Surprise, surprise, it’s a workshop
For this mighty task, the pandemic did us a service in the form of a digital leap that was forcefully taken. Because we can tell you, the values workshop really works better using online tools. Ideally, we run the brand strategy workshop face-to-face with the core client team. And for an excellent strategy to emerge, that is the people responsible for the future. Those who make the hard decisions. But for brand values, it’s a more-the-merrier-approach. Hence the whole company jumping online for 45 minutes from all locations is by far the best all-around solution. It provides the dataset and group intelligence needed to find the real values lurking somewhere deep inside the company.
In Werklig’s model, values are the third cornerstone of a brand, alongside ambition and positioning. At the core is the purpose. See there in our pretty framework [link to services]. When sharing the first draft of the brand strategy, we always present the values first. It sets the scene, gets people excited, and, most importantly, listening with openness. The tonality of the rest of the strategy is already getting shaped by the draft values. The crystallization process can lean on something shared.
The workshop task is simple. For 15 minutes, everybody comes up, on their own, with as many possible adjectives and attributes to describe the company as humanly as possible. And it's NOT the company people want it to be. It's the company that it is. It's NOT people's own personal values, but the values they can sense surrounding them within the organization.
Values are inherently good, and they must be based on truth. So NO, don't build a "stretch" and "future vision" into values. They are what they are, and you should be proud of them. Never so far have we encountered a group that rejected the values once they were through the process. We ask people to get at least 40 virtual post-its written, and some do, some don't. No matter, the aim is to get people to park all judgment and just focus on quantity. We want feelings, sensing what's in the air, not analytical thinking. And that's it. The rest is on us.
We'll start clustering or affinity mapping from a set of hundreds or thousands of post-its. Words that are connected have an affinity for each other and end up in the same group. This goes on with clusters merged to other clusters until we have 3, or a maximum 4, left. We give the clusters working names, like risk-taking or safe, joyful or thoughtful, and so on. We check that these pre-values are not contradictory, as it's not conducive to be told to be both safe and risk-taking at the same time. Neither will it be credible as a personality to project outwards. If conflicts emerge, one must do as Mark Z suggested and give something up. Values starting to take form, and seeing the character and personality of a brand emerge, is an exciting moment. (And for the internet out there and your questions — values together ARE the character and personality of a brand, please don't attempt to define all three.)
With the dataset in front, let the creative writing task commence. Each word cluster gets a description and, after much pondering, a final value name with three supportive attributes.
Below is an example of a value: united. One of our own, actually. In case you were wondering, the other three that make or break us are hungry, unconventional and ingenious.
Being a Werkligist is a state of mind. You need to genuinely want to be one of us, enjoy and embrace it. Otherwise, the trust wanes, and our ability to be extraordinary geniuses suffers. We laugh, tell it straight, get angry, and apologize. We remember, and we hug. We are each other's best allies and coaches. We share what we've learned, appreciate, and challenge - constructively and sincerely. We don't point fingers. When one of us fails, we all fail.
How do we know we got it right? The client gets teary-eyed when we read the values out.
That means we’ve found something genuine. That truly touches and makes people proud of the company they work for.
Our clients with brand new values and appraising ones that are not our clients
It’s extremely difficult to do an excellent job in branding with no values to base it on. It also tends to take longer and be fraught, as mentioned, with people drawing on their personal taste for feedback. Nowadays, it’s pretty rare to get a client that is anti-values per se. More common is that their values are the trivial, cliched type. Then it’s our job to explain and demonstrate the value of good values, but we have a pretty good spiel for that ;). (And a keynote.)
Here’s one example of a recent collaboration — Xolo. The all-for-solos company developing digital tools to make life as a micro-business smooth sailing, even in the rocky bureaucratic waves of the world. At a point of a big shift — expansion to new markets, new people, new products — we worked with Xolo to formulate their next stage brand strategy and a cut-through identity. Shine safely all solopreneurs of the world! You can read all about Xolo’s values: bighearted, maverick and (like) clockwork, on their blog: https://blog.xolo.io/we-rebranded-heres-why
Plugsurfing is another fine example. We partnered to redefine their brand, story, and creative expressions on the back of their new business strategy. To let the world know how they are bringing back the pure joy of being on the road, going on a carefree drive. Plugsurfing is transforming electric vehicle charging by bringing together all the industry players, building the biggest emobility software alliance in Europe. Their values: loving, lucid, reformist. Read the story here: https://plugsurfing.com/about-us/
Then there’s Ekberg, Helsinki’s beloved original bakery and café. 170 years in the same family. Always charming, determined & curious. www.ekberg.fi
Mark Z was already mentioned. For your interest, the new Meta values are here. Quite a few. People can probably cite about half unaided. Also, slipping into what instead of HOW. But there’s truthfulness there, no doubt. Simplifying the list into just 3-4 keywords (with explanations, of course) would be more memorable and poignant, for example:
Fast, Futuristic, Impactful, Direct.
Focus on Long-Term Impact.
Build Awesome Things.
Live in the Future.
Be Direct and Respect Your Colleagues.
Meta, Metamates, Me.
Nike calls their values the Maxims, which is quite poetic for a sports brand. There’s a bit of what in the mix, like Serve athletes and Create the future of sport. Still, regardless they paint a picture of a unique culture, where certain behavior is not just accepted but embraced. The Maxims are a slightly watered-down version of the original one from the 80s. See the typed list. Which one has more guts and distinctive quality?
Do the right thing
Be on the offense always
Create the future of sport
Win as a team
A final thought
Probably the most valuable thing about the values for any company is that decision-making is much easier when they know their true pride-inducing values. Nobody knows the future, but when you have a set of clear principles to work with, you’ll lose less time, energy, and sleep agonizing over it.