Why successful businesses live by their brand values


In a world of trends and clickbait, fake news and citizen journalism, where Tweets never die and where today’s headlines are definitely not tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, brand values are not always given their due. However, in reality, they’re more important than ever.

Businesses often talk about brand values, but they don’t often live by them, and if ever there was an example of how the mighty can fall when they become unanchored from their core beliefs, it’s the BBC. Here’s what we can learn from their example.

BBC brand value blunders

Anyone who watches the BBC will have identified some discrepancies in their branding in recent years.

Public purpose and impartiality

A pillar of British society and a self-proclaimed bastion of journalistic integrity, their mission, values and public purposes state that their objective is:

"to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain".

The point about impartiality is one that they cleave to, but anyone watching their output in recent years will note a swing towards what feels like their perception of what the public wants to hear. They don’t seem to be sure what their stance is on impartiality and where their jurisdiction lies. The latest debacle has been the uproar over Gary Lineker’s Tweets about government immigration policies.

Editorial integrity and quality

If we look at the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, another area of interest crops up. In the introduction alone, they state:

"The BBC must publish, review periodically and ensure the observance of guidelines designed to secure appropriate editorial standards for our UK Public Services and safeguard the editorial integrity and high quality of the World Service and maintain high standards of editorial integrity and quality for BBC Monitoring."

‘Editorial integrity and quality’ is a noble and highly valued commodity on which the BBC was founded. Yet, this institution has been embroiled in not one but multiple examples of both unethical and criminal issues, ranging from the Jimmy Savile scandal to more recent revelations about Martin Bashir’s procurement of an interview with the late Princess Diana. These are not one-offs or recent question marks over their brand - they are systemic.

As an institution with a Royal Charter, famously given priority when it comes to broadcasting royal events, it was a quiet but notably damning indictment when it was dropped from hosting the Princess of Wales’s 2021 Christmas carol concert in favour of ITV. The decision was made after they aired a two-part documentary, The Princes and the Press, without consent.

Brand values and the age of transparency

When you look at brands that thrive over time in this age of transparency, the notable feature is that they live by authentic brand values. Patagonia is always top of the list. Honesty has always been at the heart of their business. In particular, Patagonia has focused on environmental causes and human rights. These values have formed the basis of many of their clever, insightful, intelligent, educational, and sometimes controversial campaigns. However, it’s also backed up by what they do.

The digitally savvy and fast-emerging GenZ, now comprising around 40% of total US consumers, are often described as having no brand loyalty. The far more likely reality is that they are brand loyal but digitally savvy. GenZ is a generation that’s grown up with the Internet and is entirely comfortable with entertainment and marketing being synonymous. The upshot is that they can read brands better than previous generations and will quickly find out if they’re disingenuous. They will out them online and drop them, but if there’s a brand that has values and lives by them, they will buy from them, recommend them and stick with them.

Brand values in practice and business sustainability

It’s not easy to live by core values, especially over a long period of time. While it’s easy to get distracted when competing to trend today, it’s sustainability that businesses need to consider and that needs to underpin your every action from sourcing materials to employment practices and marketing campaigns.

If you're a scale-up looking to establish a successful brand, consider your values profoundly and meaningfully, not simply in the light of what’s popular and ephemeral. If you’re an established business, look at your core values and make sure you know them. Whatever sized business you are, ensure that whatever your values are, they run through every thread of your company and that you understand what they mean in practice.

If we live in a world where any opinion, position, or statement can, and will at some point, be questioned, whether now or in 15 years’ time, the answer isn’t to have no position or opinion at all. The answer is to have a position you can stand by or show the thinking behind even as perspectives change.

Do you need an outside perspective to help deliver a consistent and compelling proposition based on substance? Our Fractional CMO Service is designed to help businesses grow sustainably, building valuable brands and strong reputations.

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