Want to Tell an Authentic Brand Story? Start From the Heart.

I felt really fortunate to share a panel Karen Foley from Imbibe and Mike Thelin from Feast at Davis Wright Tremain’s 5th annual Farm to Label conference for the food and beverage industry a few weeks ago. As we talked about brand storytelling, we kept coming back to one thing: the heart of a brand matters. 

Whether you call them brand values, attributes, or guiding principles, putting a stake in the ground early in your life as an organization can be invaluable. And your values don’t just inform your content decisions (i.e., what you say to your customers, or how you say it)—they can and should also inform the decisions you make about your partnerships, your investments, and your business.


We’ve done this work with many types and sizes of organizations, and the path to the right values is not a one-size-fits-all formula. But there are a few things that we think any company should consider as they dive into the process:

  1. Be honest, but aspirational (within reason). Think about who you are as a company, and why you were founded. It’s fine to have some stretch goals and to be your best self in your values. But if you can’t live up to it, don’t write it down.
  2. Consult your team. Giving your employees a voice in crafting your values is a great way to build culture, gain valuable feedback, and assure that you’re able to live the brand every day.
  3. Have a bias toward action. If you can’t bring a value to life or translate it into action in the real world, it won’t mean much to your audience. “Sustainable” is a good value, but “We consider the human, social, and environmental impact of our actions first” is better.



Once you have those values drafted, they create a perimeter around the kind of actions your company should take. More importantly, they help you to make sure that the choices you make will feel authentic to you, your employees, and your audience. And of course, that’s a key to creating a lasting relationship and trust with all of those people.


But suppose you want to reach a new audience or expand perception of your brand? You shouldn’t rethink your values. Instead, look to partner with a company who shares one of your core values but approaches it in a slightly different way. I heard about three beautiful real-life examples while at Farm to Label that are worth your time to check out:

  • Patagonia Provisions and Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB): When Patagonia Provisions decided that they wanted to make a beer with a new grain called Kernza that supported regenerative agricultural practices, they went looking for a beer company whose values aligned with theirs. As a certified B-Corp, HUB was a perfect fit—and now both companies are able to do more good than they would have been able to do alone.
    • Read more about the result of their collaboration: Long Root Ale.
    • We just celebrated our first year as a B-corp! Read our reflections on that here.
  • Airstream and Full Sail Brewing: Camping, the outdoors, and a spirit of adventure are all values that Full Sail Brewing and Airstream share, but they’re usually speaking to different audiences and income levels. Their “Hook Up and Go” partnership giveaway of an Airstream trailer gives both of them access to a whole new audience and the opportunity to give those customers valuable content (and, of course, an Airstream).
    • Well, go on! Enter to win now. We’re already all over it.
  • Feast Portland: They may have started out as a Portland, Oregon-based festival, but when you consider the energy, creativity and enthusiasm that are the core of the Feast brand, it only makes sense that they would partner with Aaron Franklin. He might be from Austin, TX, but his passion for excellence makes him an ideal partner for Feast. And, there’s mutual benefit to the arrangement: Feast and Franklin’s BBQ benefit from their expanded geographic reach.
    • Tickets to the Franklin event are already sold out, but check out the rest of the lineup at feastportland.com.

So, what’s the take-home, here? Telling an authentic brand story, whether alone or with partners, is all about making choices. You can’t be everything to everyone, and your audience can tell when you’re trying to be something you’re not. Taking the time to articulate your values early on can make those inevitable choices a lot clearer, but shouldn’t limit you. Creative thinking and partnerships can help to expand your reach without compromising your brand, while deepening customer engagement–and isn’t that the dream? I think so, too.