The power of choice. It’s a brand’s toughest competition — and they’re marketing to the most informed, educated buyer in history. When a product is positioned at a similar price point and quality as other products, businesses win the hearts of shoppers through brand values.
Core brand values encompass the beliefs a company stands behind and guides:
- Brand stories
- Company actions and behaviors
- Decision-making processes
When a team makes tough decisions, takes social responsibility, or faces challenges, brand values act as the beacon to guide them toward what’s important for the company and the people they serve. They do what’s right by taking informed actions that align with the company’s mission and vision.
The values-driven consumer pays attention when brand values become the heart of a marketing strategy. Additionally, this positions a brand to partner with other brands and publishers that complement its products and messaging.
Why values-driven consumers recognize authenticity in marketing
Consumers work to discover brands that align with their values through extensive research. They use resources to gather information, including:
- Social media influencer posts
- Podcast recommendations
- Third-party online reviews
- Media publications
- Employee reviews
Shoppers vet information not only to uncover the reputability and value of the product — does it do what they say it does? — but also to see how well their values match up. Consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that give back, invest in quality materials, or care about sustainability.
Values-driven buyers make purchasing decisions based on numerous factors that evoke a positive feeling. They want to leave the world better than when they arrived. So they consider social, political, ethical, and environmental information about brands.
Brands have developed a heightened awareness of these types of purchasing decisions. This slippery slope can lead to messaging that doesn’t necessarily align with actual core values.
We see this all the time in marketing and often refer to it as virtual signaling — an attempt to give a good impression by expressing opinions that gain acceptance. Consumers take notice and aren’t afraid to call out brands for insincere gestures.
Shoppers no longer rely on what the brand says via their website, ads, or brand campaigns. They look for brands with a vested interest in things they care about. Smart companies know that they can’t just talk about it. They have to be about it, or else they won’t just lose the sale — they will lose public trust. That’s incredibly hard to recover from.
Aligning brand values with consumers to build trust
Astute brands no longer prop up their efforts to attract new audiences through paid advertising. They instead turn to other resources to expand their reach, grow awareness, and strengthen revenue channels.
These resources fall under the umbrella of brand partnerships and include:
- Social media influencers
- Content creators (blogs, podcasts, and videos)
- Complementary brands
Brands that invest in partnerships programs understand that consumers view influencers, reviewers, bloggers, and publications as trusted advisors.
Consumers watch makeup tutorials on YouTube and shop brands used by the artists. They learn recipes on Instagram and purchase cookware recommended by the chef. They read articles on summer destinations and plan vacations based on resort recommendations — all through affiliate links.
Trust is the common thread among partnership programs, and brands can tap into these authentic relationships to reach new audiences, get products in front of high-intent shoppers, and expand into bigger markets.
Working with content creators who know their audiences
Influencers, bloggers, and podcasters build relationships with their audiences through engaging conversations via comments and messaging. This relationship informs their content plan and invites the opportunity to partner with brands that align with their audience.
Brands want to reach credibility and relevance in their messaging, but consumers today tune out advertising like white noise. When businesses partner with content creators through product placement, reviews, and recommendations, they’re given access to an inner circle built on trust.
If there’s an authentic match between the creator and the promoted product, it doesn’t feel like an advertisement. It feels like advice.
Brands can get this wrong, so it’s vital to partner with creators who give honest product reviews and only promote content they believe in (and serves their audience). When celebrity influencers promote products they don’t use for the sake of compensation, consumers are more likely to get turned off from the brand — not the famous promoter.
Transparency between creators and businesses is essential for partnerships to work.
Creating commerce content to partner with publishers
Commerce content is editorialized content produced by a publisher about a product or service that appears native to their publication.
For example, The New York Times publication Wire Cutter may publish a list article about the top 10 gifts for new moms. The publication follows strict editorial standards, so the writers and editor only select products they endorse. They embed affiliate links within the product recommendations, so the publisher earns a payout for each item purchased from its readership.
The team remains true to their editorial integrity by testing and researching products, and they earn revenue by partnering with the recommended brands through affiliate links. This content works so well because there’s a separation between the editorial and the business teams — removing marketers from the equation altogether.
Publishers feel empowered to stay focused on serving the consumer rather than meeting revenue goals or KPIs like marketers. Even smaller, lesser-known brands see exponential growth when listed in commerce content articles — sometimes upwards of 400 percent from a single spotlight in an article.
Meredith Corporation — the media company that owns People, Better Homes and Gardens, and InStyle — drove more than $36 million in revenue on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone. The publisher involved no advertising. They relied on commerce content to share the right products with their audiences to facilitate sales.
Messaging should come from partnerships — not marketers
Savvy consumers grow weary of marketing messages — known as ad or banner blindness. When brands form partnerships, these partners create messaging that resonates with their audiences in a relatable, genuine voice.
Partners that are aligned with the brand’s values provide a more authentic way to promote products and services — and take pressure off companies to get their marketing right. Consumers are more likely to listen to someone speak about a brand than to a brand that talks about itself.