I submit to you that there are three levels of brand values.
Level 1 – “No Values”
Here, you’re saying, “Values are irrelevant – profit is what we’re here for.” You don’t think about your Why; you’re focused on your What and your How.
It’s unimaginative, but at least it’s honest. If you’re up-front about your desire to relieve me of some of the money in my wallet, I can work with you on those terms.
Level 3 – “True Values”
This is the ideal level. Here, there’s a strong Why behind your What and your How. You’re less likely to get knocked off course or to chase shiny objects, because you have a north star.
If you’ve been living your true values for years, it’s serving you well in a time like this. That’s because you’ve built a bank of goodwill with people who appreciate not just what you do, but who you are.
Level 2 – “Pretend Values”
This is the most problematic level. It’s what happens when marketing execs try to slather some “purpose” on top of what they’re already doing, because they’ve read that consumers are into purpose these days. It’s also one strain of the “personal branding” field, which argues that who you are is less important than who you can convince others that you are.
It’s a short-term game, because you’re claiming to be something you’re not. And when you inevitably revert to your true colors, people will remember the yawning gap between your words and your actions.
As my friend & collaborator Bruno Pešec says: “If you aren’t ready to suffer for it, can you really claim that it’s one of your values?”
This is as good a test for values as any. Would you forgo some revenue if it came at the expense of your values? If not, you’re not at Level 3. Not yet.
For some questions to identify your true values, please refer to this post: “Don’t Waste This Crisis: How Strong Values Improve Strategy.”
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew is a former CMO who helps brands to focus, grow and win. Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.” His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation. Contact Matthew here. He’s based in Chicago.
Copyright 2020 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.