In our personal lives, our values guide us in every interaction we have and every decision we make. They are our most dearly held beliefs and they’re a big part of what defines you as a person.
Brand values are no different.
Your brand values are a set of 3-5 powerful words that summarize what your brand (and business) is all about. They serve as an easy but meaningful reminder of everything your business stands for and help set its tone and direction.
They’re at the foundation of everything you do in your business – the way you treat your clients, the way you market and promote yourself, and what your visuals look like.
Knowing your brand values and having them top of mind can simplify a lot of the most challenging parts of running your business. That’s because it’s so much easier to see which path is the best when you know what your business is about at it’s very core.
And intuitively knowing the best path means no longer guessing at what tone to write your emails in, spending hours and hours on marketing plans that get you nowhere, or fiddling with design programs for days on end just to find the perfect color.
Knowing your brand values means less wasted time and more productive work hours doing what you actually love to do.
But finding your values is one of the hardest parts of Brand Clarity. I know because I used to just bluntly ask one-on-one clients what their values were. And they always met the question with a blank stare.
I hadn’t realized yet what a dauntingly huge question I was asking.
Years later, I’ve figured out how to guide my clients to their brand values by helping them dig deeper into their story. And today, I’m sharing that process with you too.
Here are the 4 steps to discover your own brand values:
Step 1: Write your story down
Coming up with your brand values out of thin air is a lot of work. And posing the question bluntly activates all kinds of mental blocks.
You could brainstorm a long list of all the values you can think of and sift through all of them, but that would take a lot of time. And there’s no way of knowing whether you’re picking out brand values or personal values.
The best way to start this is with your story. Nothing is more intimately familiar or more crucial to your brand. And best of all, your story already contains all your brand values within it!
Take a few minutes to get your story down on paper. What moved you to start your business? What has brought you to where you are today?
Let this be a relaxed and enjoyable free-flow writing session. Let the words come out onto paper without judging or trying to make the writing perfect.
Step 2: Find your passion words
When you’re done writing, go back and read your story to yourself. Grab a highlighter or colored pen along and mark all the passion words you find.
Your passion words are those emotionally charged powerful terms you use when you talk about your business. They’re the words that convey your love for what you do and communicate the beliefs and principles behind it.
Look for words like compassion, relaxation, harmony, confidence, connection, joy
Pay special attention to the parts of your story where you talk about making a difference, your ideal client, and your goals.
Step 3: Play
Take all the passion words you circled in your story and write each one down on it’s own post-it or piece of paper. Using real, tangible paper and pen gets your brain working differently and gives you more freedom to move things around and play.
When your words are all written down, find a place where you can spread them out – an empty wall, a large table, even the floor can work!
Group synonyms and related words into categories and try arranging them different ways. This part is just about playing until you find what feels right.
Doing this with physical pieces of paper gives you more freedom to move things around intuitively and discover groupings and categories you might miss by typing into a spreadsheet.
Step 4: Analyze and summarize
Once you’ve arrived at some categories you feel good about, it’s time to narrow things in. Start by counting to see which categories are your biggest. Which groups or words seem to be happening the most for you?
Then, choose the top 3-5 to keep refining. Find the strongest word in each category, looking for the final one to represent each group.
You might end up reorganizing some of your words or looking for synonyms or changing your mind and bringing back a category you’d set aside. And that’s totally fine!
It’s all fair play, as long as you’re drawing closer to a working list of brand values.
Like every other part of Brand Clarity, your brand values are bound to evolve as you and your business grow. This set of words gives you something to work with now. It gives you a foundation to build and expand on.
The brand values you land on today are not set in stone forever. They’re here to help you today and to guide you during your journey.
And a quick tip: While value words like service, excellence, and professionalism are totally valid, they’ve kind of lost their meaning and power thanks to corporate America. They don’t really say much anymore and definitely can’t capture the unique essence of your business.
Try to move beyond these words and find the ones that highlight the things that make your brand different. That tap into your unique story and perspective. Those words make for much more powerful values.
Ready to tackle this head-on? I have a free worksheet to help you work through these steps! You can download it by subscribing to my newsletter below: