Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but I’m not really sure what it means. I mean, I could look it up in the dictionary, but what does it really mean? Is it my beliefs? Is it the things that are most important to me?

I hear the word thrown around a lot in election years. Ads on TV tell me that this candidate supports my values, and that the other guy is actively working to destroy them. His opponent presents his views the same way. How do either of them know what MY values are? Sometimes I think they’re just assuming, and other times, I think they’re trying to manipulate them, that somehow by making the ads strong enough, I’ll be convinced to change whatever my values are to match theirs.

I also hear companies throwing the word around, implying essentially the same things. “We value the same things you do, and the competition is just out for your money like the greedy, hungry dogs they are!”

Well, it’s not that bad, but you get the idea…

Values-based marketing, then, is when a company’s promotions and advertising is directly connected to some kind of perceived belief system. You see it all around. It could be a Christian bookstore, or a health-food store. It could be the vending machine that says that it donates half the profits to the Boys and Girls Clubs. It’s the company that sells flags in election years, the store that sells yellow ribbons in wartime.

Values-based marketing can be a very effective tool, in the long run, for marketing your products. If, and that’s a big IF, it’s done right. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Identify your audience

One of the problems I have with the political campaigns, especially, is that the ads blast out to everyone, and assume that my values match theirs. When that’s not the case, it comes across as criticism, like they’re insulting my values. The truth is, that I’m simply not one of their audience. If you don’t identify your audience first, you can end up alienating a lot of people and the very least, wasting a lot of advertising effort and money. Know who you’re looking for.

2. Identify their values

Once you know who they are, you need to know what their beliefs are. If you’re going to connect your products with those beliefs, it’ll be difficult without knowing them. How does that group feel about themselves, their families, the world? What is important to them?

3. Compare your own values to your audience’s

If you’ve picked your product and your business based on your own passions and interests, then you’ll find that when you do the first two steps, you, yourself, are a part of your audience. If that’s the case, then you’re in a good position to market to their values, because you share them. You’re connected to them. You live them yourself. This will also make you more believable.

If you check your own list of values against that of your audience, and you discover that they clash, you might want to reconsider using values and beliefs as a part of the marketing process. You might want to use other strategies.

4. Show how your products enhance their ability to live their values

This is the essence of benefits-driven advertising. When you do your promotions, your websites, your ads, your press releases, you want to focus on how your products or services will enhance your customer’s ability to live their values. For example, if your audience values education for children, then science kits and books might be promoted to show how that will help your children learn. Point out how educational video games are better than shoot-em-ups.

5. Use Charitable Giving Carefully

A very easy way to appeal to values is to promise a portion of the proceeds go to a particular charity. If you do this, make sure to contact the charity and see if they have any policies for that. In essence, by tying in to their name, you are implying an endorsement. Also, when I see signs like that, the skeptic in me always wonders what actual percentage of what I pay goes to the charity. It might not be a bad idea to be a little more specific.

Also, it helps if the recipient charity is in some way relevant and related to the topic of the site. You should at the very least choose a charity that impacts your audience. Is your audience women? Then maybe breast cancer research. Christians? There are a huge number of churches and Christian charities. You get the idea.

6. Avoid insincere exploitation.

People aren’t stupid. They can spot insincerity, and it will impact your business. If you followed through with steps 1, 2, and 3, it will show in your promotions. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as someone just trying to make a fast buck off of someone else’s kindness and faith.

7. Carry on in the face of criticism

Even if you ARE sincere, there will be those who doubt your motives and will criticize you. Others who oppose your beliefs may try to distract you and derail you. But if you are committed to your values, carry on, and you’ll succeed not only in business, but in fulfilling your values in your life. And that’s a powerful place to be.

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