What is value(s)-based marketing?

Searching the web for values and marketing brings up two main areas of communication: a communication strategy that appeals to your customers’ values and ethics and a strategy whereby you provide valuable content to potential customers by solving problems for them, posting tutorials for free, etc. In this blog post, we briefly explain the two value marketing approaches and why we take them one step further.


Values-based marketing describes an approach to marketing “strategy that appeals to your customers’ values and ethics.” The goal is to foster a values-based connection with customers that increases trust and goes beyond merely promoting products/services. According to a survey by Edelman (2014), shoppers crave this form of connection— 87% of consumers responded saying they look for meaningful relationships with brands. A great and very well-known example of successful values-based marketing of this approach are Ben & Jerry’s who very openly communicate and market their values of social justice and inclusion (see picture). Many companies embrace their values, just as Seric, one of our clients, who have founded the charity SmartSTEMs that works towards empowering young people towards working in STEM fields.

Ben and Jerry’s Resist campaign sparked a lot of attention and appealed directly to their desired customer base.

Stuart Macdonald, Founder and CEO of SmartSTEMs , advocates not only for young people in STEM fields but also for the use of sensible technologies to connect people.

…and value

Value-based marketing, however, is slightly different: it refers closer to the purpose of the content that is shared which aims to deliver value to potential customers rather than just promising value and waiting until someone pays for it. It’s marketing that’s useful to you from the off. This can come in form of tutorials, eBooks, or blog posts. The internet is bursting with this form of communication. Think of all the free YouTube tutorials or influencer channels that provide you with valuable content without you ever having to buy anything first.

The golden synthesis

When we at Multiplied By talk about value(s)-based marketing, we go one step further. Not only do we incorporate both of the above approaches, but we put them at the centre of everything we do. Sure, promoting your business with its values is good, but what’s even better is promoting socially good organisations. Not organisations that sell something and also have some nice values (after all, who likes a business that promotes good values just as a means to an end?) but organisations that are good and exist mainly to further good values, e.g. social inclusion, mental health awareness, etc. We don’t fancy mindless design for just another pretty logo. We don’t support design or websites that are not inclusive. We don’t support organisations that treat their staff badly. In short, whether you’re a charity, social enterprise or commercial business, if your mission is to make the world a little bit better, we’re right there with you.

It is that same spirit that informs our approach to the second form of values-based marketing. Throwing products at people in a world that throws products at people left right and centre is likely not going to do you much good. Providing content that brings value and actually helps people solve a problem is much more likely to gain traction. Specifically, we follow the They Ask You Answer (TAYA) approach by Marcus Sheridan. The basis of TAYA is simple: answer people’s questions in a knowledgeable and honest fashion. Sounds easy and not very innovative, but can be tricky when it comes to pricing and addressing potential problems with your products/services. We believe that putting your customer’s needs and questions at the heart of everything you do is the best way to not only market your organisation but to make a positive difference every day, step by step.

If you are on the same wavelength and need some creative support, why not get in touch and let us know how we can help you get your values out into the world? (And even though as a business, of course, we need to make money in order to survive, you have our word that we practise what we preach. Values come first, always.)

Quick marketing wins for universities

Marketing can be a time-intense and slow process. While we definitely think that you should have a long-term marketing strategy in place, there are some fairly quick things you can do to improve your digital marketing in a few small steps. Focus in this post: marketing for universities, their courses and research centres.

Optimise your page for mobile use: when designing or updating a website, we often forget to check how it looks on mobile devices. That can be a problem, especially when you’re trying to appeal to a younger audience who are more likely to find you through their smartphone (aka prospective students) or when people find you through social media which is mostly accessed via mobile phones. Whether you want to reach new students or spread your research findings far and wide, a mobile-friendly website is a must.

Introduce your team: universities are often big organisations and can feel quite anonymous (especially in times of Covid). Why not show your friendly faces to the world and introduce who you are? A picture and some text are enough (and if you have a little bit more time and colleagues who are willing why not let them introduce themselves via a short video?). Whether it’s admin staff, lecturers or researchers, people want to get to know you.

Showcase successes of staff AND students: do you know a student who has just celebrated a personal success? Or has one of your staff members just published that book/article/report that they’ve been working on for the past year? Let the world know. (Don’t forget to ask for permission, though.) Not only will your staff and students feel appreciated and valued, you’re also showing the outside world that you are pursuing a culture of community and mutual support.

Answer the most important questions: surely, there are questions that you get asked again and again…by students, staff, people interested in your research centre. Make a list and answer each in a blog post. You’ve likely answered these questions in emails before, so no need to start from scratch! Find your well-written emails and modify them to suit a blog post. There is a wealth of content and blog posts here for you to put out and promote. Benefit: the next time someone asks you these questions, simply refer them to the blog post and safe yourself a lot of time. (There is a whole approach centred around this – read about TAYA.)

Student and staff testimonials: being reviewed online and potential students/colleagues checking out your university before they even start is normal – dare I say it common sense – nowadays. Marketing for universities should make use of that and work with it. Why not create testimonials and make sure you present them in the best light? Ask around among your students and staff to get a short quote on what they enjoy about being at your institution/course. Post it, ideally with a picture of the person.

Have conversations: feeling disengaged and disconnected from your students/staff/the world in general? Try to run a quick poll on your social media channels inquiring what you can help people with today. Instagram has a handy poll function in its story feature, but it can also be done easily on Facebook or Twitter as a normal post.

Behind the scenes: why not share a picture or short video of everyday life in your department? Authenticity and transparency are key values in marketing. Show how research is made, who is involved and why you are doing it. Humanise it. If your visuals don’t look top of the class – good. You don’t want to seem too polished.


Do you have a bit more time?

“A typical day at xyz” Get your staff and/or students involved in making a video about everyday life at your institution. What does a typical day as a student look like? Or what does the research assistant do on an average workday? All you need is a camera/smartphone and someone willing to put themselves out there.

Graphical abstracts When you’re a researcher, you get asked constantly what your research is about which can quickly get annoying (especially if your topic requires some explanation). Have you ever thought about a graphical abstract? Is there a way to create an infographic style visual that can explain your research? These are great for sharing your project online and helping people understand what you do. Top tip: if you want to go all the way, try a short and snappy video abstract – it’ll definitely make you stand out from the crowd.

Need help with anything or have questions about marketing for universities? Let us know, we can help.

They Ask You Answer - The Basics

Whether you call it inbound marketing, content marketing or digital marketing, the goal is the same: attract consumers by providing valuable content. This blog post introduces the They Ask You Answer approach which gets to the core of that goal and its application. It is based on Marcus Sheridan’s book of the same name (2019). All page numbers refer to the book. 

The Problem

The past decade has seen dramatic changes in consumer behaviour and marketing. The main ‘culprit’ – as so often – is the internet. It makes it possible for people to acquire honest reviews about products, find countless articles and posts about literally any kind of product or service and it does so within seconds. “Today, on average, 70% of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to the company.” (p.9)

With so much material out there and decisions being made before you even speak to a prospective customer/service user, why not make sure that information is provided by you in a transparent, knowledgeable and truthful fashion? Why not position yourself as the expert? That is where Marcus Sheridan’s book They Ask, you Answer (TAYA) takes off. Sheridan, a content marketing expert, used to work for a struggling swimming pool business which was on the verge of collapsing. His approach to communicating with potential customers and making use of the possibilities digital tools offer have contributed in big part to the survival of the company.

So, what is TAYA about?

Ultimately, all organisations are interested in the same thing: consumer trust. How can that be achieved? Simple: answer consumer’s questions. This does not seem like anything new or revolutionary, but TAYA goes beyond a simple question-answer formula. It’s a business philosophy that centres solely around the question “What is my customer thinking? What are they searching, asking, feeling and fearing?” (p.21) Whereas in principle answering your customers questions is nothing new, the actuality of doing so and embedding it in everything you do is.

It all starts with a very simple exercise: write down every question you’ve ever been asked by a prospect or customer. (Maybe stop at 100 to start with.) Better still, sit down with your team and have everyone do this exercise. Keep in mind to do this from the perspective of the customer, so instead of writing “Why should you buy XYZ”, ask “What is XYZ and does it suit my needs?”. Put special focus on those things that might stop someone from engaging with you. What worries, fears or concerns could potentially come up with your product/services? Asking these questions as well as answering them might be scary, but if you’re not willing to answer them, someone else will on your behalf and potentially to your detriment.

The Big 5

When starting to sort through these questions, it’s likely that The Big 5, as Sheridan calls them, will come up again and again.

  • Pricing & costs (1) Ever looked at restaurant menu and seen no prices? Did you think ‘Perfect, I don’t care how much it costs’ or ‘The prices must be horrendous or why are they not telling them? I’m out of here’? If you’re anything like me, it’s the latter. The same principle applies to anything, really. Not stating your prices and costs is likely to deter prospective customers instead of making them trust you. Of course, addressing your prices isn’t always easy nor straightforward, particularly if you provide a service. You don’t have to give a price list, but addressing how your prices are made up, what influences them and why you price the way you price will go a long way in answering those important questions.

  • Problems (2) Another likely big part of your question list will have to do with problems and challenges. What are potential problems with your product/services? Again, answering these might not come easy to you, but if you don’t do it, negative reviews and competitors are likely to do it for you. Once you consider what negative aspects your competition and your customers might say about you, you can address them honestly and transparently and, potentially, turn them into an advantage.

  • Versus & comparisons (3) One of the big changes that the internet has enabled is the ease with which people can explore a variety of options and compare products/services. You’re not faced with only 2-3 options in your local shop, but with potentially hundreds of options online. You have probably found yourself comparing a lot of products online before making a bigger purchase choice. When you do so, you’re looking for honest comparisons and reviews, not biased ones. So how do you gain trust and avoid that consumers think you’re being biased when writing about your own products/services? Disarm your reader from the start by admitting honestly: “We might not be the best fit for you, but we also could be. It’s for you to decide. Here are the different options.” You’re acknowledging that they might have needs you cannot fulfil which makes you an honest and transparent expert.

  • Reviews (4) and Best in class (5) These two might feel a bit strange. Should you really review and recommend competitors services and products? Look at it this way: Very few people will be better suited than you to make an informed decision about the best services and products offered in your field. Reviewing and recommending them will position you further as an expert, build your network with those recommended organisations and, last but not least, establish trust again. Keep in mind though to not include yourself in your list of Best in Class, you don’t want to appear biased.

What now?

Once you’ve listed and sorted trough all those questions, the next step is – you guessed it – to answer them. Start with the most important ones and allocate them to different team members to answer in form of a blog post. It can seem like a lot at first, but just get started. Over time, your team will get into the habit of writing these posts and it’ll get easier. By doing so, you’re continuously expanding your online resources, providing valuable content to prospective customers/clients and positioning yourself as an expert in your field. You will also save more and more resources by not answering these questions over and over again – you can now just refer those who ask to the blog post that already exist.

This is the very basis of TAYA. It does not stop there, though. Answering questions in written form is one thing (and a great start!), but wouldn’t it be better to answer some (or all) questions in video form? And how does this approach impact your website? Where do you take the time from to create all this content? Especially if you’re working in a not-for-profit environment, how can you afford this time-intense approach? And how can you convince your team to buy into TAYA and keep them motivated?

There are many, many more aspects to TAYA which we will explore further in future blog posts. If you’re already intrigued and want to have a chat about how you could make this approach work for you, get in touch and we’ll have a chat to see how we can help you.