Values Based Marketing: What, Why and How
Values, values, values. Elusive. Mysterious. Sometimes grandiose. “What are they really?” I hear you cry! “And what the hell do they have to do with marketing?!” – Valid questions both. I will do my utmost to answer your questions, my liege. We will take a look at what values based marketing is, why you may want to do it and how you can begin doing it. We’ve included in here some practical tips to get you started with this too.
What is Values Based Marketing
Values-based marketing or value-based marketing is a way of doing marketing that is driven by your company’s and your customers’ values. It takes “what you care about” seriously, and tries to connect with your customers on this basis too, rather than just on a practical/needs basis. Including values in marketing is great because it keeps you in line with who you are and what you care about, and it also helps to build trust with your audience, since they see that there are real people with beating hearts behind what you do.
Often values in business can revolve around social causes, but they don’t necessarily need to. Some companies that do this well are Patagonia, Oatly and Tony’s Chocolonely, each having a clear social cause that they revolve their business and marketing practices around. However, it can be something simpler or smaller than this, such as bringing more honesty and authenticity into your field of expertise.
What values-based marketing is NOT
I thought a good little addition here would be to list what it isn’t, since trying to force value based marketing can end up going south real quickly. Here’s some things it’s not:
- Looking up some values in a list and choosing a few that look nice
- Deciding on some values and incorporating them into my marketing solely to sell more – it needs to be real
- Getting on a soapbox and proclaiming your values are the one values to rule them all (ok Sauron). There are many different things people can value and care about, and these can conflict too. It’s good to try and be self-reflective – my way isn’t always the right way.
- Something to only use for PR and marketing purposes. To do values driven marketing your company really needs to sit down and actually see what it cares about. Doing it any other way is just simply more mindless marketing.
Why do values based marketing
There are a number of reasons for digging into values marketing.
- Firstly, it’s important to know what you stand for as an organisation. As an individual, it’s good to know what you find important and live by it. The same holds true for your company. When you’re clear about your values, it becomes easier to make decisions and stay true to who you are. This is particularly the case with value marketing – knowing what you value helps to know how to communicate and how to get the word out.
- Secondly, it feels good to work according to values. If you find yourself at work going “ugh”, “ewww”, “yukkk”, chances are something is rubbing up against your values. And this can be happening for everyone in the company. Finding what values are shared can be a powerful tool to making work enjoyable for everyone in the company.
- Thirdly, customers value a company that is transparent in its values. Customers feel more connected and engaged with the business when they know what drives them – which can lead to higher levels of customer loyalty and trust. I would argue that in marketing in particular, there’s a need for including more values and to do marketing differently.
- Fourtherly (that’s a word now) it can serve as way to understand your place in discussions in your field. Where could you offer new perspectives, where do you see gaps in what’s being said? This can help with marketing campaigns and content creation, and can lead to having a place as a thought leader.
How to do values based marketing
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some things to get you started on your way.
1. Set your values & purpose
We talked about this above, but actually getting to know your own values and purpose is the first step. Doing values based marketing is part of a purpose driven marketing approach. This means making some time to discuss this as a company. Here are some ideas for how to do it:
- Get everyone in a room together and just brainstorm. Take 10 minutes, put on some nice chill music. Everyone gets some sticky notes and you just write down the things you care about. Put them on a whiteboard and then see where you share values, see where you clash. Think of how you can craft a set of values based on what you share.
- Use an organisational coach. Organisational coaches can work with your company to dig deeper and find what really motivates people. If you want to do it properly, this would be the route to take as these guys have the skills and knowledge to get under the skin of the organisation. This can also be useful to help see how people with different values can fit together. Make sure you get one that has experience in working with values and value systems (such as spiral dynamics).
- Try using games or prompts. There are many games or strategies for looking at values, and these can help to loosen things up.
2. Build out a brand book
When you know your values and purpose like an old friend then it’s time to put it into the flesh. You don’t want your values just hidden back in some old Harry Potter closet at the bottom of the stairs! They need to be visible so everyone in the company can see them.
To make a brand book, find a really nice template (or let us design one for you ;)). Once you have a nice template, start adding in the key pieces of who you are. These are:
- Your values
- Your purpose
- Your voice (how do you want to speak)
- Your audience (who are you talking to?)
Here’s some questions we ask our clients to get you started:
- What does your company do, and WHY?
- What are your company values?
- Describe your company using 3-5 adjectives. Please list the adjectives you WANT to be known as, and those that you do not.
- What is your company’s unique perspective that you bring to the table?
- Which companies do you think nail their brand voice? Give us several examples of social media pages and blogs from companies that you admire.
- If you could assign a famous person, fictional or not, to be your spokesperson for your brand, who would they be and why?
3. Integrate the brand book and values into your marketing activities
“I have a brand book! Now I’m finished with values marketing!” said Jim, who was more wrong then he could ever have imagined.
What Jim didn’t realise was that values are your guides, so they need to be with you wherever you go. So to do values driven marketing it’s important to spread them through your marketing activities. Here are some ideas to help you on your way to not being Jim.
- Create content. Use your values as guides to find gaps in your field of expertise where you can create content. This can be a great entrypoint to really original content. If there’s something happening in your field that you feel goes against your values, speak up. This is how you can become a thought leader in your field. (For a full overview of how to use values in content, see our article on purpose driven content.)
- Create ad campaigns. Use values based propositions in your advertising, ppc/sem campaigns and do values based selling. Consumers make decisions based on their own needs and values. And decisions are not always based on price, especially with more conscious consumerism coming to the fore. Quite often these types of leads are a better fit for your company too.
- Develop social campaigns. Feedback from your audience (on social or elsewhere) on what issues are resonating with them. Values based marketing is an interplay between what you care about and what your audience cares about.
- Check in regular meetings. In your daily/weekly/monthly (depending how keen you are;)) have an agenda point to ask whether the content you’re putting out is in line with your values. This can be a great way to spot where something doesn’t land right, or doesn’t fit well with who you are. You can then adjust the next pieces to meet this need.
4. Continuously review your values and hold your marketing activities to that standard
The final piece of the puzzle here is to go back and review your values continuously. People change, organisations change. They evolve, they become more complex. As they deal with new situations and experiences, values have to change and evolve to meet those new experiences. So understanding how you value and what you value is a constant reengagement of what you care about. So here’s the ole tips on how to do it:
- Have a quarterly meeting with your team and do the values process again. Do any new values come up? How have things changed?
- Make time to discuss values in your day to day activities and see if any “tensions” come up. Discuss things that concern you and see if there’s a place for them in your existing values and purpose set-up.
- Keep talking with your customers and audience. Listen out for new causes and concerns, and see what your company’s place is in that.
So this was our little tour through values based marketing. As you can see, the focal point is to just do the task of asking yourself – what do you actually care about. And it’s really easy to do, it just takes a meeting and a few sticky notes. But the impact it can have is huge. To take a values based approach in your marketing practices is a continuous process and values should guide your day to day activities.
Hopefully this has give you some nice fodder to “chow down on” and sets you on your way to setting and using your own values in marketing.