In early 2020, many businesses struggled with how to react and respond to the pandemic. It was hard to seem empathetic without being disingenuous; humor didn’t feel “ok” until recently; and appearing to want to make money off struggling consumers just felt plain wrong.
For some organizations, though, it took little time to find the right thing to do, like when well-known restaurants pivoted to feeding the community when they couldn’t serve patrons. For others, there was no playbook for operating outside business as usual.
Why was that? It’s all about values.
Defining Your Company Mission, Vision, and Values
When we take on mission, vision, and values work at Kreber, we conduct dozens of interviews to understand our clients’ core values. Something we hear often might surprise you: even key stakeholders can’t always recite the company’s values.
If that doesn’t surprise you, maybe it’s time to revisit your own—especially after the life-changing year we just had.
(A point of clarity: we like to start with company values—not brand values. Branding is a manifestation of your company values, not the other way around.)
There is great variation in how people approach mission, vision, and values work, and the components that ultimately flow from it go by a lot of different names: purpose, principles, promise, etc. But here’s how we define them:
Mission: A customer-focused declaration of an organization’s core purpose (the Why) that normally remains unchanged over time.
Vision: A future-focused idea of what the brand plans to do for its customers.
Values: The character traits you strive to uphold through your behavior and messaging.
Remember, branding (or re-branding) can’t happen until these key elements are written and aligned upon within your company. We think of them as “wall moments,” because they’re the kind of statements you’d want memorialized on the walls of your workspace for all who enter to see.
What Makes a Great Mission Statement?
This is big work, so let’s take it in bite-size pieces and focus on the all-important mission statement. You probably already have one in some shape or form. It may be amazing, strong enough to tattoo on employees’ biceps. Or you may have something like this buried in a dusty 3-ring binder:
Our mission is to create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment; and a business that achieves financial success.
Um, if this is what your mission statement sounds like, we need to talk. For one thing, it doesn’t actually say anything. It’s marketing soup. It’s uninspiring. And it’s forgettable.
This one, on the other hand:
[Our mission is] to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
I bet you can guess that one, you coffee junkies. It makes me sigh because it’s just so good—NOW I understand why they write my nickname on my cup, why the drive-thru cashier treats me like a long-lost friend, and why “paying it forward” is something my 9-year-old associates with Starbucks.
Strengthening Your Mission, Vision, and Values
You can easily see the difference between the two mission statements above. One is corporate-y and self-serving—and utterly unidentifiable. The other is genuine and customer-centric, and has inspired legions of loyal team members and guests (the memorable green-and-white branding is just icing on that sweet company cake).
It’s not easy to create something that compelling, but you can do it. First...
Understand why you need a mission, vision, and values—and swear to uphold them. Obviously I take this very seriously. But please don’t just give lip service to this work. It matters, to more people than you think it does. And customers can see through inauthenticity, so commit to do it right and refer back to it as you make decisions about your present and future.
Next, talk to stakeholders from all levels of the company. Sometimes executives and the rest of the ranks have different opinions. It’s important to hear them all out and identify themes—and you often need an outsider to do it.
Finally, let your agency partner craft the words. Yes, I am a writer but I mean it: you’re often too close to this work (or have heard too many opinions about it) to lay it down yourself. We’ll help you originate it based on the conversations above, and we’ll tweak and refine the words until they're absolutely, unflinchingly right. And then we’ll put it all in a beautiful format, as we begin to build that vaunted brand pyramid and other brand elements.
We live in a whole new world. Everyone has changed. It’s the perfect time to revisit your mission, vision, and values to see if they need to change, too. Reach out and we’ll help you get started.