Agency Values - A Number One Priority or a Nice to Have?Jan 05, 2023
Any agency that comes across a marketing consultant will hit the inevitable values discussion. We will ask ourselves:
- What are values?
- Why do they matter?
- Who cares?
- What are our values? How do we figure them out?
- How can we use them?
1. What are values?
They are everywhere, plastered on websites and walls in offices, in staff handbooks and in job postings but so what? Who can recite their agency values and who cares?
Clearly, the idea is that they are a statement that announces, “This is who we are.”
But who cares? And why should they?
Do you care about the values of your local post office or your local Chinese takeaway, or WH Smith or your local greengrocer or your microphone manufacturer…? So, why is an agency any different?
So, a quick definition.
Brand values are the beliefs that drive your company. (Air, 2021)
The theory then proceeds that these core values should be meaningful in a way that resonates with both consumers/customers and employees.
And, if they set you apart from the competition then they should also be a unique, memorable reflection of what's at the heart of the company.
So, three questions for you about your brand values:
Question 1: Are your values meaningful to your both clients and your team?
Question 2: Are your values memorable?
Question 3: Will they make the boat go faster?
2. Why do they matter?
Defining brand values help you to define the agency identity and all that goes with the brand and the way you present yourself to the market.
A quick tangent on purpose - please bear with me on this!
The theory continues (read ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek if you want more confirmation of this point of view) that your core brand values have a significant impact on how consumers view your brand.
Consumers want to align themselves with your why. (Do they?)
And that, they say, is why it's so important to clearly define your brand values and also communicate them to consumers. (I am cynical that all our clients really care about our values, but that is not a reason to not define them).
I would argue that defining and knowing your brand values helps you understand who you are and what you do and why and how you do things.
I would argue that we should start with ‘what’. The ‘start with why’ mantra is incredibly useful in personal development but was taken by 90’s marketing agencies as the poster boy of all their work. One case study, Apple, became proof that every business had to find its ‘why’. It gave their work a (forced) meaning beyond the basic need of businesses to deliver services that satisfy client needs and wants. I totally get that. But what is Shell’s or Barclays’ or Dell’s why? I get that more caring businesses can define and relate to their purpose (e.g. charities and social organisations and some businesses). I totally get that younger-minded businesses that care about and engage with their community can do the same. But not everyone. The position was pushed too hard. End of rant.
Back to Brand Values.
3. Who cares about your brand values?
- It helps you define who you are and how you do things or how you aspire to
- More importantly, it helps you define your brand and how to represent yourself and to whom
- It helps your team to understand how we do things around here and what we stand for
- It helps some of your clients to understand how you work and what to expect from you
That is enough in itself. (Let’s not go down the Simon Sinek rabbit hole again)
4. What are our values?
A great question
It's a bit like buzzword bingo but here’s a bunch for you to consider, one we do see a lot of.
I suggest you bring an expert to help facilitate the process but as a starter for ten
- Have a team meeting to brainstorm what might represent your brand. What’s important to you in how you conduct yourselves?
- See things through the customer’s eyes: what should they get?
- What values resonate for your clients?
- Narrow down your list to a manageable number
- Narrow it down again to the core values
- Live with them for a couple of weeks before you tattoo them on your body (joke)
5. How can we use them?
If you work around the intellectual debate that brand and values conversations can create then you can use your brand values to accelerate your business growth both as a team and for your clients.
For us, we did all of the above. In the end, we avoided the bear traps and came out with five phrases that resonated with us. And for our clients.
Five phrases that we could aspire to and live by.
We could drive our business by them.
And they would separate how we did things from our competition.
Let me share our “2+3” brand values.
The Core Principles: who and what we are and why we do it:
- Radical candour
- Give a sh*t
The Supporting Principles: how we do it
Let me expand briefly.
The Core Principles:
- Radical candour:
No sugar coating here, we believe in being honest, transparent and direct in our work. In order to get the best results for our clients, we approach facts and address problems head-on, warts and all.
- Give a sh*t:
We're dealing with clients’ lives and livelihoods and we treat this responsibility with care and vigilance. We're emotionally invested in our clients and the success of their agencies and respect the trust they've put in us.
We could have stopped there as this, for me, says it all about who we are and what we do and why we do it.
However, it was incredibly helpful to stretch these two core principles.
The Supporting Principles:
We act as an extension of our clients. We're collaborative in our approach, delivering solutions, rather than just advice. We encourage this collaborative approach by building peer-based communities.
We deliver excellence for our clients and expect excellence from our team of consultants. As seasoned digital agency experts, our knowledge and expertise are at the core of our business.
We do what we say. We stick to our commitments and we’re there for you when you need it.
Anyone who knows me knows how I hate weasel words. But these words have been selected by us, in an honest attempt to avoid the inevitable cliché and yet represent and reflect:
- Who and what we are and why we do it
- How we do it
This has has been an integral part, informing how we put together all the elements of our brand:
- Who we are
- What we do
- Who we do it for: their needs, frustrations, problem, psychological profile, and avatar profile
- Our competitors and our points of difference
- Our brand vision and mission
- Our brand archetype and personality
- Our brand proposition and promise
This piece of work has helped us understand exactly who we are and what we do and who we do it for, how we are different from our competition. It then went on to allow us to rebrand the business.
Now, I'll go back to the original questions posed and answer them
Question 1: Are your values meaningful to both clients and your team?
Question 2: Are your values memorable?
Question 3:Will they make the boat go faster?
Start your own brand values exercise
If you want the clarity that the brand values exercises create then do something about it.
I do not believe you can do this on your own. We didn’t. Take a look at https://www.gyda.co/about-us (shameless plug) and let me know if you think we’ve done the trick. Despite my open scepticism of the process (as delivered by many others), I think the answer is yes.
I’d love to know what you think about what we’ve done and would be delighted to talk you through the process for you and your agency.