Purpose - This paper aims to examine the influence of the culture of the service firm on its interpretation of the role of the brand and on the development and implementation of its brand values.Design/methodology/approach - A grounded theory approach was used. Interviews were conducted with 20 managers within two leading banking firms in Ireland and two leading grocery retailers in Ireland.Findings - The development of the brand, and its role within the firm, is closely related to the firm's culture. The research shows obstacles and opportunities created by the cultural context of firms wishing to disseminate and embed a set of brand values. The paper presents an "involvement model" of brand values implementation and outlines changes required to implement brand values.Research limitations/implications - The study was bound by access to firms, and managers' availability. The authors sought an insight into the relationship between each firm's culture and its brands. They advocate quantitative research to further investigate the findings within these service sectors and to test proposed antecedents (transformational leadership, employee involvement) and outcomes (employee-based brand equity and consumer-based brand equity) of values adoption.Practical implications - The paper identifies aspects of retail and banking cultures which support or detract from brand development. In particular, it presents the [earnings from successful brand values implementation in a clan culture, aspects of which are applicable across other cultures.Originality/value - The paper provides valuable insights into the role of the brand within the service firm and the positive and negative influence of context on brand values and their development and implementation.