How Brands Are Bucking the Status Quo by Putting Corporate Values Front and Center
Marketing Content Strategy

How Brands Are Bucking the Status Quo by Putting Corporate Values Front and Center

Most of us have a moral compass that we adhere to day in and day out. This instinct is a core part of who we are as people and it’s the force that drives us forward. Our values are also what make us relatable to others: We find common ground with our peers after discussing our beliefs, whether it’s something as rudimentary as white and gold versus black and blue, or deeper connections around emotional causes.

Brands understand this, too. An organization establishes corporate values as a way to guide its people, actions, and marketing toward a centralized belief. To some extent, these values bring companies to life, humanizing them and making them more like us, the customers.

This week we saw two examples of businesses extending their corporate values in the mainstream through clever, cause-focused marketing programs. Also this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook (a personal hero of mine) spoke with Fast Company about the future of his organization. During the conversation, Cook reflected on the late Steve Jobs’s mantra for innovation. I think it applies here:

[Steve felt that] if you embrace that the things you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world. That was a huge arc of his life, the common thread. That’s what drove him to have big ideas. Through his actions, way more than preaching, he embedded this nonacceptance of the status quo into the company.

As a marketing leader, you can either accept the status quo or you can push past it and truly break through the mold. The next two examples showcase organizations that just launched the next steps in their cause-driven marketing. These initiatives not only speak to the willingness of the organizations to take risks, but show that they have heart, too.

Generation Progress and The White House

Remember back in college when you and your friends would leave campus for Spring Break with only one goal in mind: get drunk? Well, the kids are still doing that these days, and nonprofit Generation Progress and the White House are hoping to use new technologies to ensure people stay safe while they’re having a good time.

The two organizations, in partnership with San Francisco-based agency Mekanism, rolled out the latest offering in its ongoing “It’s On Us” campaign. The effort stands up against sexual assault, and messages are spread across print, outdoor, digital, and social media networks including Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

It’s On Us” launched last fall when the White House teamed up with Generation Progress to focus on mobilizing local campaigns around the country to prevent sexual assault. Sexual assault is a serious, widespread concern in the United States, and by creating content and placing it across the channels college students use most often, the two organizations are wisely spreading messages of safety.

Recently, mobile partners LiveSafe and Lyft joined the initiative, with a focus on ensuring friends get home safe from late-night Spring Break adventures.

This program, partially run by the US Government, tackles the uneasy challenge of facing sexual assault head-on. At the heart of Generation Progress is the desire and drive to educate and empower a new generation of young leaders, and the “It’s On Us” program reflects the values of the organization.


Whether you’re a coffee drinker or not, you can’t help but at least respect how often Starbucks has thrown its corporate hat into the ring to battle social issues. Whether it’s advocating for gun control or campaigning for gay marriage, Starbucks puts its corporate values front and center in its marketing.

Recently, Starbucks launched a separate media division aimed at bolstering its cause marketing programs. However, the company’s recent effort to start a discussion about race in America may have backfired.race together

Starbucks is encouraging baristas to write the words “Race Together” on cups to get customers talking racial issues. The idea started internally when 2,000 employees attended a forum to talk about the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

Unfortunately for Starbucks, the campaign has been met with a lot of criticism over tackling such a complicated and sensitive issue via its popular coffee cups.

Regardless of the feedback, I respect Starbucks’s willingness to push the boundaries of its marketing by injecting the company’s core values into how it engages with customers. This program may have sparked negative comments, but it also got people talking about important issues—and that was the ultimate goal.

Why Embrace Change?

Change is important in the business world. As a marketing leader, you need to change every day in order to adapt to and embrace new challenges. Organizations need to evolve and reinvent themselves, as well. The more you stand still, the more stale you become.

So, when it comes to developing your next marketing program, regardless of whether its on a new channel or via new creatives, ensure it upholds your organization’s core values. These beliefs are what ground your efforts, and they provide the consistency your customers crave in how they engage with you both on and offline.

In his interview with Fast Company, Cook talks about how Apple has changed since Jobs’s death and how it will continue to evolve:

We change every day. We changed every day when he was here, and we’ve been changing every day since he’s not been here. But the core, the values in the core remain the same as they were in ’98, as they were in ’05, as they were in ’10. I don’t think the values should change. But everything else can change.

You can create change both within and outside your organization. Follow your values, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Innovation thrives on your willingness to buck the status quo, and you’re the only person who can take your enterprise from good to great.

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