**The above image is a promotional photo owned by The Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studios, as are the characters it depicts.
Last Saturday night my husband, four older kids and I went to see Pixar’s new movie INSIDE OUT.
The film was sheer brilliance.
Not just because the plot was creative, or the animation was unbelievable, or that the characters were really well developed and easy to relate to, or that it was genuinely funny and entertaining.
Inside Out moved me to look inward. Why do I do what I do? How are the decisions I’ve made, and want to make, a result of the complex emotions vying for the front stage? As a parent, am I fulfilling my childrens’ needs to ensure emotional stability? Am I patient enough with my loved ones and friends? Am I reaching my full potential professionally? Do I take everything into account before reacting to the world around me? Am I the best ME I can be?
It’s not surprising that I left thinking deep, personal thoughts about my life as opposed to uncomplicated observations about filmmaking because Pixar doesn’t sell movies. They sell the quest for meaning and purpose. When I go to a Pixar movie, I expect to be moved and challenged to lead a meaningful life. It’s the same way that Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles, but personal freedom of the open road, and even the priority of buying American made. Nike doesn’t sell shoes, but rather the drive to excel. Apple doesn’t sell computers and phones, but rather innovation and change.
Ben and Jerry’s has built a reputation for caring more about people than their profit. Let’s take a look at just a few examples. 7.5% of the Ben and Jerry’s annual pretax profits fund community oriented projects. Using higher priced, quality ingredients, they generate less profit per item than their competitors, because it is more important that customers are getting the best ice cream out there than bringing in the most profit for themselves. Rather than mass production of their baked chunks (brownies, cookie dough…), Ben and Jerry’s provides jobs and training to low income residents and people who face barriers of employment. Any individual who walks through the front door is given a job upon request, no questions asked.
These companies understand a potentially game-changing aspect of good business–they don’t just provide a product; they provide a theme, ideal, or value with that product.
Before your customers can rely on and trust you, they need to know what your company values and why. Once a company has well defined values internally, evidence of such will be clearly visible to your market. Whatever product/service you are selling most likely has many competitors all vying for the same market. And, in all honesty, the actual product probably isn’t that different. Certainly continue to promote the virtues of your merchandise, but also recognize that a company with defined purpose and values is the one that generates attention and loyalty.
Here are some ways to convey your company’s values to customers right off the bat:
- Mission statement: A mission statement should always be easy to find on your company’s website. It should be clearly defined, express why the company exists, and carry a strong purpose.
- Vision statement: While a mission statement proclaims a company’s ‘purpose for being’, a vision statement answers ‘based on that purpose, this is what we want to become.’ This is not just about aspiring to raise a certain amount of money for stakeholders, but rather how you can improve the lives of your customers through your product.
- Values statement: Here’s where you can tell your customer what principles are held most dear by the company’s leaders. It might look like a code of ethics, a bill of customer rights, or a promise to stakeholders, but either way it is an expression of how the company will do business.
- Positioning statement: This explains how the company differentiates its operations and products or services from its competitors. It reflects the company’s specific strengths and competencies.
- Company culture and news: A company’s culture sort of groups all the above into one overarching system of beliefs and habits. It primarily defines internal movements, but you can convey the culture to consumers with a short news blurbs that give them a better idea of the kind of people who work at the company, and the overall atmosphere of the business. Let customers know about the company picnic, or interdepartmental softball league, or charity work, so they can better understand how your mission, vision, values, and positioning mold your company as one with a unique perspective and identity that is worth sticking to.
You probably won’t get customers to feel as much emotion as I did after Inside Out, but you can certainly have them build a better, stronger, and longer relationship with you once you clearly communicate your values to them.