The last five years has seen a massive shift in the fundamentals that shape the corporate operating environment. Technological advances and economic influences have led to fundamental changes in global business practices and customer behaviour.
These changes demand businesses to alter and adapt their business models in order to maintain relevancy and profitability, but it also challenges companies to reinvent their strategies while maintaining the company’s vision and staying true to their core brand values.
What Are Core Brand Values?
Core values are essential to the integrity of every brand while also underpinning every organisation’s culture and priorities. They provide a framework through which all decisions surrounding the brand are made.
Explicit core values empower employees and provide them with information they need to understand the brand. Strong brand values help employees articulate what makes their brand different compared to their competitors and enables them to communicate its message effectively to their customers, thereby making them far more effective brand champions and sales agents for your business.
In times of market turmoil and change the temptation exists for business leaders to abandon or compromise their brand values in an attempt to capture market share or adapt to new customer demands. A high quality brand that changes their core values and lowers prices in an effort to capture market share only confuses both customers and employees alike, which in turn undermines the brand, the very heart and life blood of their business.
While every business must keep profits front of mind, with ongoing plans for increasing sales, failing to act with an authentic representation of the values and beliefs of the brand leads to loss of credibility for the company and brand erosion or devaluation and eventually loss of market share.
Remain True to Your Core Brand Values
Starbucks is a global brand but their commitment to their core values is evident in every market in which they operate. Their success in the Chinese market, a market where many American branding giants have failed, was due to their ability to adapt their strategy to meet the dynamics of the Chinese market while staying true to Starbuck’s core brand values.
Understanding the difference in the Chinese consumer tastes and expectations, Starbuck’s altered their product to include flavours preferred by the Asian consumer. Unlike their western peers, Chinese customers preferred to sit in rather than take out and so Starbucks encouraged this element of the customer service experience. They could have adopted a low price strategy more in keeping with the purchasing power of the average Chinese customer. They could have changed their entire business model to match that to other tea and coffee houses in China.
What Starbucks refused to alter was their dedication to the highest level of customer service and a high quality product. Their commitment to their core brand values paid off.
While many of their Chinese customers claimed they actually preferred the taste of rival brands, they continued to go to Starbucks because of the level of customer service they received. By maintaining their core values Starbucks captured the market of the higher-spending middle class Chinese consumer while also becoming a status symbol along the way.
Flexible in Strategy, Firm in Core Values
A brand strategy should be flexible and capable of adapting to changing market demands, but solid core brand values are essential to provide structure and direction for the brand to evolve and grow profitably.
Customers need brands to adapt to their changing demands and brands must alter their offering and communication in order to stay relevant. A brand that tries to offer everything to the customer without remaining true to the underpinning direction of their brand values will fail.
Customers are quick to recognize a brand that is acting disingenuously and without substance. Customers develop brand loyalty based on identifying and aligning themselves with the values of that brand. In order to capture and deliver value to your customers you must first identify and commit to the values that are core to your brand and your business, in order to meet your customers’ needs authentically.
4 Elements of Brand Strategy That Allow More Flexibility:
In most cases the ability to transfer the brand from one market to another is not something that is fundamental to the brand, unless the brand is built around a specific location. Las Vegas’s Sin City brand is intrinsic to that one location.
New communication channels can and should be adopted in order to maximize customer value. Even television, radio and print brands expand their communication channels to include a mix of appropriate online communication channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, web sites and appropriate blogs to name a few.
3. Product Features:
While the core product should be consistent across markets, strong brands can adapt some features to suit changing local market demands.
4. Message Creation:
Brands are learning that they need to relinquish some control of the brand message and embrace customer-created content. If the communication of the core value is strong then the message created by the customer will more than likely still fit within the core brand strategy too.
When it comes to brand strategy there is no one-size-fits-all model. There are countless channels available and it is about selecting the most relevant to the brand at that current time. However having concrete core brand values is key to your success.
Core values are the focal point from which the brand message is shaped and communicated to and through customers. Remaining true to your core brand values ensures that no matter what turn the markets take, your brand will have a clear vision of what the brand strives to achieve, your brand promise and the direction on how to achieve those values through re-shaping your business strategies.
Volvo is a brand that has steadfastly remained true to their core value across the various markets in which they operate. Volvo state that “safety is a fundamental core value… safety is and must be the basic principle in all design work”. They consistently offer value to their customers through their commitment to safety.
Your brand strategy should be flexible and capable of adapting to changing market dynamics, integrating new methods of communication, satisfying new customer tastes, even entering new product markets, but your core brand values must remain true and underline everything you do.
• Does your brand have clear brand values?
• Does you brand strategy allow your brand to adapt to changing market dynamics?
• Do you need to redefine what values are core to your business?
• Do you need to engage in a Brand Discovery Programme™ to re-evaluate your brand values and revitalize your offering to keep it relevant and profitable?