Brand Building: Purpose Vs Vision And Mission

Mark Di SommaSeptember 11, 20132 min

I hope the days of vision and mission statements are nearly over.

They’re the paperwork of traditional management models. They’re strategic compliance, and as such, they get deliberated over at great length and then forgotten. For the most part, they’re also self-centered – all about what the organization wants to achieve for itself, all about how it intends to achieve whatever it deems important. They often don’t suit the much more open, interactive, social ways in which business is increasingly being done.

Visions and missions are words – sometimes very nice words – but that’s it. As Truman Capote once said, “that’s not writing, that’s just typing”.

A clear and vivid brand purpose on the other hand is much more demanding. It’s collective and individual. It stalks the organization with a conscience. It describes what a brand knows must change in the world and the role the brand sees for itself in helping to achieve that change. It explains why people come to work. It gives each person a reason to be proud. It calibrates and guides thinking. It’s impatient. It’s optimistic. It’s the benchmark against which all actions are measured.

The old benchmark: What purpose does this task/idea/approach serve?

The new benchmark: How does this task/idea/approach serve our purpose?

In actual fact, a purpose is a company’s mindset strategy. It determines the headspace in which people come to work and in which a company goes to market and competes. A wonderful purpose lays out an extraordinary intention that separates that brand from other brands around it.

Get your brand purpose right – and you have a cause that is powerful enough for people to leap out of bed every weekday morning and get to work. They are quite literally looking to make a change to the world they believe in because, as Hugh MacLeod expressed it so perfectly, “Life is too short not to do something that matters”.

This morning – what on earth did you come to work to change? The answer to that should never, ever just be filed.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our purpose, mission, vision and values workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Mark Di Somma


  • Mark Hogan

    September 12, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Mark, this is an excellent post. Getting the purpose right is a critical first step in brand building and aligning employees. Nice work.

  • Sumit Roy

    September 12, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I worry that pretty soon “brand purpose” is going to become empty words, like mission and vision statements.

    The reason for this worry is that I’ve already seen that at two organizations I know the “brand purpose” is often forgotten and what’s on the agenda is profits or the bottom line.

    Till organizations have a way of measuring the change they are making in the world, purpose statements will always be over ruled by business plans that deliver a bottom line.

    Profits will trump Purpose.

  • Ruma

    September 12, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Whether it is vision, mission or purpose – they are all collapsing in today’s world. If any organisation has a vision which seems like a mission or purpose, there is no point in debating about the semantics. If the “why” is answered, it is well and good.
    Now a bigger problem is that the brand purpose in most organisations is reflected only on paper or focused upon by creative agencies while conveying the message through advertisements.
    Do the people within the organisation role model the purpose? Does the culture reflect the purpose? Are decisions made based on the purpose?
    Having a brand purpose is important and weaving that purpose throughout the culture is even more important, IMHO.

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