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    Advice, Branding, Design, freelance

    4 questions to ask to help find your brand’s core values

    November 19, 2015

    Finding your brand values is the first step in creating a foundation for your brand. If you’ve been building a brand for years and never took the time to figure out your foundation, or if you’re just starting out, finding your brand values is a huge step in the branding process. Finding your values helps you create an understanding for yourself and anyone else that you hire to work with your business for how the brand looks, feels, and works as a cohesive unit. Without defining your core values, you risk going into a visual direction you might change up every year — or worse, couple months! This creates a chaotic system that your audience will have a hard time staying loyal to. Even if you’re still working on your visual system, and your values are in place, the message and tone of your brand will be something that you can start to grow a community with. It will begin to bring out a consistency in your brand that people can trust and value. Brand trust and value is everything when it comes to building a successful business. In this post, I want to share a couple of the questions we have our clients work through to help define their core values and share how we take this information and begin to form it into a brand’s core values.

    What are your 1, 3, and 5 year goals?

    Why start with goals? This will give you a general understanding of where you’re hoping your business will head in a specific amount of time. These goals will point to the core values your brand is already working on, whether you’ve identified them or not! Here’s why it’s important to work these out in these increments: 1 is enough to be very realistic. We usually have a pretty good idea about what will be happening within the next year. Whatever you’re hoping to head towards will speak volumes about where your values lie. 3 years is enough to make those bigger dreams a reality, and 7 is long enough to make ANYTHING happen. Working these out, and going with your gut reactions, gives you insight to where you’re heading and where your business values lie. Even if these are not EXACTLY what you’re working towards, your underlying values will start to shine through by going through this process. Look in to the motivations behind the goals and start to write down some adjectives that describe that.
    Ex: Last year I launched the Pinegate Road Print Shop one of my 3 year goals when I started. What this goal did was show me how important it was for Pinegate Road to inspire and help creatives. I’m not as focused on the shop anymore, but the value of helping and inspiring creatives is a core value of the Pinegate Road. I was able to keep the value the same at the core, but have been transitioning how it gets put out in to the world.

    What is your business excellent at?

    Whatever you’re doing now, pieces and parts of this will stay with you as long as you’re in business. Looking in to what you feel you are doing excellently will show what you are confident about and what is generally going excellently with your business and brand. Looking into this question helps uncover that special mix of what you love and what your audience is loving as well.
    Ex: When we worked with Sarah Hearts to create her brand experience, she was doing DIY excellently! Her foundation of DIY worked in to solidifying her values of inspiration, creativity, and accessibility.

    4 questions to ask to help find your brand's values - the list

    How do you want your audience to feel when they interact with your brand?

    This question helps you start to think about your future vision, and it brings the audience and their opinions into play. Your audience is who will be experiencing your brand, and you want to think hard about how you want them to feel. This also removes your personal feelings out of the equation for this particular question to get a better assortment when you head to evaluate at the end. You’re putting all the emphasis on to your audience — their feelings, their experience with your brand. By writing out these feelings, you’re also gathering many adjectives to assess as your define your core values.

    If your brand were a mix of stores / brands, what ones would they be and why?

    Going through this exercise, you get a chance to delve into the brands you feel are doing well. You’re using examples of brands who have their values and visions worked out, and they are expressing these core values throughout their entire brand experience. Whether or not you realize this, there is something you’re drawn to about each of these brands. By dissecting these brands, you can begin to piece together your own values through the act of comparing and contrasting.
    Ex: you can describe your brand as a little Kate Spade with a dash of Anthropologie. When you describe this in values, you can begin to understand that you love classic and clean elements with a dash of whimsy and vintage charm. Going deeper you can say that the classic and clean elements relate to your love of what has been. You stick with the tried and true, and mix in your personality to create a brand that is relevant to today’s consumers.
    Your brand and business is your baby! When you’re thinking about your goals through the lens of another company you can begin to separate yourself from the values and begin to see them more objectively. What do you love about these brands that you can translate into your own? What values are these brands built on that shine through first? What visuals and experiences with this brand make you feel these values? Start to think about what you love about each brand, and then mix and match what works for you and what doesn’t. Finding out what you brand isn’t is just as important as what is!

    BONUS: 30 minute brain dump.

    After you’ve gone through and answered all these questions (I recommend google docs or evernote), set a timer for 30 minutes and WRITE. Write about anything relating to your brand. Write about your hopes and dreams, your fears, and really just talk through the experience of your brand. Don’t edit, and don’t refine — you want pure subconscious brand dumping all about your brand and vision for your business :)

    Bringing it all together and finding your values

    This is really where the value-finding magic begins. You’ve taken your goals, your hopes, your dreams, your audience, and positive brand examples and you’ve channeled your brand through each of the questions. The adjectives that popped up during these exercises will begin to form your brand’s core values. Take some time to highlight all the adjectives in your answers. I like to print everything out and do this part on paper. There’s something about working with real paper that makes it feel so much more official :) Once you’ve highlighted or circled all the adjectives, write or type them all down on a separate piece of paper. What usually happens, is that you’ll begin to see some patterns, a lot of over lap, and you’ll begin to form groups of adjectives that seem to work towards the same goal. Try to work these into three groups, leaving out any that just don’t feel right. Core finding is an act of intuition and gut feelings, so here is where you should purge anything that feels unlike your brand. Once you have your three groups, pick out one adjective, or come up with a new one that collectively encompasses each group. You should be left with three adjectives that sum up the majority of the words — congratulations, you’ve just found your core values!

    I like to take some time once these are found, and write a sentence or two about why these relate to the brand, and how they will start to be showcased in the brand experience.
    Ex: One of That’s Darlin’s core brand values is textural. We wrote that That’s Darlin’ provides tangible and sentimental gifts. The brand identity will use texture to weave in the fact that the end product is physical. Whether this is through watercolor or a never-perfect edge to a design, That’s Darlin’ brand identity will be classic with a dab of textural quality to emphasize it’s unique touch. Here we defined how the adjective ‘textural’ becomes a core brand value and what it provides the brand with as a value.

    Have any more questions about finding your brand values? Comment below and I’d be happy to answer anything lingering. If you’d like to get more branding information, and information on how we are going about growing a business, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter below! I write a behind-the-scenes post every other Tuesday about lessons I’m learning running Pinegate Road and being a creative navigating my own journey. I’d love to have you join the community thats been building:

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    and I’ve been helping entrepreneurs and businesses build their brands and online presences for over a decade. I deeply believe that everyone has the potential to make their dreams reality and my agency helps people do just that. As your creative director, my job is to help take the vision in your head, ground it in strategy, illuminate it with design, and make it your digital reality. 

    I’m Kelsey Kerslake, founder and creative director of Pinegate Road