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Trust Should Never Be a Core Value

by Payton Shand

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. So, it might seem logical that 55 percent of big companies tout “integrity” as a core value. Dig a little deeper though, and it quickly becomes obvious: trust (or integrity) is the last word that should be in a company’s core values.

A company’s core values define how its people behave. In an effective strategic narrative, companies position themselves as a mentor, guide, or expert who can empower their customers. Core values are the foundation of what a customer can expect from their relationship with the brand—behaviors that reflect why and how a customer would build the trust that makes the relationship possible. Specific, unique values create the trust needed to build that relationship.

The strategic stories used by essential brands follow a consistent structure. Download Woden’s guide on how this approach works, and how to put it to work in any company.

Trust isn’t a value for essential companies: it’s what is created by great companies living their values. 

If a brand wants to build trust with its customer, the best thing it can do is discard the generic values that would be expected in any situation—trust first and foremost, but also empty concepts like excellence, communication, or respect. To become an essential brand, a company must begin with the framing that it isn’t solving problems for its customers—it’s guiding them on a journey where prospects solve their problems for themselves by becoming customers. 

To develop a set of values that will not only inspire employees but draw in customers, begin with the company’s strategic narrative itself.

Consider the following: What knowledge or product is the prospect seeking to solve their problems? What are the attributes of the person they would respect or look to help with this? Who does the buyer persona typically look to for guidance? What are the attributes and values of other brands the prospect trusts (even non-competitors)? What about the brand’s beliefs or philosophy make it uniquely suited to help solve this problem?

Unique and resonant values are defined by examining the story and relationships that are their foundation—not leaping right into the values themselves. When it comes time to transform this foundation into an actual set of values for people to live, here are some things to consider:

Reflect on the company’s purpose: core values should be aligned with the ultimate reason for being.

Be specific: core values should be specific. Words have meaning, and choosing between similar attributes can make a difference in how they’re applied.

Align with personality: values can be a single word or entire phrases. Values should be consistent with how a company communicates, and the personality it wants to express externally.

Triangulate behavior: there’s no magic number of values, although a brand needs at least three to fully define the boundaries of the behavior it’s seeking to create. More than seven may make it difficult for them to be actionable—values that can not be remembered will never be understood or utilized.

Make trust the outcome: core values should be authentic and reflect the true beliefs and culture of the organization. Work towards the outcome of creating attributes of someone that your customer would trust.

Finally, review the core values in light of the brand’s strategy story. Examine how the company is meant to be seen by customers, and ensure that if the people in the company (and the brand itself) behaved according to the values, would the expected outcome be achieved? 

Research has shown that customers’ alignment with a brand’s values is a major driver in the value of their relationship with a brand. Defining specific values is a critical component of building an efficient sales funnel—prospects who feel a brand shares their belief system and can aid them on their own journey are more likely to become customers, and eventually evangelists. 

While trust is certainly a key aspect of any essential brand, it is meaningless as a value in and of itself. To build an essential brand that prospects trust and customers rave about, define the values that will result in the trust needed to form a long-lasting, guiding relationship that empowers an audience to solve the problems that prevent them from reaching their potential.

Payton Shand is a Brand Storyteller at Woden. Want to stay connected? Read our extensive guide on how to craft your organization’s narrative, or send us an email at to start the journey to uncover what makes you essential.