Finding the words

Posted in Brand on 29 February 2016 By Susannah Gerner, Client Director

In our world, we use a lot of words. So how do we figure out which ones are most important? How do we find the few that can communicate the most?

‘Brand’ for me is about attaching meaning. But being meaningful also means being focussed. How do we define what a business and its brand means to its stakeholders, its employees, its customers and the world in which it operates? How do we express it with focus? In a vision, mission, purpose, essence statement? Confused? What does each of these terms tell us? Are the lines between them blurring?

We start with purpose. It’s your why. What you exist to achieve as a benefit to the market or sector you serve. It should be shared and understood across your organisation. Your mission is what you do. It’s the purposeful action you take every day. Your vision is the picture you paint of the future, your ultimate state of success and accomplishment in achieving your purpose. Then, we can wrap up your purpose, mission, and vision in your essence. It’s your emotional side. It’s how your brand experiences should feel. It’s what you mean in the minds of your audiences. Constant, clarifying vibe and value; it’s the basis for brand loyalty.

Let’s think about this in practice… Take the example of a healthcare company. Its purpose is ‘to save lives’. Its mission is ‘to develop products that effectively treat and cure medical conditions’. Its vision is ‘a world where sufferer’s symptoms are alleviated or condition cured to give back full, happy and healthy lives’. Its essence can distinctly define the nature of how this might be communicated: for example, if its essence was ‘giving hope’, communications and content would have an uplifting and positive tone versus ‘combatting disease through innovation’ which is more serious and scientific.

So, we did some research, to explore which terms different businesses use to bring purpose to their enterprise and attach meaning to their brand. Here’s what we learned:

Nike and Patagonia have no purpose or vision statement, but instead, promote their highly compelling and purposeful mission statements. ‘Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.’ The charity sector is, naturally, the most experienced at defining and activating purpose ‘OxfamTo help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty’.  However, don’t imagine that purpose is only for the touchy-feely organisations. Purpose has become important for all business, take post-crisis banking for example ‘Barclays plc: ‘To help people achieve their ambitions in the right way.’ IKEA's vision could equally be called its purpose ‘To create a better everyday life for the many people.’ Volvo’s essence ‘Designed around you’ expresses a clear benefit and value to their customer and makes them ‘feel’ special.

Any clearer?

We believe that the labels and words you use should be unique to the business you are in. Whether it’s a heartfelt stand-alone purpose statement, a grand and ambitious vision, an active and committed mission, a compelling and authentic essence, or ideally all of the above… make it meaningful, make it matter.

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