When starting a business or setting a new direction for an existing one, two guiding stars often lead the way: mission and vision statements.
The mission statement is like the company’s backbone, outlining its core purpose and the reason it exists. It answers the straightforward question: Why are we here? On the other hand, the vision statement is the big dream, the picture of what success looks like in the future. It’s the company’s north star, giving everyone a clear direction and something to strive for.
Have you developed a mission statement for your company? What about a vision statement?
Small businesses aren’t bothered by the bigger picture of their “corporate brand“. This tends to be a common problem for growing corporations – or hot startups in need of a powerful motto able to persuade investors.
In reality, mission and vision statements make a difference in the way you develop your company over time.
Reasons to Develop Brand Statements
There are various reasons to invest in mission and vision statements for your business. Some of the most common ones that executives point out are:
- Unified front for your existing staff
- Additional factor validated during the recruitment phase
- Company direction before making rash decisions toward new service verticals or product offerings
- Value proposition determining decision-making activities
- Public statement delivered to the media, customers, vendors
- Supplementary piece for your brand (and its underlying core principles)
The principles of mission and vision statements act both internally and externally.
In addition to internal performance metrics and workflows, they represent the guiding light for the business, the end goal for every high-end initiative, and the byproduct of all activities supplied by the organization.
Every process within the company is derived from the core objectives pursued by the business – and other subtle yet important elements the entire organization (and its executive team) deeply care about.
Externally, strong partnerships are often formed due to a clear alignment between common business objectives. With a multitude of possible market vendors, large corporations may deem a smaller partner more suitable thanks to a symbiosis loudly boasted through its public relations channels.
The Difference Between Mission and Vision Statements
Mission statements and vision statements often go together.
The mission statement represents the organization’s reason for existence – the purpose of its inception, the high-level problems it’s designed to solve, and a constant value map designed to evolve over time.
You should approach the creation of an organization’s mission with extreme care since this is not just a business correspondence. In addition, even in such cases, it is better to refer professionals for unique and high-quality business writing proposals.
Once an employee applies for a company, their decision is predominantly led by the mission statement first and foremost. All products and services, the existing client portfolio, team members on board represent a supporting function of a problem the organization was born to solve.
The vision statement is the continuation of the mission statement, reviewing the long-term goals, ambitions, and desires the organization tries to achieve.
Using the mission statement as a foundation, the vision is the bright projection the company is determined to pursue – the guiding light for both executives and staff, the purpose behind new solutions, and the north star for the years to come.
Corporations occasionally develop the map further with the introduction of a “values statement” – the incorporation of the core principles required to exist within the organization. The values statement may evolve into a code of ethics for daily use within the company – often including sensitive subjects such as diversity or common violations within the industry.
Smaller businesses and startups tend to develop mission and vision statements and incorporate the value statement within them.
Elements of Effective Mission & Vision Statements
Chris Bart, a strategy professor at McMaster University, defines the core components of a mission statement as:
- Key market – what is the target audience the company serves
- Contribution – what is the value offering the business delivers to the market
- Distinction – what makes the business (or its solutions) different from other players on the market
Steve Blank, a famous tech veteran and serial entrepreneur, designed a similar framework for developing value propositions broadly used by agencies and entrepreneurs over the past decade. His so-called XYZ framework looks like this:
“We help X solve Y by doing Z”Steve Blank
Years ago, my agency followed the same framework for its value proposition:
“We help small and medium enterprises grow their digital business through ROI-driven WordPress engineering.”
Mission statements are slightly longer, but the concept remains the same.
Vision statements, on the other hand, are more complex. Since they represent the roadmap for the business and develop in different time periods, some stay small while others are more comprehensive and broadly developed. Wikipedia lists down the most common traits utilized across vision statements:
- Concise – a statement that’s clear enough to serve as an internal mantra across employees (and quoted at presentations or even sales pitches)
- Clear – defining a specific goal instead of a vague definition hard to track down
- Time interval – representing a period of time the company would ideally take to reach the goal
- Future-oriented – unlike the mission statement, the vision represents the future, and what the company would represent then
- Stable – well-thought and persistent through time, regardless of market or technology changes
- Challenging – ambitious, worth fighting for (through all parties involved)
- Abstract – concise yet abstract enough to accommodate all divisions, departments, initiative at the time and required to reach the goal
- Inspiring – a value map for employees and new recruits, and other parties able to support the goals of the business
Let’s review how well-established companies utilize their mission and vision statements to accomplish the goals discussed here.
Examples of Statements From Notable Businesses
Uncovering the mission and vision statements of companies may not be as trivial. Most corporations don’t maintain public pages quoting these that you can find easily.
Moreover, they evolve with time – and sometimes, they are up for interpretation (gathered through keynotes, media interviews, or other mediums).
Here are some notable samples of mission statements and vision statements from known brands you can recognize.
“to bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.”
Apple has always been a curious tech company with one of the most expensive brands across the world. And as experts like Simon Sinek have recognized, the broad portfolio of products has been intentionally set within the foundation of Apple’s mission.
This is precisely why companies like IBM or Dell haven’t been able to progress outside of the key markets – because their mission wasn’t aligned with a diverse product portfolio.
Apple’s vision statement is also tailored to products as their main focus:
“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.”
“McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which centers on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price, and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.”
This mission statement is also known as the 5P marketing mix of McDonald’s – proving the importance of a strong and coherent message across the board.
The message has also evolved over time – using “fast food” earlier in the day but evolving as the brand grew with time.
And here’s their vision statement:
“To move with velocity to drive profitable growth and become an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.”
McDonald’s mission page is clearly aligned with their employees’ values, measuring feedback and reporting publicly how staff members relate to the mission.
“to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions, and to create value and make a difference”
Their main website lists the purpose in a condensed, easier to memorize format:
“Refresh the world. Make a difference.”
In any case, there’s a lot to unpack. More importantly, it’s up for interpretation, it sparks curiosity, and the popularity of the brand among teenagers is the reason Coca-Cola is one of the common choices for university and college students focusing on the brand for course projects or branding assignments.
Refreshing through “mind, body, and spirit” fits the definition of a caffeinated drink, plus the endorphin rush from sugar inspiring “optimism and happiness”. It’s also broad enough to encompass other beverages maintained by the company.
As discussed previously, mission and vision statements may blend together, and this is the case with Coca-Cola too. Their formal definition of “vision statement” closely resembles the mission and purpose:
“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.”
“to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”
Tesla’s previous mission statement was “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.” It’s arguable whether cars are the main focus of the brand (which happen to be electric) or renewable energy is the sole focus, given their progress in solar panels and rechargeable batteries.
That’s why Tesla’s executive team reshaped the mission to accommodate the growing portfolio of products without interfering with the automotive portfolio.
The latter is reflected in their vision statement:
“to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”
How to Write Professional Brand-Driven Statements
We can easily note the diversity in the format and brand message portrayed by different statements.
That said, they still follow a unified structure – the segmentation we discussed in the elements of mission and vision statements.
When it comes to the mission statement, focus on the reason your business exists in the first place – its target audience, your solution, and what makes you different.
If you are an eCommerce that targets females with low-cost clothing, you can draw inspiration from Forever 21: “to provide shoppers with an unprecedented selection of today’s fashions with affordable prices.” Since eCommerce wasn’t their forte, you can easily include “quick shopping experience” or “variety at the tip of your fingers”.
And if you run a legal firm, look up the leading players in your industry. CARREL + Partners relies on “Our mission is to provide our clients with knowledgeable, in-depth, legal guidance and service in a timely manner, at a reasonable price“. Add your distinctive advantage or narrow down to your target market for best result.
Vision statements are more loosely-defined. You don’t have to go overboard, and you can still summarize it within a sentence or two.
But whatever your aspiration or goals are, outline them in a clear and concise format.
Entertainment businesses can learn from Disney’s example. “To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.” The broader your portfolio of products and solutions, the more specific you have to be on the total outcome or emotion derived from your business.
And if you’re a humanitarian organization, a non-profit or a dental clinic, you may opt for a message that just hits home. Alzheimer’s Association defines its vision like this: “A world without Alzheimer’s disease.“
While mission and vision statements last long, companies refine them if needed. Even if you aren’t certain about the global message right away, write something that resonates now – and is globally valid in terms of your mission and purpose.