Hunter is the CEO of Xpedition, an award-winning agency and entertainment company with clients at Google, fitbit, Discovery+ and YouTube.
New businesses are on the rise in America, with a record-breaking 1.5 million applications filed to form new businesses in 2020 and over 1.4 million applications filed in 2021. In recent studies, 83% of millennials and 51% of Gen Zers said they wanted to buy from brands that align with their values. So if you’re starting a new company in 2022, start by mapping out your brand values to help you find and connect with the right partners, employees and customers. Here are six tips to keep in mind.
Think about what you don’t want.
Research from an IBM survey found that 81% of people now belong to one of two shopping segments: value-driven consumers (41%) who want good value and purpose-driven consumers (40%) who seek products and services aligned with their values. Since consumers are becoming increasingly purpose-driven, it’s essential to outline what you want your brand to be known for — and sometimes that means first identifying what you don’t want.
Jot down things you didn’t like about past companies you’ve worked for — whether overall company policies or communication styles. Clearly identifying the pain points you experienced in past workplaces will empower you to chart a different course.
Think about what you do want.
Just as importantly, reflect on what you do want. Start by thinking about the brands you want to emulate. What draws you to them? Is it the values they champion, the way they treat their employees or how they conduct business? This can give you a better understanding of the values you want to foster in the future.
Next, consider how you can bring those desired values for your company to life in tangible ways. Resist the urge to think in platitudes and instead work on clearly outlining what you want your values to look like in practice. For example, don’t just say, “We value diversity and inclusion.” Think about what that looks like in real life, from your hiring processes to your future campaigns. By identifying the practices you admire in other companies, you can build a better blueprint for your own.
Brainstorm with your team.
While it’s helpful to start by outlining the values you want your organization to adhere to, it’s also important to get insights from your team. Set aside some time to talk with your employees about the values they think your company best exemplifies (and the ones you want to continue working on in the future).
Depending on the size of your company, you might want to do this with the entire team or department by department. Listening to your team’s feedback can help you map out your core values and determine how to improve in the future. If you’re a team of one and just starting out, have someone you trust that is willing to challenge you on your ideas be your partner in this exercise.
Create brand pillars.
Once you’ve narrowed down your company’s top values, make a brand pillars guide. Brand pillars convey your unique brand purpose, personality, perception, positioning and promotion. They are meant to clearly articulate what your brand stands for in a way that’s easy for customers to understand and relate to. They also help distinguish you from the competition, shape how the public perceives you and communicate your unique voice and tone.
You can think of brand pillars as the action items that bring your core values to life. For example, if innovation is one of your core values, your brand pillars should communicate how you innovate — from your branding aesthetic to the unique marketing strategies you implement to reach your target audience. Think of them as your company’s North Star that can be shared externally in pitch decks for prospective clients as well as internally to give employees a better understanding of your company’s vision and direction.
Understand your audience.
It’s important to identify your audience, whether by sending out customer surveys or collecting demographic data. But it’s just as important to know how to properly communicate your values to them in a way that feels relatable and authentic. For example, younger consumers are more influenced by digital media than older generations, so make sure to highlight your values on your website or social media channels if you’re trying to reach a younger audience. Remember that your brand values matter not just for reaching new customers or clients but also for attracting the type of talent that you want to recruit.
Defining your brand values won’t happen overnight. But as you determine your top values and remain true to them over time, customers will be able to easily identify what your company stands for. This will help you build a good reputation for your brand and attract customers with similar values, both in 2022 and beyond.