The Core Values of Core Values
Sometimes it’s easier to express your uniqueness as a company through stating what you believe (philosophy) rather than what you are (species). In describing species, you are best served to forego creativity and fit yourself neatly into characterizations that already exist, like law firm as opposed to, let’s say, judicial artists. If customers have to work at the outset to figure out whether you are relevant to their consideration set, you probably won’t be.
But there is unlimited leeway in describing principles and concepts that you ascribe to, that communicate a rich and nuanced understanding of what makes you unique and valuable. They are often referred to as “core values,” other times as a company’s manifesto… in our case, we refer to them as (drumroll please) “What we believe.”
So, while our title is rather straightforward, the principles themselves are quite particular. “Playing the long game doesn’t mean sacrificing the short one” and “strategists create and creatives think” are among my personal favorites. We are often called upon to commit to writing our clients’ core values as part of the branding process, as we have done for ourselves.
A few ideas to keep in mind should you be undertaking to ink your own:
1. Be real – First and foremost, a company’s core values need to mirror what’s in its collective soul. They are not window dressing. While they may be cleverly worded for the sake of impact, most important is that they reflect the deepest truths of how a company views the world and its place in it.
2. Be relevant – Your core values as a company should convey principles that animate how your company delivers against its promises. The personal value I place on drinking raw juice everyday, while interesting, is neither a value shared across the team at Finch Brands; nor is it relevant to the work we do for our clients – and, thus, it is not included in our manifesto.
3. Be committed – While your team, your products and services, and your communications will change over time, your core values won’t. They are “core” for a reason – as base as Disney’s founding and everlasting belief in the power of imagination and Apple’s commitment to simplicity in design.
Most important is that once they are formulated, they are driven home internally. While they provide constructive reading for the outside world, and may aid prospective customers in connecting to your brand, they will only be manifest if they live in the hearts and minds of your own team.
Daniel Erlbaum, CEO