The article is written by Elena Tserovska for bgReklamsit, with gratitude from the team for the shared knowledge. Elena is a special breed of strategic storyteller, who can easily dive deeper and emerge with a strong human truth, whether it is about a brand, a pandemic or life in general.
Talking about brand values was like a luxury package even before our world found itself in a crisis of unclear size and duration. Mission, vision, values - weren't these the things that brands get (eventually) only after they've fixed production, logistics, sales, service and communication? Those, at best accurate and sometimes even beautiful, but more often heavier than clichés, phrases used as a reassurance to the client that his money will not go to waste.
Why would a brand need values? The answer is obvious, but still usually ignored - so that a brand can communicate. A brand's ability to build relationships with people is probably the best way for it to rise above the numerous anonymous consumable-brands and short-term employers. Emerge from being "a thing" to being someone. That's right - to become a person.
People have always trusted other people and even when in contact with brands, the mechanism of trust remains the same.
Are they lying to me? Do they keep their promises? Do they admit their mistakes? Can I count on them? And most of all: are they "my people"? And while the answers to the first few questions , more or less, rely on basic integrity, whether someone is "your person" is understood mostly by what are the important things for them. There is no person without character. And there is no character without values.
Values, on a human level, are the principles you would bet your ass on every time. That thing, no amount of money could buy. That line, you would not be able to look at yourself in the mirror, if you cross. In the language of business realities, brand values are those principles that are so irrevocably important that you would rather stop working than break them. If something looks like a value and sounds like a value, but does not meet the above condition, then it is just a decoration and does not deserve a place on the company's website.
Speaking of the website - the place of the brand values is not there. The benefit of dressing them in solemn words for the world is so small, that it's not worth the effort. The place of the brand values is behind the scenes. Right behind every decision. Behind the rules in the company. Behind the working conditions. Behind the attitude towards employees and customers. Behind the selection of team and partners.
Values should not be read. They must be felt at every contact with the brand. Otherwise - and here we go back to the beginning - trust goes to hell. Without trust there is no relationship. And relationships are the only thing that can make people prefer someone over someone similar (and even better).
During a crisis, everything said so far has even greater impact. At the moment, people all over the world are rethinking their attitude towards the money coming out of their pockets. Millions lose their jobs. And the decisions, when it comes to survival, go through many filters. When the offers on the market are similar (same price, similar product, comparable service), the filter that affects the brands the most is the most human possible and it looks like this: "Do I care about this brand?"
Whether we are aware of it or not, the decision for every lev spent will determine not only how we cope, but also who else will survive with us.
In this landscape, except from few really big players, the surviving businesses will be those who you care for. Those with whom we are connected by something more than just exchange of money for goods or service.
Being connected, belonging to a community is one of the core human needs. A need that follows from the basic survival instinct, and no matter how much we have evolved, brings us back there. We survive better together. Being aware of our values is an advantage that helps us find our tribe - those with whom we have a common understanding of important things and with whom we are more likely to protect each other than to fight.
Values will not work for the brand if the people behind the brand, don't work for them. If they remain only as words, the brand values, on the contrary, risk to be a source of mistrust. As it is with people. Expressions as "talk the talk and walk the walk", don't mind him, he's just talking" and "empty words" are enough proof that when we make up our minds about someone, words are not enough at all.
Because today, as before the crisis, only actions show who we are.
Elena Tserovska is a copywriter, brand strategist and storyteller. She is a specialist in brand design and brand transformations and has worked for dozens of international and local companies as part of the teams of Saatchi & Saatchi Sofia and the strategic unit of Publicis Group - BrandWorks.