Every time consumers open their wallets, they show their preference for the brands they trust. A key driver of relevance are the values brands stand for and the way they bring those values to life in the customer experience.
The 2019 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® gives us a unique view into how brands today stay relevant to consumers. To determine relevance, Prophet surveyed 13,500 U.S. consumers about more than 225 brands across 27 industries. It measured four brand principles: customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, pervasive innovation and distinctive inspiration. Within these principles, we measured how customers rated brands on a set of values and beliefs that align with their own.
The study reinforced a strong correlation between relevance and values (R2=0.55), suggesting that brands that effectively demonstrate strong values externally, have greater relevance with the consumers they are engaging. Said another way, consumers place greater weight on how brands demonstrate and live their values rather than the specific values themselves. We can look to brands that perform highly on “has a set of values and beliefs that align with my own” to learn how to help drive greater relevance in the market.
The Importance of Brand Values
To have a lasting impact, brand values need to be more than words on a wall – they need to come to life across touchpoints, internally and externally. Internally, values can engage, empower and equip. They form the foundation of a company’s culture, defining behavioral standards, unifying employees, boosting morale and helping employees work towards a shared vision. When employees enthusiastically live the company’s values, those values radiate externally and can be felt by customers.
Brands that turn their commitment to values inside out, create deeper relationships with consumers who share those values and believe in the brand’s bigger purpose. Brands with weaker values – or those that don’t live up to their values – can have negative impacts on customers’ perceptions of the brand. To see the impact values can have on brand perceptions, we studied brands that are winning with customers and employees around a shared set of beliefs and values.
1. USAA – Values That Build Empathy
USAA, #46 in the BRI overall, brings their values to life for employees, empowering them and transforming how they engage with customers. The company starts by reinforcing its values internally, providing employees with a USAA membership and conducting extensive training. Through USAA’s “Surround Sound” approach, trainees read deployment letters from soldiers and even practice carrying a 65-lb backpack. These values-driven experiences enable employees to see their work through the customers’ eyes, creating a connection between the employee and the needs of the customer. As a result, customers feel that USAA employees truly understand their needs, which are rooted in their personal beliefs and values.
2. Disney – Values Motivate at Every Touchpoint
Disney, #5 in the BRI overall, has beliefs which are continuously reinforced throughout the organization – through how leaders communicate, to how performance is measured, to how employees are recognized and rewarded. Disney’s professional development team, Disney Institute, showcases the “business behind the magic” as a resource for companies across industries. One feature, “Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement,” explains the company’s commitment to selecting the right people and retaining them. A key aspect of this commitment? Reiterating the brand’s core purpose – to create happiness – and empowering each employee from the start to provide outstanding service to guests with this purpose in mind. This constant reinforcement and clear communication of expectations creates an intentional culture where decisions are rooted in those beliefs. And customers feel the values as the magic of Disney is brought to life across channels and touchpoints.
3. Chick-fil-A – Values Drive Consistent, Quality Experiences
Chick-fil-A, #27 in the BRI overall, has values which are an integral part of their company, with each team member – from corporate leaders to frontline employees – living them every day. Unlike the rest of the QSR industry which largely takes a transactional approach to customers and employees, Chick-fil-A has constructed an intentional culture rooted in family values with a “servant leadership” mindset. This is nurtured in the culture across every touchpoint, from how they recruit talent (e.g., observing how potential hires interact with employees) to how they engage with customers (e.g., closed on Sundays and saying “it’s my pleasure” when serving customers), and ensures employees truly live the culture and values every day.
Chick-fil-A’s values are so deeply engrained in employees’ lives, that they permeate into customers’ experiences. The chain has established a high bar for what customers will experience at any of their restaurants in the country, and with values that are instilled on the individual level, the brand consistently delivers.
From our analysis and best practice examples, we believe that brands who get credit for their values do the following:
- Define shared behavior-driven values: Customers can tell when an employee understands who they are and what’s important to them. Creating values that employees and customers share builds a platform for authentic relationships and better service.
- Motivate at every touchpoint: Consumers can see values come to life across touchpoints along the entire customer journey and even beyond it.
- Make your values known: Of course, values need to be felt before heard, but brands should take a stand to communicate their values in order to help customers understand what they are and why they matter.
Consistently bring your brand values to life helps to shape customer’s perceptions and set expectations. By defining who you are and what you believe in, you can attract customers who share those same beliefs and foster deeper, sustained loyalty.