The blog.

The trouble with brand values

A value isn’t a value until it costs you money.

For many businesses, the values carefully typeset and hung on the foyer wall are simple statements which the business would like to be true, or would like their customers and their people to believe are true.

Until the time a business decision must be made which pits profits against values, most values go unnoticed by both the business, staff and customers.

And too often, for these businesses, in the battle between the irresistible moral high ground and the immovable bottom line, the bottom line wins.

Not that the value wasn’t good. Just that the value wasn’t right for the business.

They can and should be your secret weapon in realising your business goals.

Values are the core of the moral code.

A value is something you will not compromise on.

This is true of people.

And true of business.

The problem with many business values is not the values themselves, it’s the role those values play in business.

Honesty, Sustainability and Genuine Value For The Customer are good values.

Little wonder they’re shared by 90% of all businesses.

The question is a simple one, “What purpose do they serve?”

If they do not help a business reach its business and reputational goals, they’re just something nice you’d like your customers to hear.

Values serve a simple function. They align the behaviour of the people in the business with the goals of the business. They provide an objective foundation for judging the actions of others and provide a clear decision lens through which to determine the ideal behaviour of individuals, teams, management and the board.

The provide solid foundations for the development of behaviours which win new business and retain existing customers.


… too many businesses determine their values before they determine their business and reputational goals.

No wonder the actions of the people are counter to the promises the business is making to its market, and at odds with the drive to business success.

Determine the business goals first.

From there, determine the reputational goal.

And then ask yourself, “How must we act in order to reach those goals?”

Those action cues become your values.

If your business and reputational goals are different to your competitors, your values will be different, which means your people will behave differently, which provides an authentic, differentiating reason for your customer to stay with you.

Let your goals determine your values.

Your values are the pact you make with your people.

They are seen in your behaviour and reflected in their actions.

The actions of your people become proof of the promises you make to your customers.


Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the weekend

Money beats sense

I’ve always had an issue with the alphabet song.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

H, I, J, K, L-M-N-O-P


T, U, V



According to Wikipedia, the song was first copyrighted in 1835 by Charles Bradlee, a Boston-based music publisher, and given the rather (for a simple song) ostentatious title, “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte”.

My issue is with both the metre and the rhyme. They don’t make sense.

The rhyme ends in an “ee” sound.

Which is great for Americans.

But I grew up with the English Zed – an “eh” sound.

So the song always sounded odd trying to rhyme the “zed” with the “Vee”.

The metre, also, seems odd.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

1, 2, 3, 4, 5-6-7-8-9

1, 2, 3 (PAUSE)

1, 2, 3

1, 2 (PAUSE)

1, 2, 3.

It’s all over the place.

It felt like someone was just making it up. To my English and more pedantic ear, the song would be better with a more regular metre and a rhyme on the “eh” sounds (which are more abundant than would seem at first glance).

Consider this metre

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

And overlay it with the “eh” rhymes found in f, m, s and zed.
“Eh-f” “Eh-m” “Eh-ss” and “Z’eh-d”

And you get…

A, B, C, D, E and F

G, H, I, J, K, L, M

N, O, P, Q, R and S

T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

It always seemed like a more elegant solution.

The only thing it has against it is the amount of current usage, the popular acceptance of “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte”, cultural intransigence (people like to be right about stuff, and the alphabet song is ALWAYS sung that way) and the limited desire for change (It’s easier to live with a slight mental discomfort – if there is one at all – than to go through the effort of change).

It would take more money than I have to even try and get people to change, even if the “zed” doesn’t rhyme. To own the mental and physical salience (as Uncle Sir Professor Byron so eloquently puts it).

It’s a question any manager of any brand that isn’t number one in its category must ask themselves.

My solution makes perfect sense, why isn’t anyone else buying it?

And the answer is always one of four.

The incumbent number one owns the mental space in people’s heads.
The incumbent number one owns the distribution channels.
The current market is happy enough with the number one’s products.

Any future market isn’t going to pay me enough to recoup my launch costs.

Something to consider next time someone says to you, ‘I’m giving you $10,00,000 to launch this thing. It should be as easy as A, B, C.”