Brand values: They’re necessary to have… but not always easy to nail. How do you decide the most important values to highlight, the ones that will convey what your business is really about, and the ones that will help you stand out from the competition?

Brands often fall into the trap of using generic values in their messaging. Most of the time, they’re not bad values, per se. But at their best, these generic values are just… fine. At their worst, they’re downright boring.

Generic brand values cannot truly articulate your business’ differentiators in the market — and you can forget about standing out in customers’ minds.

Below, check out eight examples of generic brand values and why they fall flat— then, scroll down for examples of unique, catchy, and impactful values that modern day buyers resonate with.

Generic Brand Values To Avoid

1. Quality

Sure, quality is important, but it’s also basic. Think about it: It’s not like any brand is ever going to say they value sub-quality products or services. Instead of using “quality,” try focusing on a specific aspect of your business’s quality that sets it apart.

2. Innovation

“Innovation” is one of the most commonly used descriptors in the startup space… to the point that it has become almost meaningless. As an alternative, brands should focus on the specific ways in which they are breaking the mold.

3. Trust

We all want our brands to be trustworthy, but startups need to make it clear why their customers should trust them: Is it 24-7 customer support? Personalize UX? Timely delivery of good and services? Whatever it is, always be sure to follow through on that trust at every touchpoint.

4. Affordability

Not only is “affordability” a generic value; it’s also reductive. Having a cost-effective product or service is certainly a point of pride, but “affordability” doesn’t take into account the value your startup provides (regardless of what it costs) — it actually can evoke a perception of a “cheap” brand.

5. Authenticity

Authenticity is difficult to define for a new audience. You are essentially saying “we are who we say we are,” except… prospective customers don’t actually know who you are yet! In place of “authenticity,” provide a more specific value that speaks to how your brand is authentic.

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6. Professionalism

In the human era of marketing, “professionalism” can come across as sterile and impersonal. Give customers what they’re really looking for with a more specific descriptor. If you’re all about timely responses, you could say “promptness.” If you’re boasting experience in the field, it could be “subject matter expertise.”

7. Community

Community-building is essential to maintaining a strong brand, but “community” is far too broad to be a brand value. Stronger alternatives would be to zoom in on a specific community (such as the region or population your company serves) or the ways in which your business engages with and serves its community.

8. Empowerment

Buzzword alert! We love empowering our clients, but it’s a vague term that lacks the specificity and differentiation that customers need to connect with a brand.

Humanized Brand Values That Inspire Audiences:

1. Optimism

For a brand that’s positive and future-oriented, “optimism” is a stellar value that conveys an upbeat confidence without naiveté. Optimism is contagious — promoting it internally to your teams will foster a strong company culture and emphasizing externally to your target audiences helps build a loyal fan base who will stick around well into your startup’s bright future.

2. Agility

The startup space is ever-evolving, and most orgs need to be quick on their feet in order to adapt to change and keep up with the times. If your brand is built to pivot on a dime, respond to market changes, take risks, and work as a nimble entity, be sure to highlight that ability!

3. Inclusivity

Promoting diversity and inclusion is not only a moral imperative — it’s also a smart marketing move. If your startup is intentional about inclusivity, both on your teams and for the consumers you serve, prioritizing this as a value can help your business reach a wider audience and build a loyal customer base. By showing that your brand is welcoming to all types of people, you’ll attract customers who might not feel represented by other brands. Use diverse models in your ads, showcase your commitment to social justice, and make sure your messaging is inclusive to all. Just remember authenticity is very imperative — if you’re going to talk the talk of inclusivity, make sure you’re walking the walk.

By committing brands to specific — not generic — values, startups can ensure they’re creating meaningful connections with their audiences, differentiate themselves from competitors, and stay true to who they are.

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About the Author: Jenny Farias

Meet Jenny — the founder and brand-alchemist-at-large here at BxH. She's an award-winning marketer and speaker dedicated to helping founders turn their unicorn dreams into reality. When she's not crushing it at work, you can find her jet-setting across the globe, supporting fellow female founders (hello, gWen!), or hitting up Charlotte's vibrant entrepreneurial scene with her boyfriend, Ben (#BenTheGem). Wherever she goes, Jenny brings her infectious energy and can-do attitude to the table — preferably alongside a spicy margarita.

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