Skip to main content

Brand Values: Be Consistent, Not "Nice"

Starbucks corporate social responsibility values are key to the brand -- because they position themselves as part of the community. Screenshot of Starbucks coffee cup label via Tara's Tidbits.

People get brand values (a.k.a. core values) mixed up with humanistic ones. They're not the same thing.

You, as a person, have a basic set of values. They are the principles that drive you as a human being -- your conscience. Your values may make you "not nice."

For example let's say these are your top three: freedom, integrity, and honesty. Freedom means choices; integrity means doing the right thing; honesty means not lying.

  • Standing up for freedom can mean fighting very vocally and sometimes physically. 
  • Integrity may mean turning in a thief. 
  • Honesty may involve a very direct and undiplomatic response to someone who's being deceitful.
All of those values are nice. None of those values involve being nice.

What is the purpose of having personal values? They are your compass; they guide you through life. They can be grounded in religion, or not.

The purpose of brand values is very different. They are your compass, too. But they're not about personal meaning. They are about adding value to the product you sell.

Brand values gain traction through consistency. The more you are who you say you are, the more believable your "promise." Meaning, the more credible you are when you say your product is worth more than a competitor.

That promise may be true or simply an illusion. But it is always founded on living the same values day in and day out.

Steve Jobs is one of my favorite examples on this. He valued innovation, simplicity, focus above all else. He was not known to be nice.

Porsche cars are luxurious, fast and showy. The salespeople treat you well. But not because they are nice people. Rather, they assume you are important.

McDonald's is not a luxury brand. The cashiers at McDonald's don't treat you especially nicely. But then again, you're paying for the dollar menu. It's not what they're about.

What is a brand that treats you nicely? Here's one: Trader Joe's. At this supermarket, the salespeople are all like, "Ho-ho-ho, welcome to the store," and they should be. They are selling an experience, they want you in the fantasy of a community, and to do that they have to reach out.

A long time ago I was part of a conference held at The Four Seasons in West Palm Beach. There ought to be a training series taught by the staff of The Four Seasons. I have never been treated so nicely in all my life. For the duration of that conference, the guests' feet were literally not allowed to touch the floor.

Niceness is a good quality to have. But it's not essential for brand.

Distinguishing the pursuit of brand equity from the quest to be a decent human being is important. You can definitely work on both. And every executive has to have some serious polish. But niceness as an end in itself is sort of meaningless.

Success in any sphere -- work, friendship, family, hobby, life -- means knowing what the goal is, having a strategy, and assessing whether that strategy is getting you there periodically. When it comes to personal values as versus those related to brand, it's very important to know your metric for each. And how you can realistically measure your progress.

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …