Values BASEd: The Basecamp brand values decision

When you think of The Values Economy, the most popular examples are brands using their influence to make a stand on social issues — Nike supporting Colin Kaepernick, MLB moving the All-star game, Oreo tweeting “Trans lives exist.” This is the common conception of what it means for a brand to live their values, but the reality is more complex.

Recently, the enterprise software company Basecamp instituted a new set of policies which includes “No more societal and political discussions” at work. This echoes similar policy changes from the cryptocurrency company Coinbase made in September 2020, where the CEO said the company will no longer engage in political causes or broader societal issues

It may surprise you, but Basecamp and Coinbase are living their values too. At Vrity, we classify brand values into three buckets; business values, branding values, and change values. The latter bucket contains societal issues such as equality, unity, and empathy. Many consumer brands are adopting change values as a way to make the world a better place, but that does not have to be the strategy for every company. Basecamp and Coinbase are simply choosing to emphasise the more transactional values rather than societal ones. 

While Basecamp and Coinbase are taking a different road, the consequences will have identical math to Nike, MLB, and Oreo. They will lose some amount of current employees and candidates who don’t agree with their policy changes (we’ll call this E1). They will also supercharge some employees and be sought out by candidates who are aligned with their values (we’ll call this E2). Likewise, they will lose and gain customers who are in strong disagreement or agreement with these values (we will call these C1 and C2, respectively). If the sum effect of E2 and C2 is greater than E1 and C1, then it’s a good business decision.

Our motto is “Doing Good is Good Business.” There is nuance to this statement. “Doing Good” means different things to different people. Coinbase’s CEO said achieving their mission of decentralizing finance is the best way to make the world a better place. For Basecamp, it’s a workplace where you leave politics at the door. Brands will take a variety of strategies to differentiate themselves as the Values Economy continues to take over. Ultimately, living your values as a company means having the courage to stop trying to make everyone happy and accepting the consequences — positive and negative — of “doing good” in your own way.