A View from Blue Grotto

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Stop the presses

Values matter.

I couldn’t blog fast enough about the February 2009 Fast Company magazine article on Olympic snowboarder Shaun White.

Mark Borden’s article starts off with a quick tally of White’s accomplishments, and the clichéd endorsements expected to follow this daredevil with blazing red hair. Borden tells of how, at the tender age of 15, White was keen to control his image, being sensitive even to the quality of photos he was autographing for his young audience.

And then I read the stop-the-presses moment when he describes White’s formula for sponsorship: “…White has sought out companies he truly connects with…White sees these deals as a long-term investment portfolio…”

At the (still tender) age of 22, this phenom recognizes the value of his values.

Branding is still king in business right now. Just Google the phrase “brand is everything” and see what you get.

To most, brand equals reputation. So little time, and marketing dollars, are spent on communicating a company’s values. Isn't your brand a direct result of your values? Your brand identifies you, allows your customers to expect consistency, and can be trademarked. Your values allow stakeholders to decide if they will ‘truly connect with you.’ Shaun White seems to understand that he is more than a branding opportunity.

So why don’t companies exert more effort articulating their values? Is it because we innately expect a ROI report to pop up when we use the term value? Because values don't translate easily into an ad campaign?

Is it generational? Boomers did not grow up in a touchy-feely corporate America, but generations X, Y, and millennial rank company values high on the reasons for joining, or leaving, an organization.

Is it too expensive? Branding is big bucks. Would a company have spare change left over to spend on an expression of what matters to the company?

Most companies have values statements, usually clearly posted on their websites. Most include some statement about diversity, innovation, community and the environment. What company would not want those as core values? I tire of the bullet-pointed list of your “values” – Microsoft’s values read the same as Chrysler’s.

But what do they tell me? As a customer, as a potential employee, as a shareholder, as a merger/acquisition candidate? WHAT DO THEY TELL ME?

Here are links to a few company values statements I found. Some are simple, others much (in some cases much, much) more complex. Who would you truly connect with? And, flip side, who is/could/should connect with your company? Who would include your company in their long-term investment portfolio?


Email me with feedback on companies you believe articulate their values, not simply bullet-point them.

As Roy Disney so eloquently put it: "It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are."

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.