Core values aren’t just words on the wall – they serve as a company’s moral compass, influencing everything from key decision making, to distinction from competitors, to tools for recruitment and retention.

When you think of Target, the U.S.-based retail powerhouse with the cute bull terrier mascot, chances are the dog isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.There’s a reason many shoppers pronounce Target’s name with a French accent – “Tarjay.” Since it was founded in 1902 as Dayton Dry Goods Company, Target has cultivated an image that has pushed the company over the boundary between discount retailer and upscale boutique. Target is high fashion at an affordable price; a creator of fun, eye-catching commercials set to music that makes me want to dance around my living room, then get in the car and go to Target (note to the advertising team: you’re winning at work); and most importantly, a one-stop shopping destination for all things, both necessary and frivolous.

Target is crushing it in the retail segment. The company has posted strong sales growth for two years running, and last March, reported its most successful year-over-year performance in more than a decade. There are a number of reasons behind this, including but not limited to the investment plan the company launched in 2017, Target’s broad range of fulfillment options, and the private labels the company offers in addition to recognizable national brands.

Given my background in corporate communications, one of the first things I check when I’m researching a company is whether its core values align with its employees’ behavior and the overall customer experience it delivers. While core values are largely internal to an organization and unseen by its customer base, having these principles in place is critical in defining the company’s purpose to its employees, who in turn are responsible for that company’s success.

From Amazon, to Coca-Cola, to Google (and many, many more), most large companies have invested a great deal of time and money in developing a set of core company values to distinguish themselves from competitors and ensure each employee is working toward the same common goal and purpose. This recent Gallup article estimates that “intangible assets” such as culture average between 52 percent to 90 percent of a company’s market value, which is staggering. While increasing profit and share price are external signs of success, those achievements all start with a strong internal company culture.

Creating that culture is no easy task, particularly for global and national brands with employees spread out over multiple locations and up to thousands of miles away from one another. Having core values in place gives all employees a reason for being, a base from which they can make decisions, grow and evolve. Many job seekers today are looking for meaning beyond a paycheck and are carefully researching and weighing whether companies share the values they consider to be important. Core values are becoming primary recruiting and retention tools for companies that want to show potential employees they’ll be more than a cog in the corporate wheel. When team members believe in their company’s mission, they typically spend less time questioning their work and are more likely to be motivated and committed to doing their best.

Speaking of commitments, that’s what Target calls its five core values, each of which are intended to make customers feel welcome and happy; empower the company’s 350,000-plus team members; give back to the communities where Target employees live and work; and run a sustainable, ethical business.

To me, Target’s commitments (“more for your money,” “the best shopping experiences,” “a healthy, happy and valued team,” “a brighter future,” and “ethical business practices”) put into words the way I feel when I walk into a Target store. Whether or not the employees there can recite the company’s commitments, defining those values does shape their raison d’être. That makes for pretty excellent customer experience, from the colorful housewares, to the trendy-but-inexpensive clothes, to the free bananas and mandarin oranges for kids.

Developing and defining your company’s core values is a collaborative effort. In addition to a thorough understanding of how to best serve clients, employees and the community, it helps to have strong marketing support to ensure your values are delivered in the most impactful way.

Vela can help with this. Contact us today to learn more about our expertise in corporate branding and strategy.