Strategic Question #3: What Are Your Company’s Core Values?

(This post is a continuation of our detailed look into the 13 strategic marketing questions that every marketer must answer.)

What Are Your Company’s Core Values?

Pillars Of MarketingEvery successful brand is built upon a backbone of core values; those principles that you stand for, and oppose. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that your business is no exception. So, it goes without saying that your marketing should reflect and remain faithful to the core values of your brand.

That said, let’s look at few examples. But before we do, allow me to warn you upfront: you’ll either be attracted to the values cast by these companies, or repelled by them. There’s no middle ground.

Geppetto’s Workshop: The Australian toy shop is committed to nurturing a child’s creativity, and it refuses to stock toys made from plastic or requiring batteries. Not a single one.

It’s a bold decision, making it unlikely that any of Geppetto’s toys will be scribbled down on your kid’s wish list. But hey, if all you want to do is distract little Johnny or Suzy with addictive lights and sounds, then Geppetto’s prefers you shop someplace else. The self-proclaimed sexiest website in the world maintains a high standard of beauty, and will grant you membership only if you are deemed to be physically attractive.

Think I’m joking? Think again.

In 2010, the online dating site booted 5,000 members who gained a few extra pounds over the holidays. Yes, it’s an extreme example. Heck. It’s downright brutal. But remains faithful to its core values and positions itself beautifully (pun intended) against juggernauts and eHarmony who grant membership to everyday joes like you and me.

Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, places his love for the outdoors above all else. Even above the desires of his loyal customers.

Chouinard carves out forty-five percent of the company’s recurring retail catalog space to offer instructions on how one can better live in harmony with the environment. Patagonia also discontinues many popular products that cannot be manufactured in an eco-friendly way – even though customers find it aggravating.

So what do you get with a strong set of core values?

No matter if you love these companies or hate ‘em, one thing’s undeniable: Noticeability is the result of establishing a strong set of core values. And companies that get noticed, sell lots and lots of product.

One more thing: You may find that your list of core values is broader than the aforementioned examples. That’s okay.

Consider Apple and its lengthier list of core values:

  • We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.
  • We believe in the simple, not the complex.
  • We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make. (Note: this one happens to piss off a lot of people)
  • We participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
  • We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.
  • We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.
  • We don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.

“Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world. And, we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us. Our customers want to know who is Apple, and what is it that we stand for. Where do we fit in this world.” – Steve Jobs

So where do you fit in this world? What are the core values that define your company? What do you stand for? And more importantly, what do you oppose?

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4 Responses to “Strategic Question #3: What Are Your Company’s Core Values?”

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  1. Craig says:

    Very well said. As a Creative Director/copywriter at a radio station I can’t properly express how much it would help me to write more effective ads if more businesses, of all sizes, actually gave this some thought. And then if they were able to convey those thoughts to me in such a straight forward fashion as the businesses have in the examples you gave, I know I could write some truly killer copy.

    But as Roy Williams says, (and I’m paraphrasing) “most ads are written not to offend, rather than to persuade”. Often I’m guilty of writing ads not to offend, because I don’t have the information that would allow me to write effective, targeted ads that clearly express a company’s true values.

  2. Tom Wanek says:

    Two terrific points, Craig. You’re right, writing copy is easy when you have something powerful to say, which means strategy comes first.

    Your second point is often the result of a timid business owner who is too eager to follow the herd and be all things to all people. Strength in positioning comes from choosing who or what to lose. The companies I mentioned above are masters at doing just that.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Craig!

  3. Tom,

    Great points! Not only does knowing your core values help with your marketing, it helps with every aspect of your business such as decisions on products to sell, services to offer, or even employees to hire and train.

    I took all the lessons I learned on uncovering your core values from Roy Williams and David Freeman and put them into an eBook that businesses can download for free. I want other businesses to see the profound effect of truly identifying your core values and putting them to work for your business. I know it has made a difference for us.

  4. Tom Wanek says:

    Thanks, Phil… I know you’re like a sponge for this stuff, and more importantly walk the walk with your own business. Hat tip to you.

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