"Is your business driven by value or profit?"
“A system is corrupt when it is strictly profit-driven, not driven to serve the best interests of its people.” Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
It doesn’t take a genius to know that profit is important to any business.
Every business exists to make money, but money can’t be made by simply existing. So why do so many Annual Reports provide detail on profitability but little to no quantification on value they created?
Profit will always be a reward for the effort that goes into building, maintaining and growing a business, but there’s an irony in that the most profitable companies are not those that are entirely profit-focused. The fact of the matter is that profit can only be achieved through transactions with customers. That comes from forging deep, meaningful connections. And that’s where value comes in.
Think about, or even list out, the audiences you feel your brand needs to reach out to. It’s more than likely this will include customers and employees - they’re a given. Maybe it also includes partners, potential investors and local communities? These are the groups of people that you create value for. Or at least they should be…
For each audience, think about the value that you want to create for them in the future. Imagining what their needs and motivations will be 5 years from now is a useful starting point. What role will your brand play in meeting these?
That’s usually a tricky question to answer.
How your brand communicates the value it creates, and will create in the future, should always take centre stage. In other words, your brand’s value propositions - how you talk about the individual products, services, innovations you offer - should work to reflect the things you thought about or listed earlier as closely as possible. They should distinguish between your key audiences, considering the future value they want or expect you to create, and tell stories about how you’ll go about creating it.
Having these nailed down stops brands being pulled apart in different directions, trying to be all things to all people. They should be informative, motivating and inspirational in equal measure, and definitely not just live within a PowerPoint document buried deep on a server.
But it’s easy for things to become difficult to navigate. When it comes to value propositions, complexity is enemy number one, and overlap is its man-at-arms. Sure, sometimes overlap happens naturally – it’s hard to stay out if its way – but when complexity strikes there aren’t many places to hide.
Having an overarching idea helps to keep things simple to manage. When it’s done right it’s an impenetrable shield that can do away with the clutter beneath and point everybody in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be detailed or worthy, it just has to be relevant. Oh, and memorable – generally, the shorter the better.
We believe that a brand is a promise, delivered – nothing more, nothing less. That promise should reflect the collective value you create for your audiences. It should be the lifeblood of everything you do in pursuit of creating value.
Take McLaren, and their brand promise of ‘Winning’. That’s what they’re about, that’s what they’re in the business of doing, and that’s what drives their business forward - literally. It means something for each of their audiences.
For Racing, it’s about making the fastest go faster. For Automotive, it’s about transforming excellence into breathtaking experiences. And for their Applied Technology business, it’s about answering the questions that others can’t. These are meaningful, motivating and, above all, demonstrate how they create value.
While to many, success will always be defined by profit, great brands are at their best when they think ‘value first, profit second’.
As a genius once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Albert Einstein
What are Wild Cards?
The Clearing have been working with The School of Life to develop 100 questions designed to help you see your brand from new perspectives. We think great conversations begin with a great question. Each week, we’ll share another question and our response to it. Email us with your own answers on firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to know what you think.