We’re living in the age of the subscription economy, where recurring revenue is king. Success for SAAS businesses comes down to their ability to build relationships with customers, and to attract and retain employees. As we’ve discussed previously, the foundation for those relationships is emotional. Businesses that build around one of the 5 emotions – which we call The Fundamental Human Values – outperform those that don’t. It’s that simple. That’s why aligning your company with one or two of these human values is fundamental. Your company’s fundamental human value is the value YOU can deliver on that your CUSTOMER really cares about. (It doesn’t help if they want something you can’t deliver. Or you deliver something they don’t want.) Finding that intersection is the basis for a relationship that can build a business. It’s also the value that gives your COMPANY and its HUMAN employees a purpose.
The 5 fundamental human values that apply to business and life and focus your brand identity, culture, purpose, positioning, strategy, and story efforts are:
But how do you know which one or two are yours? During our brand sessions, we ask clients to take marker to whiteboard, or fingers to keyboard and list, under each value, the things your company does, or plans to do, that can deliver on that value. And it’s simple: May the longer list win. Here’s an overview of each of the values – you can use it to help create your list.
Everybody wants some level of happiness. You probably got happier just reading that. But only companies that get to work every day with the mission of increasing the happiness of their customers can claim this human value as their own. They invest time and money ONLY in the things that will further this value. Here, God is in the details. What initiatives are you executing on or planning to implement that are oriented toward increasing happiness? What can you do to continue making your customers happy, knowing full well that happy can turn to sad real fast? Disney is in the happiness business – Disneyland is the happiest place on earth (even though it seems like it’s filled with miserable, overstimulated kids who are bawling after eating too much sugar and not being allowed to buy a 6 ft Dumbo plush for $400) Every box that gets delivered to your home with the Amazon smile on it delivers on joy very well. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, with its inventive, engaging packaging and crazy flavors does this too. We also include contentment under the happiness value – like the peace of mind insurance companies give when you buy a life insurance policy. You feel better knowing your family will be ok if you can’t be there for them some day.
Now it’s your turn. List 5 or more things your company does to deliver happiness. Is it enough to deliver on this fundamental human value? Dig into the details. Understand how the littlest efforts can have a big return.
People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. People have always sought community and connection. When a community gets huge, it becomes a country. People who wear cheesehead hats at Packer’s games, or a judge’s gown and wig at Yankee games are expressing their allegiance to a community. Churches, civic organizations, and clubs are all evidence of our human need to gather and be part of something bigger than ourselves. Businesses have organized around creating and sustaining connections between people. Starbucks built their business by offering the third living room (although that’s less and less their strength today), Facebook/Instagram/TikTok are all about community, almost to a point of frenzy as people share shots of their breakfast and their booty. It’s in our DNA to want to belong to something. Is community what your company’s based on? What is your company doing to create or feed your customer’s community? What are you doing to satisfy their desire to connect with others? Companies that tap into the values of the community they can serve can create lifelong relationships.
List 5 or more efforts you have in play that can deliver on this most fundamental human value. This value is essential not just to the individual, to groups, but to society at large. Currently, this is the most important value to a new generation of employees.
Humans are so proud of being curious creatures we want to own it for ourselves, and so we scare cats away by telling them, “Curiosity killed the cat.” The human species is unlike any other creature in that they are uniquely aware of the finality of life, and so they seek to spend their days above ground searching the new, the unknown and telling their stories of their discoveries and optioning those stories to Hollywood. All search engines satisfy curiosity and offer a tool to wander – (or maybe go down some conspiracy rabbit hole). There’s a TV network called Discovery, for God’s sake. Patagonia didn’t just sell high quality fleece, it showed you all the wonderful wildernesses where it would be considered remotely fashionable. And with its identity as one of earth’s greatest admirers, it has evolved into a social impact company promoting the long term sustainability of the planet. Podcasts, online education and tour operators are all businesses built on Curiosity. If you provide a product or service that can satisfy your customer’s curiosity, and allow them to discover anew, THAT is the value you share, and you should be doing everything you can to help them discover and become a fellow traveler.
List the things you do that create or satisfy customers’ curiosity, and how to keep up with their curiosities, as curiosity is a moving target. Curiosity drives your customer. Can you keep up?
It has been said that the ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention. Wordsworth said it’s “a rocket that emulates the stars.” Whatever it is, we got it in spades, and every luxury brand in the world plays on the pride of ownership and the ego it fuels. It works just as well for B2B companies, too. “The best run businesses run SAP.” If you’re a CFO running anything else, you’re obviously not part of the club. “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.” This alludes to the prestige of the decision and bolsters the ego of the decision maker who was smart enough to make that decision. When you drive a Mercedes and are stopped at a light (if your ego didn’t get you to run it) the pedestrians that cross in front of your gleaming car think that you are a person of achievement. Companies that align their brand purpose with Pride and Ego know that everything they do must expand the exclusive club, which explains Mercedes Fashion Week. It must also keep it exclusive, lest they lose their position at the top of the pecking order.
List all the marvelous things you do to bolster pride and ego. List the things you are doing internally that makes your employees proud they are making the finest stuff in the land. Then ask yourself, are you doing enough for this most profitable of customers? Because when the next shiny object comes along, they might be using it, wearing it, or driving it.
BOOM! Companies whose driving force is to innovate and impact the world are powerful companies indeed. Human beings love the pioneer, the explorer, the chemist, the astronaut and their NASA engineers. Humans value vision and ambition and skill and genius. They love going to the moon and back. And they love a phone that has more computing power than was once used to land on that celestial body. The best innovations impact society. The washing machine freed up the housewife so she could enter the workplace. Apple made a computer for the rest of us. And then there is the internet, which we’re still figuring out. Innovation forces other sectors to up their game to the benefit of the consumer. Television threatened the movie business, so studios and theater owners had to make their product better. HBO threatened the networks, so they had to make their shows better. Untuck-It threatened shirt makers, so now we don’t have to tuck our shirts in anymore. If what you do every day is to dent the universe, you are blessed. If that aligns with your customer, and you deliver, you deliver the future.
List all the things you do that are so innovative they will impact society and improve your customer’s lives. How can you communicate the great promise of the impact, and how can you go shoulder to shoulder with your customer, to boldly go where nobody has ever gone before?
This is how the 5 Fundamental Human Values work. They are the crucible for all your branding efforts. They guide product development. They prioritize Finance’s budgets. HR uses those values to attract new employees and sales uses them to connect with prospects and close deals. They help the CEO inspire others to invest in the company. And the CMO to dramatize what the company does for the customer that the customer desires above all else.
Now take a look at your lists of each of the 5 Fundamental Human Values. Which one generated the longest list -the one where you didn’t have to sit and ponder for a long time to come up with items? Chances are, that’s your Fundamental Human Value. This value should be the starting place for your brand purpose, positioning, values, tactics, and story. It should inspire your content creation going forward. Typically, companies can deliver on just one of them. Sometimes it’s a close race between two of the values.
There was one company that, for a period of time, aligned themselves with all 5 fundamental values, which is why it became, in a relatively short amount of time, one of the most legendary companies in history…. But, I’ll cover that in the next blog.