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The Best Corporate Brands Focus on Value, Not Values

It's not a bad idea to focus on deeply held values and beliefs in your brand messaging, but a better way is to show people how the brand benefits them personally

“What if we could bring you better value by having better values?” This is the opening line of a recent Facebook corporate brand message from Blue Apron, a US-based food delivery service. The message goes on to talk about Blue Apron’s values — its dedication to family farms, healthy farmlands, and reduction of food waste, specifically by offering examples of actions the company is taking in support of these issues.

This type of corporate brand message is common these days. Lots of firms, just like Blue Apron, look to create a brand by focusing on what they see as deeply held company values and beliefs. And, just like Blue Apron’s attempt, these messages are usually accompanied by evidence demonstrating why the company is a credible as a steward of those values.

This is called the “authentic shared values” approach to brand messaging. At its core is the idea that company values are the essence of what should set a corporate brand apart from its competitors. And if these values are also are shared by the company’s customers, investors, and other “stakeholders”, they will hopefully think, “The company really cares about the same things as I do.” In the long run, the hope is that this will lead stakeholders to support the company (e.g., purchase products, apply for jobs, invest, advocate for them and so on).

According to CEB analysis, an authentic shared values approach does increase people’s connection to the brand and encourages stakeholders to behave in ways the company wants.

Focus on Personal Benefits, Not Shared Values

The problem with all this is that the audience need to see the brand as differentiated from its competitors, and this is only true for one in four corporate brands.

But there is an approach that’s more effective than authentic shared values; it’s called the “personal benefits approach”, and early data analysis shows it’s three times more effective at increasing brand outcomes as an authentic shared values approach.

Rather than focusing on common values, a personal benefit approach focuses on how the brand helps the stakeholder. In particular, it shows how the brand helps a stakeholder achieve their goals or present themselves as the person they want to be. It’s about the brand helping to make their life more meaningful.

So a shared values approach says, “We shared the same values or beliefs and so I support you.” A personal benefits approach says, “By associating with the brand, I’m able to be the person I want to be or accomplish the things that are most important to me.”

Personal Benefits in Action

Nielsen is one firm that that is good at using personal benefits in its branding. The company’s recent corporate branding campaign is about “the science behind what’s next”. Rather than communicating about the virtues of data integrity, accuracy, and truth, the company taps into personal benefits. Specifically, it taps into the emotional anxiety that a business owner or manager experiences when he or she needs to make an important decision in the face of an uncertain future.

And what’s clear in the message is that by associating with Nielsen your anxiety is alleviated because you know what’s next. You can be confident in your decision since you have the answers.


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