Values-based marketing is a corporate responsibility. Here’s why.

Every serious brand will have been created around a set of brand values. Those values help define the brand’s personality, proposition and purpose. Without values, brands are bland.

So, too, does every serious business claim to have at its foundation a set of organisational values. They’re the tenets that define a company’s culture and conduct.

Those two sets of values must be aligned, if they’re not one and the same.

Until recently, values have mostly been relegated to the background. They’re referenced during induction and are given air time at occasional internal briefings, but little more.

What’s changed is the political climate. Now, particularly given the state of affairs in the United States, brand and organisational values are being threatened. And as a consequence, values-based marketing is morphing into both a corporate responsibility and a CEO conundrum.

At its heart, values-based marketing is all about appealing to a customer’s values and ethics.

Values-based marketing is about ‘owning’ an issue – for example, as Jessica Alba has done (despite some controversy) with The Honesty Company and its commitment to ethical consumerism and eco-friendly household goods.

It’s opportunistically aligning with a cause as Audi attempted to do with its gender equality campaign. Unfortunately, the gender equity-themed advertisement Audi aired during the 2017 Super Bowl exposed the company to ridicule by drawing attention to Audi’s own poor record of promoting women to leadership positions.

And it’s taking a public stance when an elected official issues an immoral, discriminatory or illegal edict.

Actions speak louder than words

There’s always been a commercial pay-off from building a values-based brand, business or campaign. To quote Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Schultz, “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

But don’t be mistaken – values-based marketing can also come at a cost. Marketer-cum-activist Shannon Coulter calculates sales of Trump-branded products have fallen 61 per cent, and retailers including Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have dropped 3,600 products, as a result of her #GrabYourWallet movement.

Yes, values-based marketing is a risky business. But not engaging in values-based marketing could have even more dire consequences. By keeping silent, companies and brands are, in effect, making a mockery of their stated values, and revealing their true brand essence. And that will be heard loud and clear by their stakeholders.

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