Creating a compelling, proprietary impression of your organization, program, product, or service is the overarching job of your communications efforts. A brand lives apart from any one specific entity it represents. It endures. It adds value. Yet, the components that govern the quality of the impression you seek extend well beyond the boundaries of your logo, theme line, social media posts, and paid messages.
The essence of your brand originates in the values of your organization.
Core values define your culture. They are a reflection of how you wish to deliver your mission and achieve your vision. They are in the oxygen you, your employees, and your key stakeholders breathe.
Increasingly, consumers are drawn to organizations with core values that demonstrate a sincere commitment to interests well beyond the end user’s experience with your product or service. Findings from a 2014 Nielsen global survey reveal that approximately 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products that are responsible and sustainable, up 5 percent from the prior year.
More importantly, perhaps, is the keen ability of consumers and other important stakeholder groups to scrutinize your brand values through all aspects of available evidence. From the paper used in packaging to the benefits employees accrue; from the product assortment in a store to the vehicles used for delivery. Branding is no longer simply about your message. It’s about your actions.
Examples of consumer allegiance to companies and products that honor high-minded brand values – organizations that “walk the talk” – are everywhere:
- One of the best examples of is Wegmans grocery stores. Wegmans’ customers typically fall on the spectrum between enthusiastic supporter and zealot. (I regularly drive nearly 45 minutes to find a Wegmans rather than shop at a grocery store less than a mile from home.) Some shoppers are so smitten they travel hundreds of miles to attend new store openings. Wegmans media relations director, Jo Natale, describes the store’s core values the following way, “We empower our people to make decisions that improve their work and benefit our customers and our company.” Employee empowerment translates into customer delight countless times daily at every Wegmans location, and has landed them on the Fortune list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year since 1998.
- Honey Nut Cheerios brand values extend to stakeholders well beyond its customers and employees – the bees. General Mills Canada took a stance on addressing unstable bee populations in a new purpose-based marketing campaign. The company removed its Buzz icon from packaging and produced an integrated campaign that issued a call to plant 35 million wildflowers – one for every person in Canada.
In short, actions benefitting many become value for all. Understanding how to connect an organization’s vision, mission, and values with a set of business practices and communications programs is critical. Consumers and other key audiences look for these connections. Walking the talk, and then talking honestly and sincerely about the journey, is the path to success.