self. For us at COHO, brand values provide the critical foundation to support all other strategic elements of a solid brand charter. Over the course of future blogs, I’ll share COHO’s thinking about the makeup of a brand charter, illustrate how it can be used to help guide brand decisions, and ultimately build equity for your brand.
A “brand charter” is what we call our version of a brand pyramid, house, diamond, or wheel. We use the word “charter”, because to us it reflects the importance of this strategic document as a contract between a brand, its stakeholders, and even its audience.
First, a little more about brand values. We define them as the foundational code by which a brand or an organization lives. Values drive an organization’s culture, priorities, and provide a framework in which decisions are made; influencing all aspects from product development, innovation pipeline, partner relationships, advertising, and ultimately all consumer or customer communication. They act as benchmarks to measure behaviors and performance.
A great example of how the values you choose for your brand help inspire, guide, and measure its success is TOMS, founded by Blake Mycoskie. I could go on and on about this amazing company, but I’ll focus on TOMS brand value of “One for One”. Instead of valuing the product (which many companies focus solely on), TOMS had the vision to think bigger. The brand value of One for One vs. “casual shoes”, enabled them to expand their business beyond shoes into sight, water, safe birth, and even bullying prevention. This thoughtful choice by TOMS enables them to do a lot of good in the world, all while showing that a for-profit business model is sustainable as well.
Another example is a client of ours that happens to be a food brand. As we helped them clarify and sharpen their brand strategy, one of their five new brand values was defined as “Real Ingredients”. That meant going forward there was no room for artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in any of their products. We also suggested the adoption of an “all-natural” claim and defined “real” as ingredients that you could see, recognize, and pronounce. We talked this through with their Marketers, Food Scientists, and Chefs, and teased out the idea that they should only use ingredients you could purchase yourself, a couple aisles over in the grocery store.
“Pardon me. What aisle is the Butylated Hydroxytoluene in?”
This was going to be a big constraint going forward. It could impact cost, sourcing, manufacturing, shelf-life, and more. Yet, the client team and COHO were confident that their brand audience would respect & appreciate their commitment to this level of quality. This belief held true. The brand was recognized internally for driving their divisions’ growth and the company’s.
I’ve shared two examples that help illustrate how brand values can influence the many important business decisions a brand makes everyday. That said, a brand’s values do not necessarily have to be altruistic, healthier for you, or good for the planet. But, we find that when brands try to become the best version of themselves – that they possibly can be – it’s easy to identify values that help set them on the right path.
As we like to say here at COHO, whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a budding entrepreneur, we call upon you to discover & define your brand’s values. While there are other important elements in a solid brand charter, brand values are a great place to start, especially if you’re going to help change the world for the better.