So much of what is going on politically in the US and beyond is at its core, based on values. On one side are values wishing to restore prosperity through nationalism and “America first” attitudes which have come with a dearth of clarity on measures and actions on how people will be treated to execute that plan. On the other side are values of compassion, diversity and acceptance tied to the country, and it’s place on the international stage. Those in the America first camp associate the latter group as having values that benefit establishment and privilege.
Values are not something changed easily or quickly. In fact, they are unlikely to be changed at all. America will likely be divided for some time.
So where does marketing fit into all this?
Good marketing is based on shared stories, which often are formulated around common interests and common beliefs. In short, the more a business or brand aligns their values to those of their customers, the more affinity the target audience will have to the brand. Toms Shoes, MEC and Westjet are examples of this approach in practice.
Values based marketing is an appeal to a customer’s values and ethics. It shifts marketing from a product-centric approach to a customer-centric one where promotions to customers express values as part of the core brand message.
Yet, many companies fail to tap the values equation. Sometimes there’s good reason to not touch it – you may have a target so broad that to pick a set of values would be sure to offend some of your customers. But if you do have the basis of shared values with your target group, now more then any other time in recent history is the time to make that connection. Why? Because we have now moved into an era where values will increasingly take center stage because of shifts in world politics.
I had this very discussion with two different clients this week. In one case we were looking at what opportunities they had now to resonate with an audience that valued diversity and acceptance – a space they absolutely owned, as a Canadian affiliate of an American based company. There is likely increased opportunity for companies closely associated with “brand Canada” such as Molson Canadian, Canadian Tire, Tim Horton’s and Marks Work Warehouse, to go further down the values route in their marketing. Being Canadian could become even cooler then it was during the 2010 Olympic year, for those whose values align more liberal and accepting.
But there will also be many companies that will stand to benefit through capitalizing on American pride and the “Buy American, hire American” attitude that will sweep their land. That movement, and the values it stands for will resonate strongly with some audiences. At the core of both of these approaches, will be making a connection with customers based on shared values.
Where does all this leave you, especially if you’re a smaller business looking for direction? Trends wise, I do think we will start to see divisions emerge around values and how business and brands are perceived.
The bottom line: If you are in the position to benefit by wearing your values on your sleeve, now is the time to do it.
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