What brand values ACTUALLY are and how Waking Dreams uses them

Brand values are not what I thought they were. They’re not for making you look like a better person. No; they’re for making faster decisions. Recently, I developed 4 for my video production company Waking Dreams and I’m going to explain my thinking behind them.

I always thought brand values were quite a fluffy corporate concept, because, let’s face it, they often are. At their worst, they’re vague buzzwords that promise a lot to a broad target audience, while risking very little. Since large corporations are often the most visible, their “brand values” shape our understanding of the term. However, I've found a redefinition that makes them highly effective for me.

It's crucial to differentiate between brand values and brand personality. Brand values serve as principles for decision-making, whereas brand personality involves human traits used by customers to describe a company. Brand values aren't your mission (the what and why); they're the how.

And the cool thing about being a smaller company with a narrow target audience like Waking Dreams Media, is that we can have a specific set of implementable brand values. When brand values are seen as a decision-making framework, I believe adherence to these values significantly increases. They're not merely impressive words etched on a wall but driving forces behind the choices we make every day.

I think this is a really cool concept, so I’ve developed 4 for Waking Dreams.


But first, let's discuss some guidelines for creating effective brand values. I found it helpful to make them unique, memorable, actionable, finite, and timeless.

1. Try using a phrase of 2-4 words instead of a single word to ensure uniqueness and memorability.

2. Combine verbs or adjectives with nouns to make the phrase actionable. While the word “kindness” might make me feel warm inside, I can’t decide to shoot vertical or horizontal on social media using it.

3. Keep your guidelines timeless by refraining from mentioning specific tactics or activities.

4. Finally, aim for 3-4 total. Strive for 3-4 values in total for thorough, yet efficient, decision-making. More might lead to repetition or conflicting decisions. Interestingly, entities like Y-Combinator and certain Harvard studies recommend trios for optimal decision-making efficiency.

So, after scanning through a list of 30 of my personal guidelines, I arrived at 4 guidelines for Waking Dreams Media to run on.

Iterative creation - make something every day. The making will make it better. By the end, it will be the best.

- This is why we post daily and advise our clients to do the same. This recognises that projects are not only about outcomes, but also about skills acquisition.

- We commit to a 4-week cycle of planning, shooting, editing and publishing. We commit to honing our message monthly because we know the rewards are infinite in the long-game of business.

Voluntary failure - It breathes long-term success. Accept stacking the “no” pile. You are never done, but always ready.

- Short-term results offer learning opportunities, and initial efforts in cold outreach or posting daily might lack positive feedback. By setting long-term goals, reframing failure as learning, and understanding that learning is intrinsic to any endeavour, we mitigate the fear of failure.

Constructive honesty - You are always honest about the shortcomings of yourself and your colleagues. However, you always deliver this with thoughtful feedback on the most pragmatic way to move forward.

- Our monthly performance reports include strategies to double down on successes and rectify shortcomings. They are always honest. We don’t just highlight what clients want to see, because we want everyone to improve. And you can only improve by taking ownership of your failures. We will mention anything we believe we think you can do better.

- Similarly, we use programmes like Canny to get feedback from our clients every month to improve our service.

Venerate Focus - cultivate concision, deep work and minimalism. Strive for clarity to save everyone’s time. Un-interrupted work is more valuable than instant communication.

- Inbox 0, archiving and starring, distraction list (no multi-tasking)

- Singular project goals. We focus on 1 thing every week that will improve our client results and our internal results.

- Async communications - Looms over Zooms - Project management system.

By adopting decision-making frameworks, you unlock a transformative advantage. Not only do these tools streamline your processes, saving valuable time, but they also facilitate choices that lead to exponential results. These frameworks promote consistency, ensuring your decisions harmoniously align, minimizing conflict while maximizing impact. This way, the decisions you make don't merely tweak your trajectory; they catapult you towards monumental change. Do you agree with this practice, disagree, would this work for your company or industry? Let me know in the comments below.

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