A brand is a story people tell about a product
Cafe X has great cakes, gym Y’s treadmills are always out of order, hotel Z has the warmest customer service. Put simplest, a brand is a story people tell about the brand. It is constructed in consumers' minds and the construction materials are their experiences with your brand. If these experiences consistently reflect a brand’s core values, the ones it intentionally works to demonstrate in interactions with customers, then the stories people tell about it will be mostly similar.
For the core to be consistent, your values as a business, a person, or product, must be grounded. How? Simplicity. The simpler your core values are, the easier to adapt them to novel situations and challenges and the better they will yield meaningful results. Take Apple for instance, “making technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future” is their one core value. It guides their marketing (one look at their launch events, and you’d think you’re in year 2043), their product design (software, hardware, and oh my word their ecosystem!), and even their internal operations. So it’s unsurprising when you meet people who choose to use Apple products, their reasons for choosing it and their experiences will be similar. Whether you agree with them or not, that’s a debate we can pick up one of these fine sunny days.
Closer to home, take Safaricom in Kenya - their core value is community. We can probably happily wager that they actively invest in reaching and servicing communities far and wide, earning them market leader status for mobile money services in Kenya, and best network connectivity among many efforts that revolve around their core value.
So the lesson I’m walking away with is - choose a value you believe in and work all your efforts and interactions around it. What I love about this approach is it rids the need of duplicity for internal and external branding strategies, internal operations and external relations can be guided by the same values! Two birds, one stone.
Great, you may say, but what happens when this value of mine doesn’t align with what the market needs? I’m glad you ask, queue my second takeaway
Learn, learn, learn
From what I’ve learned from Irene, I’ve come to know that if a core value is as simple as it can get, it can be worked into solving any kind of conundrum or shaping a solution to an opportunity presented. How? Learning.
The core value guides which decisions will be chosen, but learning shapes the table of options available. Let’s take our coffee seller example from the episode. Say, they honed down their core value down to quality, that their drinkers will have the best tasting coffee every time they drink this specific brand of coffee. Then, unfortunately, a season yields poor coffee beans and few make it past the quality standard. As a result, they aren’t going to be able to put as many bags on the shelves as typically possible. Should they use low quality beans and package them as the regular kind to avoid the bottom line? Should they present a lower cost option made of second grade coffee beans? Which option will the buyers like best? Well, they can take time to go out and learn what the prevailing opinions are. They will likely get ideas to make a third, fourth, or fifth option for their brand. What they are looking for is a decision that is closest to their value of delivering quality to consumers.