What do Harley Davidson, Apple, and Nike have in common? Besides being successful businesses, they all have strong core brand values. Core brand values are key to differentiating your brand from the competition. They define what your company is about and help create a unique identity for your business. In this blog post, we will discuss what core brand values are, how to determine and define them, and how to use them to differentiate your brand. We will also provide examples of companies that do this well. How to Determine Your Core Brand Values The most iconic companies of our time all have recognizable brands. What sets these business owners apart is not just their products or services, but the core values that drive everything they do. So what are core brand values? Core brand values are the guiding principles that shape a company’s culture and define its identity. They guide all decision-making, from product development to marketing campaigns. Core brand values are not something that can be copied or bought; they must be carefully crafted and communicated to all people in the organization. Let’s take a moment to differentiate between brand mission, vision, and core values. Brand mission: a brief statement that describes what the company does.Vision statement: a more long-term view of what the company wants to achieve.Core brand values: the principles that guide all decision-making in the company. There is no one right way to determine your company values. It is truly a self-discovery process that requires introspection, research, and discussion. One popular method is to survey employees on what they believe the company stands for. Asking team members these key questions can help you determine your company’s core values: What do we stand for?What is our purpose?What are our core beliefs?How do we behave? These answers should be clear, concise, and easy to remember. Another way is to look at the company’s history and identify the values that have been most important in shaping its culture. Examples might be “innovation,” “quality,” or “customer service.” You can even survey customers, clients, and other stakeholders to get their perspectives on what they value most about your company. Have a rough draft ready? Use our master checklist to see if your company’s core values are ready to launch: Are your core brand values actionable?Are they meaningful and unique to your brand?Are they attainable?Are your core brand values memorable? Finally, brand core values are meant to be timeless and enduring yet flexible enough to evolve as your company grows. What worked for small business owners might not work for a large corporation. As you scale, make sure to revisit your core values and make sure they still align with your business goals. Why Do Core Brand Values Matter? Core brand values are the foundation of your company culture and how you do business. They should be reflected in everything you do, from the way you treat employees to the products and services you offer. Companies that live their brand core values have several advantages over their competitors. Core values can help you: Attract and retain the best employeesBuild a strong company cultureCreate a unique brand identityDifferentiate your company in the marketplaceMake tough decisions with confidence Core values can help you recruit top talent with the right attitude and skill set, and they can also help you attract loyal customers who share your values. When used effectively, core brand values can be a powerful differentiating factor for your brand. In a world where consumers have more choices than ever before, core brand values give them a way to connect with brands on a deeper level. Strong Examples of Core Brand Values What do strong core brand values look like in practice? Some companies do this exceptionally well. Here are a few top examples: #1 Toms Shoes Toms has a core value of giving back, and they donate a pair of shoes to someone in need for every purchase made. This core value is synonymous with their brand and is seamlessly incorporated into their marketing campaigns and operations. Customers can see the social impact of the brand by following the #WithOutShoes hashtag on Toms Shoes social media channels. What makes Toms’ brand value stand out is that it’s not just lip service to “giving back.” The company actually walks the walk by donating a pair of shoes for every purchase made. This core value is deeply ingrained in their brand identity, and it shows through everything they do. #2 Patagonia This outdoor adventure apparel company’s core value is environmental sustainability, and they donate a percentage of their profits to environmental causes like protecting land and waterways. Patagonia embodies this core brand value by creating products that are made to last, which reduces the amount of waste produced over time. And they’re constantly innovating new ways to reduce their environmental impact, whether it’s by using recycled materials or finding new ways to conserve energy in their manufacturing process. This sets them apart in a marketplace of fast fashion where most companies are contributing to waste. #3 Ben & Jerry’s More than just sweet treats, Ben & Jerry’s has a core value of committing to social justice. They support various social and environmental causes such as LGBTQ rights, racial equality, and climate change. And they use their platform to educate their customers on these issues as well. This makes them much more than just an ice cream brand – they’re a brand that stands for something. They even have a position on their Board of Directors specifically for social impact, a prime example of structuring the organization to live out core brand values. #4 Starbucks From Fair Trade coffee to providing healthcare benefits to part-time employees, Starbucks is a great example of a company that lives its values. One of their most notable social initiatives is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. They offer full and partial tuition reimbursement for eligible employees who want to get a bachelor’s degree – with no strings attached. While it takes significant resources to make a commitment like this, it’s an excellent way to differentiate the Starbucks brand and attract top talent. Not to mention, it helps create a pipeline of future leaders who are familiar with the company culture and values. While each company’s values will be different based on the products or services they offer, as well as their mission and target market, these examples show that core brand values can take many shapes and forms. Leverage Your Brand Values to Stand Out in the Crowd Now that we’ve established what core values are and why they’re important, it’s time to talk about how you can use them to differentiate your brand. After all, differentiating your brand is one of the key ways to ensure long-term success. Strategies for Differentiating Your Brand One major benefit of establishing clear core brand values is that you can leverage them for a competitive advantage. Try these tried and true strategies for differentiating your brand, based on your core values: Use core brand values to inform all of your marketing efforts. Your core brand values should be used to inspire and inform your marketing campaigns across all channels. This will ensure that every touchpoint with your audience is on brand. Here are a couple of examples of this in action: Sonos speakers have an impressive storytelling style for communicating their brand values in their marketing campaigns. They use their values of “simple, bold, and timeless” to inspire every aspect of their marketing mix, from the product design to the way they talk about their products. This creates a consistent brand experience that resonates with customers and differentiates them from their competitors.Everlane clothing company focuses on distilling its core brand values into simple terms. Dedicated to radical transparency in the fashion industry, they communicate their values of quality, ethical manufacturing, and sustainable practices simply and directly to their customers on their About Us page and social media channels. Bold photos and clean text help to get their message across in a way that is both visually appealing and easy-to-understand for customers. Create a unique selling proposition (USP) around your core brand values. What separates you from the competition? Why should customers choose you over someone else? Your USP should be based on your core values. For instance, a luxury car company might position itself based on its core values of quality and prestige. Make sure that your employees live and breathe your core values. Core values should guide employee behavior, decision-making, and how they interact with customers. If they don’t believe in them, it will be difficult to get customers on board. Try these best practices: Get employees to buy-in by integrating core values into the performance review processPublicly recognize and praise employees who exemplify your core valuesSpotlight employees who live the brand values on your social media channels Create an exceptional customer experience. Your core brand values should also be evident in the customer experience. If you’re known for being innovative, your website should be cutting-edge and easy to use. If sustainability is important to you, make sure that’s clear on your product packaging. If you pride yourself on being a luxury brand, your store environment and customer service should reflect that. Every touchpoint should reflect what you stand for as a company. Use your core values to create an emotional connection with your customers. Core values are the heart of your brand. When customers know and connect with your values, they’re more likely to become loyal, lifelong fans. One company that does this really well is Kashi, whose core values are “natural, wholesome, and delicious.” These values come through in everything they do – from their healthy ingredients to their eco-friendly packaging. Customers feel assured that the food they purchase from Kashi for their families is healthy and safe. Final Thoughts Core values are the foundation of any company or organization. They guide decision-making, shape culture, and influence the way employees interact with customers. In short, core values are key to differentiating your brand. To learn more about showcasing your values through your digital brand assets, read our blog.