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Brand values

8 March 2011

Brand values are much more than a collection of little words stuck up on office walls. They should drive both the way a charity behaves and the way it presents itself.

Many brand projects focus on the visual expression of a brand. The importance of values and the impact of peoples’ behaviour on brand often gets left behind.

However, supporters gravitate towards brands they trust and that embody values that reflect their own, and so your values are essential to getting people to connect to your charity and your cause.

At the Brand Breakfast event on 16th February 2011, brand manager Rebecca Walton reflected on the importance of living and breathing brand values at Save the Children.

Save the Children embarked on a review of its brand values in 2006. The organisation’s challenge was to develop a set of values that would broaden their external appeal and develop internal culture.

The value of values

Save the Children recognised that values can veer off course if they are not underpinned by authenticity. Indeed, a lack of clear or authentic brand values will inevitably reduce the credibility of a charity’s brand in the eyes of supporters and staff.

When charities construct values correctly, they serve as a keystone connecting people to the cause. Save the Children highlighted the benefit of brand values when they are linked to the overall organisational objectives and strategic plan. When this is achieved, values influence processes and ways of working, partnerships, new products, campaign development and much more!

Values must shine through the culture of the organisation

No longer can charities say one thing and do another. Values must be meaningful and filter through all organisational behaviours and communication.

When defining their brands, charities used to focus on the ‘what’, the functional aspects of what they do. Now, many are shifting towards the why and how of their activities (their values) in order to differentiate themselves. Values can drive brand personality (including tone of voice), company culture and decision making.

Over time, values provide employees with an understanding of how they should behave. Employees are more effective when they are emotionally invested in the brand’s greater purpose. It was important at Save the Children that all staff understood and lived the brand.

This was reflected in the values review and creation process.

Creating effective values 

Save the Children defined effective values as being:

  • Useful: can be used to shape decision-making
  • Distinctive: if they could easily be applied to another organisation, they’re probably wrong
  • Resonant: both with staff and external audiences
  • Authentic: representative of who we are and what we do
  • Aspirational: a simple affirmation of the status quo won’t help us get better. We need to state clearly where we want to be
  • Focused: the values should not attempt to say everything

Internal engagement was fundamental to creating new values. Save the Children involved over 500 staff in a series of workshops. These workshops encouraged teams to select images and choose words that felt appropriate to illustrate Save the Children in the past, present and future. The process was inclusive of all staff, with analysis and final drafting of the values led by a project steering group.

Bringing values to life

The new Save the Children brand values were reflected in external facing communications and extended to tone of voice and creative look and feel. New tools were created including a brand booklet and film. The values were also embedded internally across all HR processes from recruitment to training and performance management.

It was of utmost importance that Save the Children monitored the new brand values via external brand tracking and internal staff surveys and decision making. 

Tinkering with values

Too much tinkering with values can threaten their relevance. Save the Children has recently developed new global values as part of a change in structure of the Save the Children family of members. The global values were different to the recently embedded new values created by the UK team and the disparity between them ran the risk of disengaging staff and confusing external audiences.

To preserve the special character of the UK organisation, and its relationship to the global values, Save the Children UK developed a new internal narrative called ‘Our Inspiration’. Our Inspiration told the story of Save the Children and showcased the global values in context of the history of the organisation, thus highlighting the global values as part of the overarching ethos. This was launched this year in conjunction with the new organisational strategic plan.

Dan Dufour

creative brand strategist, BrandDufour

Dan is specialist in brand purpose and one of the sector’s leading brand strategists. He has worked on brand development across all sectors including Rightmove, London 2012 and Cancer Research UK. He's best known for his award-winning work across all corners of the charity sector, including Shelter, Parkinson’s UK, RSPB and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast and is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.