I’m a bit Chaotic Good.
Most of you reading this are going to be utterly bemused by that statement, though I’d wager a small number are nodding sagely and know exactly what I mean.
Chaotic Good is an alignment in Dungeons & Dragons. The alignment system is a way of determining a character’s moral compass. It runs from Good to Evil in one axis and Lawful to Chaotic in the other. A character who is Lawful Good is a paragon of upholding the law and doing good deeds within it’s boundaries. Conversely, a Chaotic Evil character does whatever they want and doesn’t care how their actions affect others. So a Chaotic Good character would do what is right, despite the law or the way things have been done before.
It is essentially a way for players to easily understand their character’s motivations. This allows them to more readily understand the world through their character’s eyes and act in situations accordingly.
So what’s this got to do with branding?
Brand Values are Your Compass
You’ve probably heard of brand values before, and might even know a few of your company’s. But beyond pretty words on a page, what exactly do they mean?
Ideally, your brand values are your compass, directing the brand and even helping solve difficult questions. A brand with values that are a true reflection of it’s nature will find it difficult to lose it’s way. This is because when facing a challenge, a brand that knows it’s values and beliefs can easily stand firm to them. The result is that these brands can make quicker and more decisive decisions. In this way, they’re essentially your alignment and your motivation, much like the system above.
Brands have a huge variety of values, and not all are as simple as ‘trusted’ or ‘professional’ (which are qualities, but I’ll get to that). So how do you decide what your values actually are?
The Truest Compass Points Inwards
For most individuals and organisations, the journey starts at home. While understanding what your market likes about you is great for understanding your qualities, your values are often more personal. Your values are what drive you – cut you open and this is what is in your blood. They have to hold up to scrutiny and stand firm in the face of the toughest tests.
Values that actually mean something must also mean something to you, as a business owner or team. Understanding and reflecting on your own desires and goals is the best way to understand your values.
Finding your brand values can be tough, especially if you don’t know where to begin. One great way of understanding how they interact with qualities and beliefs, however, is in this quote:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”
This is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. It describes how beliefs become your destiny. And it also applies to branding.
Let’s start with beliefs. These are intrinsic to each person, sometimes ignoring reason, and can be difficult for exterior forces to change. As such, our beliefs are what form our values.
Understanding your core beliefs is important to learning your values. If you believe, for example, that people are born kind, you may value kindness and selflessness. From these beliefs, you create thoughts, which become what you say and what you do. Ultimately, doing something enough forms a habit, and these habits should form your values.
So, if you look back at what you truly believe, you can often find your values. Someone with the belief that people should treat others as they wish to be treated, may value respect. A person who believes in freedom may value adventure. Using this method can create more honest brand values.
The Importance of Values
The idea of brand values is not a new one. People have associated feelings with companies and merchants for years, often recommending or rejecting based on their interactions.
Brand values have become more important as consumers are given more choice in the market. With more options out there, it is important for brands to have values that resonate with their desired clients to continue getting business. Much like Gandhi said, ‘your values become your destiny’, so having a strong set of values is more likely to bring business success.
Values also help you find your ideal customers. By aligning your values closely with the types of people you want as customers, you are more likely to attract them. It is especially important to ensure that your whole brand shows these values, through colour, shape, voice and tone. This will create a cohesive brand that your ideal client loves to interact with.
Good brand values will also not necessarily be a ‘perfect’ version of your brand. Honesty is key here, and you’re looking for an emotional connection.
Qualities or Values?
Values like ‘trusted’ or ‘professional’ hold very little emotional impact – anyone can say these things. These are qualities, and are the effect of values. For example, a brand could be trusted because one of their values is excellent customer service – by providing stellar service in every encounter, their clients will inherently trust them.
Qualities are most frequently what make up the true values. Multiple qualities may make up a more complex value, but the value is what should be the driving force of the brand.
Discovering your True Value
As beliefs, qualities and values are intrinsically tied to your brand, it’s important to get them right. Committing to good values can be the difference between success and failure in the marketplace. As such, it can be a paralysing decision.
There are a number of methods that you can use to discover your brand’s core values;
- Write them down – Write a list of what you consider to be your own values, and be honest! Narrow this down to between 3-5
- Write a list of things you don’t like – We’re often better at noticing what we dislike faster than what we like. Writing a list of things you don’t value, then finding their opposites, can be a helpful exercise
- Look at people you admire – We often look up to people with values that we hold or aspire to have. Finding out what makes you admire someone can help uncover your own values.
- Talk to people close to you – We’re not just the people we think we are, but often the people others see us as. By asking people close to you what they think your values are, you may get some surprising answers.
Ultimately, finding your values is a continual process of review and introspection. It’s often tough to critique ourselves, and even harder to note our own strengths. That’s why getting a brand strategist to help can be vital to the process. A good strategist will help you dig down and uncover your values, asking questions you may not have thought of asking yourself.
Uncovering your brand values will let you see the world through your brand’s eyes, and act accordingly to any challenges in your path.
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