The Role of Core Values in Brand Development

Feb 20, 2024

There are approximately 11 components that we include in our brand platforms—everything from challenges and advantages all the way down to positioning and promise. One of the most important pieces is identifying a brand’s core values - defining what makes you unique, what motivates your team, and why customers want to do business with you. In this blog we’ll explore what core values are and why they are important for a brand, and discuss how core values are discovered and implemented. 

Defining Core Values—What & Why

As branding experts, we define core values as the fibers of our being and consider them an essential part of a brand’s identity. They may be referred to as a set of guiding principles (EOS lingo) or “defining company culture and guiding workers’ decisions,” according to Harvard Business Review. These values will take into account your desired culture, characteristics, or personality of your brand, and take a deep look at what unifies your team and attracts your customers. 

Core values can affect satisfaction among employees as well as customers, can increase retention and loyalty, and serve as the competitive advantage for a brand, ultimately affecting performance and growth. They should also be a point of differentiation among your competitors. 

Here are a few ways core values can affect a brand:

  • Differentiation. You want your brand to be distinctive from your competitors - seeking a unique way to stand out from the rest - and core values can help do this. We have a lot of competition in our industry - other agencies, freelancers, even DIY tools like GoDaddy vying for you to build your own website. When we communicate our core values to a potential client or an employee, this typically separates us from the rest of the herd. 
  • Attract new customers and keep them loyal. According to Havas Group, “77% of consumers buy brands who share their values.” Great examples of this are consumers of brands such as Patagonia who obsessively care about our planet, or Apple’s commitment to innovation that inspires their followers to line up for days for the chance to buy their next latest and greatest technological solution. Core values can lead key messaging to attract a new customer, it can also provide an experience to retain them and keep them loyal. 
  • Attract, recruit, onboard, and retain the best team. Our core values have definitely served as a guiding light in this area for us. Interview questions are crafted around them as our employee performance reviews. As part of our EOS methodology, employees are evaluated on each of our five core values and how often they exhibit one. Building a team of people whose personal values align with the company’s values leads to stronger employee engagement, longevity, and dedication to their work (
  • Decision making. When you have a clear compass, you make the best decisions. mplementing core values for our company and then using them a measuring tool across the board has given us that guidance time and time again.

Discovering Core Values

As part of our brand work with clients who are creating a new brand or are refreshing an existing one, discovering core values plays an integral role in the brand platform as a whole. While there is no formula to uncovering an organization’s core values, we do have exercises we have clients participate in to get to the core of the core. First, we’ll talk about the best qualities that they are currently demonstrating. We may ask them about their top employees and discuss the characteristics that make them so special or discuss why a customer stays loyal to them over a competitor. We also discuss aspirational brands and, more importantly, why those qualities have attracted their attention. 

Admittedly, there are some core values terms that we try to steer clients away from. Words like “family” tend to have negative connotations today, as most employees don’t want to work for their parents. “Honesty” is a difficult word as it’s often a dishonest person that will tell you they are honest. Similarly, one of Enron’s core values was “integrity,” which they didn’t seem to actually hold true…look how it worked out for them. And “passion” has been overused— especially in our industry—for quite some time as everyone wants to evoke that feeling that Apple exudes to excite their early adaptors. 

Core Values that Resonate with Team & Target

Here are a few tips to bring your core values to life and get buy in from your constituents:

  • Keep the list and the meaning short and sweet. Most of our clients discover somewhere between three and six core values. Each one has a simple, summarizing word, such as “learning,” with a descriptor phrase to elaborate its meaning, for example, “Never stop learning. Stay curious. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope or fail at something.”
  • Look for a response from your team and your clients. Head nods, heck yeahs, and my favorite, goosebumps, are all the desired responses. The words should mean something to them, not just the leadership team. And it’s really incredible when our core values align with our clients! Some of our best partnerships are with clients who have a strong alignment- although not necessarily the same - to our core values. 
  • Make them unique and specific. One of our original core values was “caring” - which is neither unique nor specific. After rolling out our own core values to our team, employees were interpreting that “caring” meant to care for another person - like you would care for a child. After some conversations, we further clarified that this value was actually “collaboration,” as it represented working strategically and building mutual trust with your colleagues, your clients, and agency friends. 
  • Tell everyone about them! Frequency improves memory, (we already know it’s a key factor in successful marketing!), so talk about your core values a lot. When an employee demonstrates one exemplarily, recognize it and share with the team. Discuss your core values in your hiring and onboarding process, so recruits understand what you stand for even before their first day. Hang your core values on the wall, make core value chips for everyone to have, and always include them in your quarterly planning meetings with your team. 
  • Don’t change them. It’s important that you let time and frequency do their job. However, your core values have to work for your brand or they are just words (again, see Enron…). In 2018, our agency went through the rebranding process, and took that opportunity to change our core values to better represent the ideals of the current leadership and team.

Pyper, Inc.’s Core Values

What we live and breathe:

  1. Strength & Boldness. Be focused, fresh, and fierce. Be disciplined to strive for excellence. Be confident because you are kicking ass.
  2. Learning. Never stop learning. Stay curious. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope or fail at something.
  3. Collaboration. Work strategically and build mutual trust with your colleagues, your clients, and agency friends.
  4. Results. Focus on client success. This will drive PY’s success, which fuels your personal success. Help inspire ridiculously amazing, award winning, yet superiorly, strategic work. Brilliant creative isn’t limited to creative.
  5. Enjoyment. We love what we do. We don’t love assholes.

Ready to Identify Your Core Values?

There are a lot of great resources to learn more about core values. We are fans of the EOS Mythology as well as Harvard Business Review’s survey on culture styles. And there are many great aspirational brands besides the ones mentioned here - we often hear about Nordstrom’s, Chase Bank, and the Ritz-Carlton as being brands that demonstrate distinct and memorable core values. The key is identifying, implementing, and living those core values to the fullest! 

We’d love to meet with you to discuss our brand platform process and our approach to creating or refreshing your brand’s identity. Let us know if we can help you!