There are about as many ways to describe the things we do to promote the brands we serve, as there are to actually accomplish the things we do. It’s a limitless list of marketing jargon that can be interpreted in any number of ways, but we shouldn’t let these loose but related definitions distract from the core idea. We utilize terms like Purpose, Vision, Mission, North Star, Values, Promise, Positioning, etc. that are not so much interchangeable as they are just utilized in different ways depending on the person, the agency and the brand that all these things are applied to.
This terminology might differ whether the source is an advertising, marketing or public relations professional and can be influenced by the operational expertise of each type of agency. It can have different interpretations from agency to agency within each category. Further complication can come in the form of agency vs. internal client marketing/communications team perspectives. Simply, we can get caught up in definitions and too many points of view that distract from the actual intent.
Cutting through this clutter is important because the true meaning of developing and adopting a vision or mission statement isn’t about being wittier, more emotional, showing more compassion or just being better than the competition. It’s not a gimmick or a scheme. These ideals should drive everything a business does and how it’s done with absolute intent - regardless of what that ideal might actually be. These defining characteristics need to be in place so that strategic plans can be developed and the tactical outreach tools that support these plans can be created and implemented.
The people who do the work should believe in these details as much as the people who created it - so that everyone is always driving to the common goal. Reaching some universal commonality in which statements mean which isn’t as important as being able to clearly state your Why, What, and How. Here’s how we utilize these terms:
- WHY is the purpose for the existence of your brand. Regardless of the type of service provided or the products sold, this purpose should clearly explain why the business exists.
- WHAT is the vision. It explains what goal or the aspirational objective that the brand will achieve in fulfilling that purpose. This can be relatively short-term (3 to 5 years) or as long as what works for the business model and it can change based on market and business conditions. It can be difficult to reach but attainable with commitment and determination or can be lofty and nearly impossible to achieve - but that in the effort of reaching it great things happen along the way.
- HOW represents the mission. This represents the pathway between the why and what. It should showcase the detail of what the business actually does on a day to day basis to reach the vision and fulfill the purpose.
The point of this isn’t really to suggest that one descriptive terminology is better than another or that utilizing the way we do is more or less right than someone else. What’s important is understanding that these things represent driving guidelines for the brand and that they work together to create a connection between the business and its customers.
The connection has always been more than a name and a logo. It represents personal and group relationships that are in constant evolution. No matter which words are used to describe this journey we take, the key is always knowing why we’re taking it and why others would want to join in. We need to fully understand what we aim to achieve and how we’ll accomplish it. With this understanding comes the true connection by defining your brand power – rationally and emotionally – and deploying it in ways that will transform your target audience.