How Values-Based Marketing Can Improve the Business-Customer Relationship

December 19, 2019

In the world’s current social climate, where people are politically polarized and a new catastrophe seems to surface daily, most companies can’t afford to remain neutral in their marketing. Values-based marketing campaigns present opportunities to truncate the marketing funnel, build deeper brand loyalty and make a memorable impact beyond products and services.

Sea levels, temperatures, and political turmoil are on the rise. We all feel the tension. 

While some people may bury their worries in a new pair of shoes or a four-course meal, many of us are finding it harder to buy our worries away. As a result, companies are recognizing the importance of values-based marketing (VBM).

Historically, businesses have tried to appeal to customers’ material needs, but now people need more substance. VBM appeals to customers’ ethics. It’s a shift from a consumer economy to a relationship economy where it’s less about transactions and more about interactions.

A transactional model engages consumers’ extrinsic motivators but VBM goes deeper. 

When you provide a product or service that meets the customer’s immediate needs but also makes them feel like they’re acting on their desires and morals, you’re reaching their intrinsic motivators too.

Ultimately, values-based marketing appeals to people’s need for meaning rather than their need for consuming. 

Values-Based Marketing Can Help Businesses Build Relationships With Consumers

With the social, political, economic and ecological climates in a constant state of crisis, for some companies, it’s risky to not take a stand

Consumer confidence is falling, natural catastrophes are happening left and right and politics continue to pit communities against one another.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of people think it’s important for businesses to take a stance on social movements, such as those involving gender, gun control, the environment, politics, and human rights.

For decades, companies have abided by the idea that we should make our shareholders happy and shy away from alienating our customers, but Edelman, an award-winning American public relations and marketing agency, found that most people are  “belief-driven buyers.” 

To understand why we don’t have to look much further than the American Psychological Association (APA) report on climate change’s effect on mental health

Climate change is one of the topics that have punctuated global, political discussions, and the report states that climate change is resulting in a rise in mental health issues and representations of climate climates change in the media and advertisements can influence a person’s mental state. 

In other words, climate change has created a new need to which companies can sell a solution. 

Marketing has gone from product experience to customer experience and now to impact on society. 

As consumers evolve to make values-based decisions, so too should your brand. However, this also comes with risks, which makes it important for businesses to approach VBM mindfully like Dove, Nike, and Burt’s Bees. 

Dove’s "Real Beauty" Campaign Has Proven Timeless

It’s been 15 years since Dove launched its Real Beauty campaign, but it’s still one of the first to come to mind in 2019. 

Real Beauty was an appeal to “every woman.” 

It was bold. 

A business dared to show women as we are in real life, in all shapes, sizes, colors. It wasn’t the first example of non-product advertising by any means, but it was powerful. 

For example, in their Real Beauty Sketches, women described their own physical features to a forensic composite artist, and then a second woman described the first woman’s features to the same artist. 

in their Real Beauty Sketches women described their own physical features to a forensic composite artist, and then a second woman described the first woman’s features to the same artist.

At the end, the artist exhibited the sketches side by side, and the results were clear: We see our impurities and imperfections, but other people see the real us. 

The campaign received its share of criticism, with some saying it was too focused on appearances or that it was too little too late, but in some ways, it was ahead of the curve. 

Dove changed the conversation around body positivity at a time when feminism became mainstream on social media—the perfect place to share the Real Beauty Sketches—and when the national conversation on sexual harassment and assault started to heat up.

Dove’s campaign addressed issues of representations of women in the media but approached this sensitive topic mindfully, which has allowed it to remain relevant for more than a decade. 

Nike’s "Dream Crazier" Campaign Resulted in Heightened Customer Loyalty

When Nike’s Dream Crazier campaign unexpectedly dropped in 2018, it hit the scene hard. It created more buzz than any ad campaign in recent memory. 

One ad, for example, showcased Serena Williams, sports icon and winner of 23 Grand Slam titles, with the text, “It’s only a crazy dream until you do it.” 

Another featured Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback who was let go from the league for kneeling to protest police brutality. 

Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback, was let go from the league for kneeling to protest police brutality.

His ad simply stated, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Nike founder Phil Knight knew it was a risk, but said, “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.” 

And in this case, he was right. Despite boycotts and shoe burnings, Nike saw a 31% jump in sales.

Their success in the face of risk was probably not possible two, three, four decades or more ago. However, with honest conversations about patriotism, feminism, and racism happening more and more around the world, Nike knew it could add to the discourse and do it well. 

Burt’s Bees’ "Bring Back the Bees" Campaign Gives Back to Nature 

Burt’s Bees lip balm and cosmetics brand is committed to its pollinator namesake: the bee. 

In 2016, Burt’s Bees started their Bring Back the Bees campaign and committed to a unique marketing strategy by removing all of the “Bs” from their name, adopting the URL

Now, in 2019, Burt’s Bees is focused on its #ChangeForNature campaign and relies on social media to connect with customers with shared values.

Burt’s Bees is focused on their #ChangeForNature campaign and relies on social media to connect with customers with shared values.

Burt’s Bees also adheres to social responsibility by using natural ingredients, not testing their products on animals, responsibly sourcing their ingredients, making their packaging recyclable,  having landfill-free operations, creating the Burt’s Bees Foundation to encourage honeybee health and biodiversity, and getting certified as a CarbonNeutral business.

Burt’s Bees' whole company is based on a “do no harm” set of values, so people see their various campaigns as authentic which helps build trust in the brand. 

Values-Based Marketing Will Continue to Grow in 2020

Dove, Nike, and Burt’s Bees have shown that values-based marketing can be effective at building brand awareness, boosting sales, and increasing views, and we’ll likely see more values-based campaigns as we ease into 2020. 

VBM isn’t a new concept, but it has become more imperative, frequent, and profitable—if done properly. 

Of course, a good values-based marketing campaign does not corporate responsibility make. What a business does with its new customers is what matters most. 

As VBM continues to rise in popularity, people will be able to easily see through campaigns if the company talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

As long as your business only launches campaigns that truly align with its core values and connect with its consumers’ ethics, values-based marketing can be both lucrative and world-changing.