The Ultimate and Complete Guide to Brand Values

Brand Values

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Brand Values – And Everything You Don’t Know.

There’s a dirty secret in eCommerce, one that even applies to some of its household names…

Very few eCommerce companies are profitable (and brand values might have something to do with it)

Why? Because most eCommerce brands fall into the acquisition trap. They get stuck paying to attract customers, most times taking a loss on a customer’s first order, hoping that over time a high volume of customers will balance their bottom line.

It won’t.

Back in 2012, aggressive paid acquisition campaigns were smart. Legacy retail brands were largely ignoring eCommerce, and Facebook and Google ads were cheap. Early DTC brands benefited from cheap advertising, low competition, and a customer base eager for alternatives to outdated business models.

But this picture quickly changed. Acquisition costs soared along with ad prices, and competition from newcomers and retail brands alike have flooded the online marketplace.

Even with millions in sales, profits can be hard to find because most entrepreneurs think the fastest way to grow is by bringing more customers through their door.

In fact, the quickest way to profits and growth isn’t acquisition, it’s retention. The kicker is everyone knows it’s cheaper to retarget someone who’s bought from you before than it is to attract the attention of a brand-new customer. Yet hardly anyone has a robust retention strategy.

Why?

Well, earning a customer’s loyalty is much harder than setting up an ad campaign. And it takes much longer to see the accumulative results that it has on your revenue. Unfortunately, eCommerce is often sold to entrepreneurs as a virtual passive-income machine, making them vulnerable to the quicksand of instant-gratification tactics.

I’m going to assume you’re not looking for easy. I’m going to assume you’re serious about building an online business and see-through all the get-rich-quick schemes out there. Which gives you a major advantage.

Not everyone wants to hear the truth…

Which is this: 89% of consumers say they’re loyal to a brand because it shares their brand values.

What are brand values?

Whatever else you do, resist the temptation to write-off “brand values” as another eCommerce buzzword. If you’re skeptical of their importance, it’s probably because you don’t fully understand what brand values are, and more importantly, how to implement them in your brand.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The definition of brand values is pretty straightforward:

Brand values are the set of beliefs and principles a brand is committed to, the chosen “commandments” that set the rules for how a brand behaves. These values act as both a promise and a set of guardrails that direct a brand’s actions towards its employees, customers, community, and competitors.

MeUndies, an eCommerce underwear brand, for instance, list their brand values as:

  • Designed for Comfort
  • Energized by Creativity
  • Made for Your Self-Expression

Values are the table-stakes expectations customers can count on from the brand.

How does company ethos relate to values?

Brand values, purpose, mission, and ethos are terms that are often used interchangeably. It’s understandable since they’re all very closely related, but it’s important to know the differences.

Brand purpose: this is the core reason why you’re in business and is often the ultimate vision your brand hopes to facilitate or create.

Take MeUndies again, their purpose is to: “Create a more thoughtful and accepting world where living your truth is celebrated.”

A purpose communicates what’s most important to the brand, and often expresses the benefit the brand offers to their customers and community. A brand mission, or ethos, on the other hand is for the people working inside the brand.

Brand Mission/Ethos: the foundation of a brand’s inner culture, a reminder to those working inside the brand of what they need to focus on in order to make their brand purpose a reality.

The brand ethos of MeUndies: “To fuel authentic self-expression.”

Purpose vs Mission vs Values

Purpose is your brand’s vision of its ideal world. It’s a destination you’re working toward making a reality.

Your mission is like the compass heading that points you in the right direction to make sure you’re always headed toward that vision.

Your values are the road-rules you commit to: it’s everything from the speed limit you’ll adhere to and whether you’ll avoid running over pedestrians even if it slows you down, to the decision to take a more sustainable method of travel because you believe it’s important to protect the environment, even if it’s less convenient or more expensive.

For example, MeUndies’ commitment to self-expression puts a stake in the ground. It suggests the physical branding of their products will be understated so it doesn’t call attention to itself. Unlike a Calvin Klein that boldly brands the elastic band on their underwear in order to call attention to itself. MeUndies “hide” their branding in order to emphasize the wearer.

Their commitment to comfort helps them choose what fabrics and other materials to use in their products. And freeing their customers from feeling physically restricted or irritated means they have 1 less thing to be self-conscious about, making them free to be themselves.

MeUndies uses the values of comfort, creativity, and self-expression to make their vision of a world where people’s personal truths are accepted a closer reality. Their mission and values reminds the brand to keep the customer’s truth ahead of the brand’s vanity.

All 3 work together to give you a fuller strategy to address your customers’ needs, but they aren’t interchangeable.

Are brand values business goals?

They are a type of goal, but it’s best to avoid thinking of brand values as business goals like “reach $10,000 in weekly sales.”

Your business goals for sales and other metrics are critical for moving you forward, but they are a bit like personal goals.

You can have a goal to “lose 20 lbs by July 4th,” but if you do it by starving yourself you may put your health in danger. Would that really be success?

Likewise, you can increase your revenue by hijacking the Amazon listings of your competitors, compromising the quality of your products in order to increase your margins, or lying to customers about your product’s benefits. All ideas that might bring in more cash but will soon ruin your brand’s reputation.

Brand values make sure you reach your goals without demeaning your brand or betraying your customers.

“I’m going to lose 20 lbs by July 4th by exercising 4 days a week, cutting out sugar, and getting more calories from protein and whole grains” is a much healthier goal than just cutting some weight.

So is deciding to increase revenue by prioritizing your customers’ needs by committing to their physical comfort, self-expression, and creativity (MeUndies again), rather than cheap black-hat tricks to undermine competitors.

This is the role of brand values.

Are brand attributes the same as brand values?

Hopefully by now you’re starting to get a clearer picture of brand values, but this is another question that’s worth addressing directly.

The short answer is no.

The real answer is no… but they should be intricately connected.

Brand attributes are basically just the functional benefits of your products. Even if your product features are wholly unique to your brand, a functional benefit is a functional benefit. It’s the practical result that using the product gets you.

Consumers expect products to work. There’s a rational side to every purchase and depending on your category, having the right combination of attributes might be important to your customers, like the combination of specs on a PC.

But here’s a lesson you need to internalize if you want to learn to sell anything: no one, ever, just buys a product.

What Are Customers Really Buying?

We don’t buy a solution, we buy the relief, comfort, or confidence the solution enables.

When you get down to it, people buy in order to change how they feel. Buying is, essentially, an emotional experience. Brand values simply make clear to customers what particular emotional experience your brand offers. This is the message that will attract a certain base of customers to your brand.

Of course, your products still have to do what you say they can do. They have to work. Functional benefits aren’t irrelevant, they’re the foundation. Without a practically useful product, nothing else will click. This is where the Brand Values Pyramid comes in:

The pyramid shows the various levels of “benefits” a brand offers its customers. Typically, the higher the level your brand can reach, the more powerful and valuable your brand will be to consumers. However, you can’t “skip” a level.

The Brand Values Pyramid

Let’s take a closer look at each level:

Functional benefits

These are the practical uses or benefits of your products. Benefits on this level might include saved time, reduced effort, better information, better quality, aesthetic appeal, or reduced risk.

Emotional benefits

When a product delivers, there’s a corresponding emotional reaction in the consumer. These emotions may include reduced anxiety, more fun or entertainment, nostalgia, surprise or joy, greater feelings of wellness or relaxation.

These 2 base levels are table stakes. The brand values you define and leverage in your branding will address one or both of the next two levels, but functional and emotional benefits must be in place first.

Life-changing benefits

These are emotional benefits on steroids, they’re not just a pleasant feeling but often move the customer to action, or noticeably improves their life. These benefits include emotions like greater feelings of hope, motivation, or higher self-esteem.

Self-transcendent benefits

These benefits extend beyond the buyer. These brands create social impact, or help customers feel a sense of belonging to a larger community. Belonging is easily one of the most powerful emotional experiences humans can have, as we’re tribal by nature. Brands that reach this level often have cult-like loyalty levels.

Which Level Is Your Brand On?

Again, brand values signal to customers what kind of emotional payoff they can count on from your brand. Generally, the “higher” benefit you can offer, the more likely it will inspire loyalty.

However, remember that even at the highest point, the functional attributes of your brand must still be in place.

The magic happens when you can create connective tissue between your brand attributes and the goals and needs of your customers. Especially when it’s a benefit your competitors don’t, or can’t, offer.

And clear values are a potent differentiator.

Let’s say you have a product that saves time for its user. Everyone wants to save time, but if you can tap into why it matters to your customers, you’ll have the tools to grow your brand.

Does it save time for busy professionals, allowing them to increase their productivity, leading to greater feelings of progress, and relief from the fear they’ll waste their potential? That’s one type of customer and will require a specific messaging strategy.

Or does your product save time for overwhelmed parents, giving them more time to slow down, catch their breath, and refuel their patience. Which in turn allows them to actually connect with their children instead of just managing them, which enriches everyone’s life. This is a totally different brand, and product!

So are brand values the same as brand attributes? No.

But the need to be intricately connected. If you don’t understand what you’re really selling, you’ll never have true brand values.

Do brand values matter?

Simple: yes. For two main reasons: first, because no one is ever just buying a product, and second, because people work hard for their money and want to be respected for the value they bring to your brand.

Which brings us to one more critical difference you need to understand.

Brand value and brand values aren’t the same.

Brand value is a term used to describe the premium a customer is willing to pay to buy from your brand above the “rational” price of your product.

Pharmaceuticals are stark example of this. Brand name drugs and generic drugs have the exact same ingredients, but you’ll pay a premium for a brand name, and a lot of people will do it because that’s who they trust.

Brand values can increase brand value, and are a powerful sales driver if you choose the right values for your customer base (more on that later) and know how to leverage them.

Values and Storytelling

Movie studios invest $100’s of millions on marketing campaigns for their biggest franchises (another word for brands). They’re selling a theatre experience, for sure, but primarily, these trailers are selling values.

Check out this trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger.

Even if you knew nothing about Captain America going into this trailer, you know who he is inside of 30 seconds. Although the first clue you get is that a character named “Captain America” is probably going to share values we associate with the United States.

Immediately we learn that although Steve Rogers is physically small and weak, he’s brave and willing to sacrifice himself to defend others. He’s determined, idealistic, and sincere. And the central conflict of the story is framed as a conflict of values:

We hear Dr. Erskine explain to Steve he’s been chosen for the super solider program “because a weak man knows the value of strength. Knows the value of power.” And it’s this kind of man who will “escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell,” a man whose tyranny and oppression were the ultimate perversions of strength and abuse of power.

A movie like this isn’t just a visual experience, it’s an emotional one. In this case it reinforces a shared belief about nationality, but also decency, honor, and heroism. At worst, it would hit the emotional benefit level on the brand values pyramid.

For its ideal, target audience? It will likely hit the life-changing level by inspiring feelings of hope. It may even tip into self-transcendence by reinforcing a sense of belonging.

As an ad, trailers use “brand” values to invest viewers in the characters, story, and conflict before they even get to the theatre. And it’s the sense of a shared worldview that helps create the interest that sells tickets.

In turn, a product (in this case a movie) that delivers an emotional experience increases the brand value. There’s a reason why by the time Marvel got to Avengers: Endgame, they didn’t blink spending a record-breaking $200 million on advertising, because they’d carefully built brand loyalty over a series of movies through shared values and a positive experience the audience could count on.

Audiences are a lot less likely to watch a movie in theatres these days (COVID notwithstanding), but Marvel always sells out because they have the brand value that makes their fans willing to pay the premium to see the movies on release day. Because the brand values are just that important to the audience.

What are the business benefits of brand values?

The headline benefits of having clear brand values are that they’re more effective at attracting an audience that’s predisposed to being loyal to your brand.

For consumers encountering your brand for the first time, messaging shaped by brand values makes your offer and UVP more memorable, and plants the seed of emotional attachment to your brand.

In other words, brand values shorten the sales cycle.

Leveraged well, over time brand values can powerfully increase your brand’s value to consumers. Results that will have a direct, positive impact on the profitability of your business.

Of course, as we’ve discussed, brand values aren’t just about the benefits offered to customers. They’re also internal guidelines that define your brand’s cultural values.

Treating your brand values like gospel will cement your credibility as a leader, and help you make better long-term decisions for your business.

Values can also ensure you make better hiring choices. Here’s a secret: you can teach people skills, but you can’t change their personality. Having strong brand values will help you hire team members who share your vision. This leads to higher morale as staff are more likely to feel their work is meaningful.

The emotional benefits of brand values apply to you as well, even if you’re a one-entrepreneur show running your brand. By choosing brand values that are authentic to you, your daily hustle is transformed into a mission. And that makes getting out of bed easier.

How to discover your brand values

Now that you have a solid understanding of what brand values are and why your brand needs them, it’s time to start the process of discovering and clarifying your brand’s unique values.

Tips for better brand values

Before we dive into the brand values process, there are some high-level tips to keep in mind to make sure you get the best results.

Your goal is to find 2-3 words or short phrases that encapsulate your values, and not more than 5. Which means you don’t have a lot of runway to evoke an emotional response.

The best brand values all have these qualities:

  • They’re actionable – recall MeUndies’ “made for your self-expression” value, it’s almost a call to action for consumers, to take what the brand gives them and make it their own.
  • They’re unpretentious – use plain, straightforward language, you’re not writing a legal document.
  • They’re unique to the brand – you want values that your brand can own, that your customers will associate with you because it’s part of what draws them to your brand over competitors.
  • They’re timeless – think of our Captain American example. The most beloved superheroes today have existed for decades, served generations of audiences, and told diverse stories. Everything and anything in the comic book world can change (including whether someone actually died) except for the character’s values. It’s the bedrock those kinds of characters are built on. Your brand should be the same.

As we walk through brand values examples, these tips will come into greater focus for you, but it’s good to get them top-of-mind now.

And one more warning before we get started… not all brand values are created equal.

Brand values you should avoid

Trustworthy

Some things in life are more valuable because they’re rare. Trust is not one of those things. Choosing to do business with a brand shouldn’t feel like playing a slot machine. Not being a phony liar isn’t an accomplishment.

Integrity

Like trustworthy, integrity is hopefully table stakes, but many brands still list it as a bedrock value. It’s so overused at this point it’s meaningless. It’s also not specific enough to be actionable.

Customer Service

Another overused value. Here’s the thing. Most people earn their money by trading the only truly irreplaceable resource on the planet: time. When customers hand over their money, they’re trusting you with a piece of their life. Treating customers with respect and offering a way for them to contact you is the absolute least you should offer.

Transparency

Although there are brands built on this brand value – like Everlane (more details below) – the growth of eCommerce has made transparency in pricing and business practices another expectation. Besides, in the age of the internet, you won’t have much of a choice due to information parity. Do what you say, say what you do, and don’t brag about it.

Sustainability

Patagonia cornered this one back in the 70’s, and public sentiment has rightly identified commerce and massive logistics chains as the biggest culprit for climate change. Making sustainable choices prove you’re conscious of the social impact your brand has on its community, which will make your other brand values more trustworthy. But at this point it’s a sign of basic decency, not something you’ll get a lot of credit for.

The 6-step brand values process

Step 1. Know where you stand.

Start with yourself. You know why you started this brand and what matters to you the most. Take stock of some of the personal values that inspired you to persevere as you created and launched your brand. Also, consider the brand values of your favorite brands, or those you admire. Get a feel for the values you’re passionate about.

Step 2. Do your research.

Know your customer base inside and out. Demographics aren’t enough, you need to understand their worldview, beliefs, and goals. If your brand values are going to connect with your audience, those values need to mean something to them. If you’re going through the branding process customer research will be required anyway. Creating a customer persona is a super powerful tool so draw on that if you have one, or build on this research later to help you create one.

You’ll also want to research your major competitors and find out what their brand values are. This will ensure your brand values are unique to you, and you’re not just regurgitating industry drivel.

Step 3. Brainstorm.

Now that you have a general direction, write down every brand value, belief, and principle you can think of that’s even tangentially related to what you do. Don’t worry about the tips here, and don’t censure yourself. Write down everything that comes to mind, and don’t be afraid to do this in more than one sitting to make sure you’re given yourself the time to really dig deep.

Pro tip: if/when you get stuck, use the “eulogy” trick to spark some ideas. Imagine your brand as a person, and that you’re attending its funeral. What would you like to be able to say about that brand in their eulogy? What did the brand stand up for? What did it give its life for?

Step 4. Review your list.

It’s at this stage you can let your internal critic out of its box. As you review your list, get rid of the vague, overused values first.

After that, what you’re looking for are the ideas that overlap. Has the same type of value recurred several times? It might be because it’s meaningful to you.

You’ll also want to look out for the ideas that overlap what your brand does, what matters to your customers, and what’s unique compared to your competitors.

Keep in mind, at this stage, the final version of your values may not yet be on your list. Just try to narrow it down as much as you can and mark the ones that have the most potential.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to dust off the ol’ dictionary and thesaurus at this point. If you’re on the fence about a word, look it up. Make sure the definition is precise to what you’re trying to say. One brand example is a baby brand, one potential value was “tranquility,” but we swapped it out for “calm” because “tranquility” was a little too close to “tranquilizer,” and drugging babies isn’t an image you want to even brush up against.

Bonus pro tip for power users: If you want to take this to another level, research the etymology of your candidate words and phrases. Etymology will tell you the origin and history of a word’s meaning, and it can sometimes bring up surprising and unique connections. However, if you’re venturing into this world, be extra careful to avoid overly pretentious choices, unless there’s a very good reason to pick a fancier word (like if you’re brand exclusively sells novels written in Middle English to professors with a Rhodesian Ridgeback named ‘Chaucer’).

Step 5. Evaluate your choice against the brand value pyramid.

Once you’ve got a shorter list of potential values, double check them against the brand values pyramid. Ideally, you want values that reach the life-changing or self-transcendence levels. Emotional values will need some more work. Functional values need to go back to the drawing board.

Step 6. Pick the best 2-3 words or phrases as your values.

It’s time to commit. Some of the words/phrases you’ve chosen may seem like generic words but remember that most of the power of your brand values will come from how you use them throughout your branding. They are part of a larger symbolic system. But they do need to be immediately recognizable as related to what you offer, both on a practical and emotional level.

If you’re still unsure whether your brand values are top-notch, we offer a free resource, the Brand Audit that can help. It will walk you through every major element of your brand, including your values, and provide you with action steps and a grading matrix to improve your brand. And then check out these brand values examples.

Best in class brand values examples

Nike

Nike is the heavy-weight champion of values-led branding. Not only are they one of the most recognized brands in the world, they’re known for their values. Their iconic tagline, “Just Do It” is the essence of their brand values and worldview. It’s a phrase that has transcended its status as a marketing tagline and become a personal mantra for millions of people.

Their brand values are:

  • Everyone with a body is an athlete
  • Motivation
  • Determination

Nike is the Greek goddess of victory, so these values are aligned with the overarching brand, making them easier to remember. Everything sticks together.

But what really makes Nike’s values powerful is how they leverage them through storytelling. Although the stories they’ve told have changed over the years – from the campaigns that showed average people “finding their greatness,” to the stories of professional athletes making comebacks, to Colin Kaepernick’s controversial protest, they all contain the same thread. Each story champions doing what you know is right, for your health or your community, and the willingness to sacrifice comfort for greatness.

Plenty of brands are out to motivate you, but Nike’s storytelling adds another twist that makes their brand values unique. Every story needs a hero and a villain to spark conflict. Nike positions their customer as both the hero and the villain of their brand stories. Because when it comes to fitness and standing up for our beliefs, our worst enemy is often ourselves. It’s the inner critic most people struggle with.

Nike’s “Just Do It” message taps into this powerful insight and elevates their brand values above the crowd. Nike is helping your best self earn victory over your worst instincts (which we all have).

The Takeaway: one of the best ways to leverage your brand values is through storytelling, but it has to be anchored in your target customer’s needs. The story you tell is what makes your values relatable and unique. The power of your brand values compounds when they align with everything your brand says and does.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is often on the wrong end of jokes about overpriced produce and a pretentious clientele, but this is actually a sign that they’re doing something right.

Brands are designed to evoke strong emotional reactions, which means it’s not possible to please everyone. The best brands are often polarizing. Their core tribe of customers evangelize them, and most everyone else derides them. If you have strong detractors, it probably means you’re pressing emotional buttons.

So you can say what you want about Whole Foods, but their brand values certainly resonate with their customers.

On their website, their values are listed on a page titled “Declaration of Interdependence,” and are as follows:

  • We sell the highest quality natural and organic foods
  • We satisfy and delight our customers
  • We promote team member growth and happiness
  • We practice win-win partnerships with suppliers
  • We create profits and prosperity
  • We care about our communities and the environment

They could probably trim this list, but the impression they leave is clear. Their core value is the belief that success is only real when it’s shared. These values double as a justification for their high prices. Once you understand that they price in order to source the most responsible products, and create wealth for everyone involved in the transaction, their customers are happy to pay more.

This is also a lesson in the importance of shared values, it’s where brand values and brand value collide. There are plenty of customers out there who either can’t afford Whole Foods prices, or just aren’t convinced that “organic” and “feel-good” values are worth the price premium. Whole Foods doesn’t speak to everyone, but they don’t have to because the people who share their values won’t shop anywhere else.

The Takeaway: you may have noticed a few values we counselled you against using on Whole Foods’ list. Their brand values still work because they permeate everything Whole Foods does. The entire brand is built around these values, giving them their authenticity. It’s a reminder that the power of values doesn’t come from the words and phrases you choose, but from their place in the brand as a whole. Even a detail like pricing can and should be influenced by your brand values.

Everlane

Time for an eCommerce example, and one of the best online is Everlane. Their brand caught fire on the strength of their brand values, which are:

  • Exceptional quality.
  • Ethical factories.
  • Radical transparency.

Everlane can claim “transparency” as a brand value and get away with it because they were a first mover in their industry. They operate in the world of fast-fashion, which consumers love because it produces trendy clothes for cheap, but ethically, come with a high price.

Historically, fast-fashion is notorious for relying on exploitative working conditions. And the fast-churn nature of the product itself – items are built to be worn for a season and then thrown out – is also a disaster environmentally. Everlane’s brand was built to be ethical fast-fashion.

Everlane disrupted the industry early on with a content marketing campaign that used infographics to educate consumers about what a t-shirt really costs to make, and the markup retailers charge. The point was that fast-fashion exploits cheap, abusive labor and overcharges the customer.

Everlane’s “transparency” speaks to their factory conditions as well as their pricing. They’re always up front about the manufacturing cost of their items, and the markup they charge you.

Oh, and their clothing is made to last, so it won’t be adding to your local landfill either.

The Takeaway: Everlane owns their brand values. They used them to disrupt the complacency of their industry and have thrived with a cult-like following of fellow believers in their mission.

Ivory Ella

Another word of caution: brand values are often mistaken for cause marketing. Certainly, when you get to the top of the brand values pyramid, self-transcendence, the obvious options here are to create emotional investment by dealing with social issues or working with charities.

Cause marketing can be an extension of your brand values, but strictly speaking, they aren’t the same. Affiliating your brand with a cause isn’t required to create emotional relevance with customers, but sometimes is the natural evolution of your values. Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline, for example, started as a mantra to help people get off their couch, but by its 30th anniversary, Nike’s values had evolved to supporting Colin Kaepernick’s protest for racial justice.

Other brands are rooted in social issues. Everlane’s brand values for ethical working conditions and more sustainable product cycle by definition have political implications.

If you’re going to take this route yourself, another eCommerce brand to take notes from is Ivory Ella. They’re a clothing brand “for a cause,” and donate 10% of their net profits to conservation charities including Save the Elephants.

Their brand values are:

  • Comfort
  • Compassion
  • Consciousness

Probably not quite what you were expecting, but all of these values extend to sustainability and ethical manufacturing.

What’s remarkable about the brand values is that they align with the mission of the brand, but they’re also inspired by the qualities of elephants themselves. Ivory Ella points out that elephants to them are more than a mascot, “they are compassionate, loving, and herd-oriented. They’re also at the center of thriving and vibrant ecosystems.”

Ivory Ella not only offers brand values that hit the top of the pyramid, but they still focus on offering a powerful emotional benefit to customers. The donation model is almost “extra” value.

The Takeaway: if you’re going to use self-transcendent brand values or cause marketing, you can’t skip over the lower levels of the pyramid. Your products still need to have practical, functional benefits, and your brand must create personal emotional value for customers beyond the “feel good” virtue signaling of contributing to a cause.

Firebox

What about fun values? Can’t brand values be carefree? Of course!

Firebox is a UK-based eCommerce store that sells all kinds of weird and wacky gifts. Everything from Unicorn Tears Gin to Cat Butt Colouring and Activity Books.

Although they haven’t publicly posted their brand values, we can reverse-engineer them:

  • Surprise and delight
  • Mad products that are useful because they make us laugh
  • Not taking life too seriously

These values are celebrated in their choice of product line, their liberal use of bright colors, and their irreverent attitude.

The literal bow on top is “Crap Wrap,” a gift-wrapping option, except it’s the “Original Anti-Wrapping Service.” Firebox gives their warehouse staff “full creative control” to wrap items as badly as possible, “think wretched rips and tears, pathetic attempts at folding, the odd stray hair.”

Their website is also filled with hidden jokes and gags that make the whole shopping experience entertaining.

The Takeaway: brand values don’t have to be serious they just have to be authentic. Whatever values you choose, make sure they permeated everything your brand stands for. And never miss a chance to leverage them in new and surprising ways. So, now that you’ve used our best-in-class examples to sharpen your own brand values, it’s time to post your list on your About Page and call it a day, right? Well, if you study these examples, you’ll know the answer is a definitive no.

Before you go…

Brand values are not another growth hack or tactic. They’re only as good as the brand around them. And they only resonate with customers if they shape the services and products you offer, the stories you tell, and the customer experience.

If this is just another exercise you’re doing because you read somewhere it’ll help, save yourself a headache. Brand values need to be a bone-deep commitment from your business, or they’ll never be anything more than a list and a few hours you spent one afternoon.

The core of any truly great brand is understanding what you’re really selling, and why your customer needs it. If you’re not willing to put in the work, brand values won’t either.

If you are willing to roll up your sleeves, you’ll discover that brand values are a cornerstone of a strategy that will grow your brand profitably, and free you from the acquisition trap.

Without shared values, you have buyers. With strong brand values, you have a community.

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