Does a clear mission drive your organization’s brand identity, or is it more of a gut feeling?
Organizations with the strongest brands have bold, well-defined mission, vision, and values statements as a guide.
Don’t worry. It’s probably not too late to clarify your brand. But first, let’s set clear definitions for the definitions we’re seeking to define—mission, vision, and values.
- Mission – The mission outlines the company’s purpose. Beyond individual products and services, why does your organization exist?
- Vision – An organization’s vision looks to the future. What is the result of your organization’s ongoing impact?
- Values – A values statement or list defines your organization’s core beliefs. What does your organization champion?
Defining and referring to these principles creates a strong culture within an organization, which results in a strong brand narrative. And having a strong culture makes it easier for organizations to make decisions and develop a messaging strategy.
Take LEGO, for example. LEGO’s mission statement is: “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.”
With that statement written on the wall, decision-makers have a great tool through which to process any questions.
“Does this new product line inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow?”
Mission, Vision, and Values Build Brand Identity
Mission, vision, and values affect every element of your organization, from sales and marketing to human resources to the C-Suite (or at least they should).
Creating clear definitions and referring to them often gives the organization something to push toward.
- An organization with the mission of inspiring children is patient, excited, and simple.
- If a brand values quality, the front-line staff will take their time to get things right.
- A culture with a vision for a healthier future likely recycles and reduces waste.
On the other end of the spectrum, If you don’t have a clearly defined MVV, the organization’s culture will develop its own—for better or for worse.
Do you want an aspirational brand or a reactionary one?
The Nexus of Brand Identity and Mission
A well-crafted mission statement captures a company’s purpose, unique position, and value proposition.
Remember the LEGO mission statement: “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.”
One sentence can be powerful.
The purpose is clear: to inspire young minds to build better. The value proposition is that they will be inspirational and educational. The unique proposition is contained in the word “and.”
That one contraction, “and,” is massively influential on LEGO’s success. There are plenty of toys in the market that develop the builders of tomorrow: Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and K’Nex. But those brands don’t have the same inspirational qualities as LEGO.
Should we build an inspiring LEGO set that comes pre-built? No thanks.
What about a LEGO set with no color or variety? We just can’t do that here at LEGO. It’s against the rules.
When a mission statement drives an organization, it drives the brand narrative, too.
Another great benefit of the LEGO mission statement is its specific focus and broad application. LEGO wants explicitly to inspire and develop, but it never says how.
Compare that with K’nex, which had a much less inspiring mission statement before being acquired by Basic Fun: “The next generation of construction sets inspires creativity, builds self-confidence and encourages interaction among children and parents.”
That mission statement needs more flexibility. It hems K’nex into being a construction set company instead of an inspirational brand—which may explain why LEGO is a multinational brand, and K’nex is one vertical in a toy holding company.
Vision is the North Star of Branding
Your vision is your brand’s compass.
Much like a mission statement, vision is both a valuable brand identity asset and a decision-making tool. With a clear vision, decision-makers can ask, “Where are we going, and does this get us there.”
The role of a compelling vision statement is to guide departmental strategies. What will the future look like if your brand succeeds, and will this next strategic goal get you closer to achieving your vision?
Nike’s vision is as follows: “We see a world where everybody is an athlete — united in the joy of movement. Driven by our passion for sport and our instinct for innovation, we aim to bring inspiration to every athlete in the world and to make sport a daily habit.”
This vision drives Nike to create athletic gear for all bodies and all sports, but it also creates space for non-apparel verticals like the Nike Run Club or wearable tech.
Looking back at LEGO, their vision is to be a global force for learning and play. Looking at LEGO’s brand’s history reflects a vision statement that was an aspiration the organization could, and still strives to, live up to.
Values Are the Heart of Brand Identity
Core values are the things your brand champions. They create a shared culture and define behavioral expectations among employees.
LEGO’s values are imagination, fun, caring, creativity, learning, and quality. Those are the parameters through which every employee must achieve their goals. Forced to choose between rote production and imagination, LEGO employees choose imagination.
Nike’s values include doing the right thing, staying on offense, creating the future of the sport, winning as a team, and serving athletes* (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.). Nike’s employees innovate for all bodies. They stay on the front foot and choose the esteemable path.
And like the other two pillars of MVV, values have an added benefit. Values create scope boundaries for your organization.
Growing organizations are so often spread thin by scope creep. They take on too many responsibilities outside of the core organization.
Are we having fun? No? Then it’s not LEGO, and we need to change direction.
Are you trying to accomplish this marketing task alone? Well then, stop because this is Nike, and we only win as a team.
MVV and Brand Strategy
Defining your organization’s mission, vision, and values is a brand identity exercise, but it can also resonate throughout your organization’s culture. Setting a brand strategy is much easier when an organization’s culture and MVV align.
A clear MVV enhances messaging consistency across all channels, whether internal communications, advertisements, investor relations, or social media.
And it’s crucial for a brand’s MVV to align with its organizational reality. When an organization’s MVV is in retrograde, your audience notices.
When you hear about a BP environmental issue, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it images from an oil spill? Disingenuous brands quickly turn the public away.
On the other hand, a brand with aligned MVV and brand identity flourishes. Disney’s mission is “to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling…”
When MVV and brand align, it resonates with your audience.
Mission, Vision, and Values Are Strategic Tools
With a clearly defined MVV, your organization can make better decisions faster.
A brand that values ease and customer service can quickly eliminate any complicated CRM software from consideration.
LEGO can leave less imaginative construction toys to brands like K’nex. And to be fair, K’nex are very fun to play with. They’re just not LEGO.
Companies that align their strategies with guiding principles achieve long-term success because they aren’t making snap decisions. Without guiding principles, every decision is a reaction influenced by how those individuals felt that day. With MVV as your organization’s guide, decisions are influenced by a long-term strategy.
Start Defining Your Mission, Vision, and Values
If you’ve made it this far, you still have a chance to build an aspirational brand that inspires growth.
- Mission – What is your brand’s driving purpose?
- Vision – What does the future look like if your brand is successful?
- Values – What does your brand waive a banner for?
Those definitions will shape the brand and fuel its messaging, strategic planning, and alignment.
You can define the terms on which your organization engages the world and set a strategy that guides future decisions.
Even after you’ve defined these terms, set an organizational practice of referring back to and updating your brand’s mission, vision, and values. This is how to create a brand that inspires internal buy-in, plans for the future, and adapts as it grows.
Do You Need an Expert Opinion?
The brand strategists at Content Workshop are passionate about helping organizations establish a strong brand identity.
Our experts would love to consult with your organization to guide you through this process or even conduct a full audit of your MVV.