Splendid Marketing in 30 Days: Articulating Values

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Today in the Splendid Marketing in 30 Days series, we are discussing values. More specifically, your values and how they set a foundation for everything you do as a company. This may seem a little odd, as values are quite personal, but marketing is not just limited to a department or line item: every part of your brand markets. Your company culture, whether you're a solo entrepreneur or a team of 500, revolves around what you really believe to be true as evidenced by your actions.

Most of us have a set of core values, but the majority of people haven't taken the time to really articulate them. That's where this exercise comes in. If you can sort through what you believe and what you do not, it can give greater clarity to what you want to accomplish and what your company stands for from a product and service perspective (which we'll discuss tomorrow).

This part of the marketing exercise isn't feel-good mumbo jumbo. 90% of millennials (the generation that makes up more than 70% of wedding clients today) will spend their money with companies who are ethical and socially responsible over a competitor who is considered to have less integrity. They've seen it all and they are difficult to impress. As a result, this generation of consumers isn't looking for companies that are flashier, they are looking for companies that are more real. Living out what you believe through your brand matters.

To start, make a list of the things you really believe and why. If you are having difficulty with this, take a list of business catchphrases and determine whether or not you agree with them. If you have employees, consider doing this as a team so that you can see where other people in your company are coming from. If you need a jumping off point for this, here is a list of six phrases I would like to see die. Go through and determine whether you agree with them or not.

For example, a piece of commonly accepted business wisdom is "perception is reality." I could not disagree more. Reality is reality. How you view it doesn't change what is actually happening. If nothing else, social media has proven that perception is often a far cry from reality. The phrase "perception is reality" implies that you can fake it or get people to believe something about you that may not be entirely true. You might be able to carry on this facade for a while, but not for long. Millennials grew up in a post-feminist society and saw what trying to do and have it all did to their mothers and it wasn't pretty. Perfectly polished and having it all together does not appeal to this generation of customers. They can see right through the brands that promote this because they know firsthand the behind-the-scenes reality of what doing and having it all really means.

Here are five of my core values:

1. People have a right to live fully, not just merely. 
I don't support needless consumerism, gluttony or excess, but I do think that everyone in the world is entitled to a full life. This includes access to the arts, music, sports, and so forth. It also means that people have a right to celebrate the milestones in their lives, big and small, in a way that is meaningful to them.

2. If design didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, snowflakes would be ugly. 
Pretty matters and beauty speaks to something deep in our souls. It's been proven that aesthetics have a psychological effect. There is nothing wrong or shallow about having a beautiful, welcoming home (regardless of size) or hosting a party where the details show the guests they are valued. Superficiality stems from the intent behind something, not from its appearance.

3. We each have the ability to do good and change the world -- in our lifetime. 
There are two major corporations I will not do business with because of human rights issues. There are many more companies I could avoid, but that's unrealistic unless I start raising goats and use their wool to knit my own sweaters, so I chose the two companies that have the worst records and who have refused to improve. This may be a small way of doing good, but it matters. Our values are little more than lip service until they affect our wallets.

4. Consistent acts of kindness are far better than random acts of kindness. 
Life is much more satisfying when we start noticing other people rather than trying to get noticed ourselves. Serve other people, all the time, not just when it is convenient for you.

5. A person who is nice to you, but not nice to your assistant or colleague, is not a nice person.
I make it a general rule of thumb not to work with people who are interpersonally exploitive, or who use others to get ahead and are only nice to those whom they think can benefit them. If a person is nice to you but has a pattern of stabbing others in the back or deliberately sabotaging their businesses, pay attention to that. You're known by the company you keep.

As you can see, these aren't stereotypical "business values." Regardless, they are used in determining what Splendid Communications stands for and what I personally stand for.

How you live your values impacts your brand. For example, a company that claims to be eco-friendly and "green" yet serves water in plastic bottles at its consultations or events, has a disconnect between their values and their message. In serving bottled water, they are actively marketing themselves as people who are eco-friendly because it's on trend and potentially profitable, not because they actually care about the earth.

Tomorrow we'll discuss how your values shape your unique selling points and what you stand for as a company.

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