Water companies might be tempted to think that their brand values don’t much matter. After all, unlike consumer brands, it’s not as though the customer will shop around for a rival water supplier. Indeed, for most of us, our water company feels like a silent provider we don’t think about until a bill comes in or something goes wrong.
Yet brand values do so much more than simply make a company stand out to customers. They can help with a whole host of other business challenges and strategic decisions. Brand values can impact on how a business is managed, its ability to attract talent, suppliers and investors. Brand values might inform how an organisation manages and rewards staff, how it behaves in its community or how it deals with crises. They will shape the company’s external market persona and help everyone in an organisation understand what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable.
In essence, a bit like a moral compass, brand values make it easier for companies to act consistently and make decisions. What’s more, even if values can’t influence how much a water company ‘sells.’ They will certainly support customer service and put some ‘good will’ in the bank for when things at the water company go wrong. Our research has found that we’re twice as tolerant of mistakes by brands whose values we like.
You only need to look at a business with a clearly thought through set of brand values in place, to see this in action. Timpson is a retail brand which does ‘values’ brilliantly. Indeed, it gets an honourable mention in our Brand Love report which examines what it takes to make a brand successful.
Timpson, among other things repairs shoes, watches, jewellery and mobile phones, cuts keys, dry cleans clothes, engraves stuff and prints photos. This is an eclectic offering, yet the company has absolute clarity about its values and these can be felt in everything it does.
Timpson’s values are centred on trust and kindness. But this isn’t simply a statement that’s stuck in a drawer and forgotten. The brand ‘does’ trust and kindness.
The values are exemplified by its upside down management model where staff are called colleagues, given great training and then trusted to do things their way, rather than being nailed down by a lot of processes. This light of touch management means the organisation isn’t needlessly top-heavy, with lots of expensive senior management salaries. The brand values help the bottom line!
These values also shape Timpson’s HR policy, with a tenth of Timpson employees being ex-offenders. Indeed at least seven of the group’s 2,000-plus stores are run by people still serving their sentences, who are able to work under day release schemes.
On the kindness front the company has 10 holiday homes and lodges at popular locations across the UK and in Europe. These are offered free of charge to colleagues and their families. Employees are given the company Rolls Royce to use for their wedding. They are given an extra paid day off for their birthdays and can also take a paid day’s holiday to take a child to school on their first day. Living by such a strong set of brand values builds not just staff but customer loyalty too.
But for me, it’s the direction the values give to business decisions which is particularly powerful. Using the values as a touchstone, Timpson has much greater clarity around how it runs its business, rewards and trains staff, how it markets itself. Staff know exactly how a Timpson employee behaves and customers and suppliers feel the benefit of all this too. These values shape and inform. They’re an asset to the whole business.
So I’d urge water companies to devote some time and resource to getting really clear about their brand values. Don’t view it as some intellectual exercise driven by marketing or HR. Done properly, values will underpin the entire operation. Strongly held values could impact on how staff are managed, staff’s attitudes to safety, training and the customer. Values could inform how bills are laid out, how services are described and delivered, how new technology is evaluated. Everything.