We at CHARGE love to say that branding is the act of deciding what your company stands for. There are many ways to dig into how a company defines itself, but one of the more popular routes of late has been the book Traction, which walks readers through what it calls the Entrepreneurial Operation System.
Companies often get stuck in the dreaded Chapter 3: the Vision section. It’s all about defining what is core to your company: your unique values and passion statements.
We’ve seen companies fall into the same potholes (and we’ve fallen in ourselves a time or two) that can threaten to derail their corporate values and branding process. Whatever system you’re using to define your company’s core values, steer clear of these roadblocks.
Roadblock #1: Trying to be too unique
Almost every branding exercise involves defining the things that are unique about you or your company. And every time we do a branding exercise, participants get stuck on the idea of what is unique about them.
You don’t need three things that can’t be said about any other business in the world. A- that is almost impossible, and B- if you could, it wouldn’t benefit you. No one wants to buy car insurance from a firm that makes itself unique by speaking only in rhymes or only insuring people who are 5’6”.
What you want is to find values that ADD UP to a unique whole.
Yes, your competitors may also be able to claim 1 or 2 of your uniques, but you want to stand apart when the whole picture is put together. Perhaps you provide high-quality car insurance and also have a specialty for single people. Maybe you have awesome customer service and have your agents answer the phone for clients 24/7.
The big needs and wants in life are universal- you just need to find a combination that can set you apart.
Roadblock #2: Thinking passion is better than purpose
In the #hustle world we live in, it’s stylish to say that your work isn’t just your work, it’s your life. It’s not enough to have a job, you have to have a desire to change the world… through computer repair.
That emotionally charged language bleeds into corporate branding as well. Instead of being happy to have a purpose, companies feel they have to have a passion. As the millennial workforce ushers back in the ideals of social responsibility and conscientious capitalism, companies feel the push to make every action a larger statement on the world.
If your company feels the passion, wonderful. But don’t push passion on your company if it’s not a good fit. Many companies are successful and responsible with purpose, not passion. Whether you make kitchen tables or croissants, creating something that people need is a great thing.
The emotionally charged language of “a passion” may sound good, but the weight of its expectation can be exhausting for your employees.
Roadblock #3: Mistaking an outcome for your core value
This one is the biggest danger for service companies.
When you’re in the thick of the work, it’s easy to start mistaking your outcomes for your values. The short-term goals you are trying to achieve can make you miss the long-term values you should be invested in, especially when you are in the middle of working on five different projects all at once.
If you are a dog walking service, are you trying to walk peoples’ dogs as fast as possible, or are you trying to remove a stress point from peoples’ lives? If you are an ad agency, are you trying to maximize your clients’ return, or are you trying to tell great stories?
Both are great things. But in each case, the first is just an outcome. The second is a core value. Remember why you wanted to start your company, or what you take pride in when you introduce your company to strangers. Those are your true core values.
If you’re focused on your core values, the results will come with the territory. However, if you mistake an outcome for your core value, you’re unlikely to keep either.
Getting stuck while defining your corporate brand? Having trouble with Traction? Let CHARGE help facilitate your corporate values and messaging exercises so that you can find the answer that fits your company.