To deliver a truly authentic and effective brand experience, start with your values. Most companies and organizations are able to identify and name their values, but the most successful organizations strive to live them. And that’s the starting point of great brand experiences.
A successful, values-driven brand experience helps people around your organization feel connected to your brand. Customers, partners and employees will identify with your values when they experience them, and this connection will drive engagement and loyalty.
Everyone craves a connection to meaning. Great brands provide it in a deep, authentic way.
Help people connect to something meaningful
At Hollyhock, a nonprofit educational institution on Cortes island in British Columbia, the brand experience is designed to “build congruence between what a participant will experience in a Hollyhock program and what they will experience on site, in their room, at their meals, and on the land. Nothing is done with expedience, but rather with intention.” This intention is rooted in the organization’s values of connection, inspiration, and servant leadership. Hollyhock’s Executive Director Peter Wrinch explains:
“…the brand experience is central for a mission-based organization. It is everything from how you tell your story, to the way you engage with stakeholders, to… printed material. When done properly, brand paints a picture of what your organization is and what you aspire to become. It is a container that holds the space and sets the tone for all of your mission work. It is the strongest facilitator of loyalty, connection, and action.”
Hollyhock has grown a loyal community of participants for programs on the Cortes Island campus, some of whom have been returning for 20 years or more. Guests regularly comment on the way that the continuity and consistency of the “all around” experience amplifies the effectiveness of the educational programs.
Equip yourself to make crisp, clear decisions
When strong organizational values underpin your brand, the right decisions on strategy, programming, even during crises are nearly self-evident in their clarity.
Values-driven brands make decision-making easier—for leadership, customers, donors… everyone.
Consider BC Cancer, whose Foundation fundraising strategy is driven by the values of impactful giving and collective effort. Fatima Hassam, Vice President, Development for BC Cancer Foundation, explains their approach:
“…when we ask for gifts that promise impact, our driving engagement objective is to showcase this impact at every opportunity…. Every touchpoint with our donors is measured by creating a ‘meaningful experience’—donors know they are part of the solution.”
Their commitment to values facilitates decisions about how to communicate the Foundation’s impact: leading with values makes for a clear, effective, and donor-focused brand. Supported by a values-led brand strategy, BC Cancer Foundation raised an inspiring $55 million in 2018 to support cancer research and enhancements to care.
Alternatively, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), Canada’s foremost outdoor retailer, recently faced a tough decision about whether to continue carrying a range of popular camping and outdoors products from Vista Outdoor, a supplier that also makes and distributes guns and ammunition. After an episode of gun violence in the U.S., MEC decided to stop selling Vista Outdoor products. The decision was not made lightly, but it was a clear reflection of MEC’s values of integrity, co-operation, leadership, and humanity. By listening to members’ concerns and acting decisively in accordance with its stated values, MEC increased customer loyalty and retention, as evidenced by the outpouring of member support for the decision in social and traditional media channels.
Distinguish your offering in crowded markets
Many companies still isolate values and culture as an ‘internal’ function and their brand as an ‘external’ function, but when they are treated as ‘two sides of the same coin,’ the resulting brand experience (and employee experience) is deeply resonant and distinctive.
Great brands differentiate while delivering what stakeholders truly need. We call this ‘brand distinction.’
Consider ORS Impact, a consultancy in Seattle that focuses on impact measurement and evaluation. Many leading Foundations and not-for-profit organizations rely on ORS’s services to understand their impact and drive further funding for their work. ORS’s field is highly specialized, technical, and process-driven. Their work can be difficult for clients to access and understand because it combines high-level strategy and very detail oriented analysis. By staying true to values of intellectual curiosity and accessibility, ORS has crafted a unique brand experience. ORS Impact’s CEO, Sarah Stachowiak, explains it this way:
“We use a toolbox not a hammer—meaning we have an array of frameworks and ways we try and help frame and understand clients’ work and recognition that no one framework is the right one. We stay intellectually curious—to do a good job we have to listen hard, ask questions, state the unsaid, and stay learners. I aspire to maintain the feedback that we have ‘good bedside manner’—this work can be technical, and people can come to us with past negative experiences with measurement and evaluation. I think how we do it, making things accessible, making findings clear, all of that is a key part of our client experience.”
Large philanthropic foundations are very demanding clients, but over 30 years, ORS Impact has cultivated a clientele comprising the largest foundations in the U.S.—Kellogg, Annie E. Casey, Rockefeller, and others. This is testimony to the effectiveness of their values-driven “bedside manner” in attracting and retaining the right staff and clients to realize their promise of “missions accomplished.”
The core of Junxion’s Trustbrand™ process is aligning an organization’s brand to it’s vision, mission and core values. The result is an authentic brand experience that is aligned for all audiences, whether they are inside or outside of the organization. We are proud to include Hollyhock, BC Cancer Foundation, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and ORS Impact among the many organizations we have supported in developing and refining their values-led brands and strategies.
This post was co-written by Katja Macura a Senior Consultant based in Junxion’s Vancouver office, and Garth Yule, the Canadian Managing Director for Junxion, who recently moved to Ontario, where Junxion plans to open its next office. Reach out to either of them to learn more about the clients they mentioned here, our TrustBrand approach, or how you can use your values more effectively to build a healthy, thriving organization.