Why Core Values Matter

How to not be an Evil Marketer, or Why Core Values Matter

Here in Kyoto, Japan there is a tea shop called Ujicha Kanbayashi that has been in business for more than 450 years.  The current owner, Mr. Sannyo Kanbayashi, is its 16th generation President, and Ujicha Kanbayashi, with a loyal, global customer base shows every indication that it will easily surpass 500 years in business and more.

Mr. Sannyo Kanbanyashi, Owner, Ujicha Kanbayashi

In addition to being the owner of Ujicha Kanbayashi, Mr. Kanbayashi is also a 6th degree black belt in Tea, able to smell the difference in variety, region and month of harvest for an amazing 26 out of 26 different types of teas.  And on a recent field trip with my students in the Stanford University overseas program in Japan, I asked him what the secret was to his company’s longevity.  His answer?  “A dedication to creating the highest quality tea.”

Since hearing this answer I’ve been asking myself how something as simple as this dedication to creating true value could power a small company successfully forward for 16+ generations, withstanding every type of disruptive competitive force that came its way.  But after reading this recent Hubspot Blog post on 10 psychological tricks that can boost your marketing and sales, I had an epiphany.

Hubspot's well-intentioned blog post outlined 10 human psychology insights meant to help marketers better optimize the sales impact of their work.  From Anchoring to Scarcity, and 8 more concepts in between, this blog post was written to arm today's marketers with all of the psychological “tools” that they need to convince people to buy their products.

Each of the findings from human psychology research outlined in the Hubspot article really do work.  But if you stop to think about their application to marketing and business, we begin to cross the line into an "evil" marketing mindset, and one that I hope to help you avoid.  Marketing gets a bad reputation every time someone decides to invoke this mindset and apply such potent psychological tools in order to convince people to buy things that they  do not really want or need.

So before you and your company embrace these types of psychological triggers for your own products and services I would like you to ask you to first find a quiet meeting room or coffee shop to work in and take time to think about and answer these three questions:

  1. Why (really) is you company in business?
  2. What is broken in the world today that your company fixes better than anyone else?
  3. And what principles do you stand for in the way that you fix what you see as broken?

Choosing a long-term, value-driven focus requires much more hard work and dedication in order to create truly valuable products and services.  One reason for this is that there are, in fact, no psychological tricks to create long-term value.  Sannyo Kanbayashi is the first one to arrive at his tea shop each morning, he sweeps the floors before anyone else arrives, and stays until the shop is closed and cleaned every night.  He ensures that his teas, and the experience of them are of the highest possible value.  Mr. Kanbayashi doesn’t need any tricks, nor psychological manipulations.  And his company has stayed in business for 16 generations because he and his 15 predecessors placed this  dedication to the creation and delivery of the highest possible value at the core of their business rather than at the periphery.

Choosing a long-term, value-driven focus requires much more hard work and dedication in order to create truly valuable products and services.

Ujicha Kanbayashi and many of the 2,000+ heritage businesses in Japan have learned this key to success from hundreds of years of experience.

Spending time to confirm and write down your and your company’s core values may seem like a waste of time and energy.  I know that you have millions of other things that must be done in your day.  But if you come to Japan and visit any company with a 200+ year history and ask them about their core values, I think you'll be surpised at the response you receive.  Rather than surpise or lack of interest, many will instead smile and return with a book, pamphlet, or paper with these core values clearly written by their founder hundreds of years ago.

I hope you understand that as a Marketing professor, I deeply respect and value the work of researchers globally who are helping us to better understand human psychology.  But before you apply these findings to your own marketing or business efforts, please make sure that their use is truly necessary and supports why you and your company are in business.

As I explain in The Value Plan book, defining your core values is an important first step towards marketing success.  When you've completed this step, I'm confident that you won't be easily wooed by the promises of quick (but short-lived) success through manipulative psychological tricks.  But instead that you'll have gained the clarity needed to discover, create and deliver unprecedented value not only for your customers today but for generations to come.

About The Author

Philip Sugai

Dr. Sugai joined Doshisha Graduate School of Business in 2013 where he teaches Marketing, eMarketing, Marketing Research, and Sustainable and Responsible Marketing to Global MBA program students. Prior to joining the Doshisha University faculty, Dr. Sugai taught at the International University of Japan in Niigata since 2002, where he taught similar courses and served both as Dean and Associate Dean for more than 6 years. He received his Doctoral degree from Waseda University’s Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunications Studies and his M.B.A. in Marketing and Operations Management from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has worked as a marketing executive at American Express, Muze, Inc., and Lightningcast, Inc., and as a marketing consultant for Advantage Marketing Information.

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