Pop quiz: (Don’t worry, it’s not a hard one - and you didn’t have to study)
Can you list your personal top 5 most important values?
Bonus points: Can you list the top 5 most important values for your business or organisation?
It’s a tricky question isn’t it? Certainly if you’ve never been asked it before. If you have, then chances are it’s a little easier. Either way, whether you can name them off the bat or not, I guarantee that you have them, and would know them when you saw them; because your values really act like a compass, that guide you - consciously or unconsciously - through the decisions you make in life.
This is especially true in any business or organisation worth its salt. A set of values really help to define the core of a business and they are often the reason a customer will choose you rather than a competitor. When their personal values align with those of your business, it creates a positive connection. They'll feel that your brand is a good fit for them, and a community they want to be a part of.
For example, someone who values kindness, compassion and ethical practice is more likely to buy their hand wash from the Thankyou Group, instead of a commercial corporate like Palmolive. This is because the Thankyou Group share that customers values by championing humanitarian causes and not testing on animals.
"values really help to define the core of a business and they are often the reason a customer will choose you rather than a competitor."
As a designer, my job is to visually communicate a message, and in the case of creating the brand for a business or organisation, one of the most important messages to communicate is their values. So whenever I begin working with a client, I ask them: What are your values?
After I ask that question, the two most common responses I hear are often:
1) Uniqueness - being different from competition - and,
2) Quality - of their services or products
Does that sound familiar to you? It certainly makes sense to choose those two - because what business wouldn’t want to embody those values?
But therein lies a problem.
“What business wouldn’t want to embody those values?"
If every business is striving to be unique and provide a quality service or product, then those two values alone don’t do enough to separate you from the rest of the pack. They’re way to general.
In fact, especially in the case of the ‘uniqueness’ value, it’s a false economy because in order to be unique, you need to find the unique values that set you apart from others. Joining everyone in simply valuing individuality really isn’t going to get you a heck of a long way. Think like the dude at the end of this clip from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’.
"If every business is striving to be unique and provide a quality product, then those two values alone don’t ENOUGH to separate you from the rest of the pack."
Here’s an example of a job well done when it comes to values in business; take the active wear brand Lululemon, who are really passionate about creating a strong community which reaches beyond their products. They list their values on their website as: possibility, vision, balance, audacity, and integrity. So when a customer is looking for new threads to wear to the gym, but also places importance on a sense of belonging and inspiration, they’re more likely to be attracted to Lululemon’s products and store experience because of their message, rather than any old hoodie off the rack in a department store.
So now it’s your turn to come up with your own values. You might have some ideas in mind already, but if you can’t lock down 5, consider the following:
When have you been at your happiest, proudest and most fulfilled?
Find a collection of moments that fall in to those categories and consider the overarching themes around them. That will help narrow it down.
If you’re still stuck, you can download a list from the bottom of this post.
When you’ve found 5 that you’re happy with, write them down somewhere that you can easily reference them. Maybe in your diary, or on a sticky note above your desk - whatever works best for you. Reflect on them regularly, and when it comes to values in your business/organisation, do whatever you can to share these values (the walking as well as the talking) with your audience so that they can see first hand what you’re all about - and yes, why you’re unique!
I’d love to hear how it goes for you in the comments below!
Till next time,