Brand values are best described as External Aspirational Values – “How you want to be seen by the world” – demonstrating to the public what the organisation espouses and inviting them to become part of that ethos.
Brand values are what the customer sees, understands or expects the enterprise to be, based on the values that underpin it. The Brand Proposition or Brand values are based on the preceding value groupings that support them in the pyramid shown earlier in this paper; they cannot be isolated or detached.
Brand values are not about just providing goods and services. Organisations like Oxfam and Aperture are now a brand. Through its values the organisation develops an ongoing conversation with the customer and its stakeholders. The deeper the value set the more intense the conversation. One writer says:
A brand has at its heart a defining idea that is differentiating, that lodges itself in people’s minds.
John Simmons “And the brand played on.
Simmons goes on to point out that a brand is a promise of what the company or product represents, and it cannot choose to be one thing to one audience and something else to another.
A brand is like DNA, or like a stick of rock. How is the health of your brand? What values does it portray?
Brand values can take decades to build and weeks to lose remember Maxwell, Ratners, Barings Bank, Equitable Life, Enron, Lehman Brothers, Halliburton, Lockheed and Societe Generale. Sadly, the lists grows every year.
Recently, the Ethical Consumer magazine listed Tesco, Wal Mart, Amazon, Nestle, Coca Cola and others as examples of unethical companies thus potentially damaging their brands, (See www.ethicalconsumer.org/retailer/five-unethical-companies) saying:
As part of our 25th Birthday celebrations Ethical Consumer asked its readers to vote for who they thought was the least ethical company over the last 25 years.
Nestlé ‘won’ with 15% of the vote, finishing just above Monsanto (14%) and the UK’s number one tax avoider Amazon (12%).
Nestlé is currently subject to the longest ever running consumer boycott. For over 20 years Baby Milk Action has called a boycott of the company for its irresponsible marketing of baby milk formula, which infringes the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
In recent years the company has also been criticised for its use of child labour and palm oil, and for not labelling GM ingredients.
This is a really interesting result. It shows that people still feel strongly about Nestlé even after so many years and despite it trying to greenwash its image by using Fairtrade chocolate in some of its products.
The top ten least ethical companies as voted for by Ethical Consumer readers were:
- Cal Mart
- Coca Cola
Brand values that reflect your DNA and are embedded not merely espoused can contribute significantly to the success of your enterprise. Brand values that your employees. customers and suppliers are not inspired by sound the death knell.