Zappos

How to Define—and Align—Your Brand’s Purpose, Vision and Mission

Zappos

With a growing body of evidence showing that purpose-driven brands are more successful at attracting customers, retaining talent and delivering financial returns, it’s increasingly important to define some essential elements that can bring meaning to your brand: purpose, vision and mission. Whether you’re building a global brand or a young challenger brand, any brand big or small can benefit from this kind of clarity. Here’s how one of each—Unilever and Burger Lounge (a client of mine) break it down:

Unilever

  • Purpose: To make sustainable living commonplace.
  • Vision: Double the size of the business, while reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact.
  • Mission: We will work to create a better future everyday. We will help people look good, feel good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and for others. We will inspire people to take small everyday actions that can add up to a big difference for the world.

Burger Lounge

  • Purpose: Advancing positive change within the food industry by bridging the gap between the dining public and producers who honor the body, the planet and a “better food” movement.
  • Vision: As the demand for better food and responsibly sourced ingredients grows, Burger Lounge will be positioned as an industry leader.
  • Mission: Delight the guest.

Purpose: The Why

These days, it’s not enough to tout your brand’s promise or products. You need a purpose too. Simply put, purpose is your brand’s “why”—both why you matter and why you exist. That’s why “making money” won’t cut it as a purpose any more. Your brand needs to make a difference in the world, and in the lives of those who matter most to you.

When I help brands find their purpose, I look for alignment between “what you do best” and “how you benefit the world.” Or in other words your brand’s purpose is the benefit you bring to the world through your business. For my client The Conservation Fund, we expressed their purpose as “Conservation Working for America,” because of their commitment to solutions that have both environmental and economic benefits for people across the country. Here are some other purpose statements from well-known brands:

  • Southwest: As the story goes, it took Southwest a few years as the leader in low-fare air travel before the company defined its purpose: “Give people the freedom to fly.”
  • Chipotle: “Food with Integrity” isn’t the their sustainability or cause program, it’s a business philosophy that guides the company’s every action. As they state, “With every burrito we roll or bowl we fill, we’re working to cultivate a better world.”
  • Zappos: The company known for delivering happiness with its shoes says its purpose is “To inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, community, vendors and shareholders in a long-term sustainable way.”

Vision: The What

If purpose is your “why,” then your vision is “what” you want to achieve as a result. In other words, ask yourself ‘If we remain committed to our purpose, what will we accomplish?’ When Unilever delivers on its purpose “to make sustainable living commonplace,” it will make it possible to achieve its vision: “double the size of the business, while reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact.” For Burger Lounge, “advancing positive change within the food industry” (its purpose) will help the company achieve its vision of being an industry leader as demand for better food and responsibly sourced ingredients grows.

Mission: The How

While brands often start with their mission, it’s easier to define your mission when your purpose and vision are clear. That’s because mission is “how” you’ll advance your purpose and achieve your vision. Patagonia’s mission is to “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” That direct and bold statement simultaneously defines their “how” while also alluding to a greater purpose.

 

Whether you express your brand’s purpose, vision and mission individually or in one statement, the important part is defining these essential elements. After all, you want to be clear on not only “what” you’re trying to achieve, but “how” you’ll get there and “why” it matters. That’s the best way to get those who know your brand—from your customers to your team—to come along for the ride and maybe just fall in love on the way.

This post also appears here on Sustainable Brands

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Bringing Youth Voice to the White House

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Success Story

Bringing Youth Voice to the White House

“The young spokespeople you trained were an integral part of the White House launch event. Their stories really brought the issue of opportunity youth to life.”

  • Jon Bon Jovi

Rock star and philanthropist; former member, White House Council for Community Solutions

 

“Thank you for helping us bring young peoples’ amazing stories to the White House and a wider national audience. Your team did an excellent job identifying, training and supporting the National Youth Ambassadorstheir voices help illustrate what is possible when young people have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

  • Patty Stonesifer

Former Chair, White House Council for Community Solutions; Former CEO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

 

Back-Story

The White House Council for Community Solutions was gearing up for the presentation of their final recommendations to President Obama and the launch of a nationwide campaign to create employment and educational opportunities for “opportunity youth,” the six million 16-24 year-olds who are disconnected from work and school. The Council—whose members included the CEO of eBay, rock star Jon Bon Jovi, the head of Goodwill Industries and a range of community, corporate and nonprofit leaders—wanted to enlist young people who could speak from experience about the issue to share their stories and help advocate for solutions.

Leading Role

We were hired to develop, launch and train a corps of National Youth Ambassadors who could infuse the Council’s final recommendations and the national campaign’s launch and rollout with authentic youth voice. We trained several dozen formerly disconnected youth as spokespeople and helped them tell their uplifting stories of overcoming adversity in a variety of ways—including community events across the country, local media interviews, viral videos, blogs in The Huffington Post, and two White House events. This same group of young people also reviewed the Council’s final recommendations and shared their direct feedback with the Council.

Happy Ending

At the White House launch event, two of the Youth Ambassadors, speaking on a panel moderated by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and NAACP head Ben Jealous, brought the issue of opportunity youth to life with touching tales of challenges and triumphs. President Obama spontaneously joined the discussion, recognizing the young spokespeople and thanking them for telling their stories and demonstrating that success is indeed possible. And numerous Council members and attendees—from Bon Jovi and members of Congress, to business and community leaders—all cited the Youth Ambassadors who spoke at both White House events as a highlight of those gatherings, and a key element of the campaign’s success.

BSR: Business for Social Responsibility

Success Story

BSR: Business for Social Responsibility

Backstory

In its first 15 years, BSR had established itself as a leading sustainable business network and consultancy with a well-known annual conference. But by 2007, BSR needed to refresh its brand identity, and increase communications capacity, in order to deliver on its member company value proposition and maintain its position in an increasingly competitive space.

Leading Role

As BSR’s communications director (2007-2011), Amon Rappaport built and led the team responsible for marketing communications strategy and execution across offices in Asia, Europe, and North America—including PR and social media, and the editing, design, and production of print and digital publications and collateral in five languages. In this role, Amon spearheaded a global rebranding across seven offices, including a redesign of all marketing materials, an overhaul of member publications, and brand ambassador training for employees. He also consulted on sustainability communications with BSR clients, including messaging strategy recommendations for Campbell’s Soup Company, and writing for Wells Fargo’s CSR Report.

Happy Ending

Amon significantly increased the value of strategic business partnerships by negotiating deals worth more than $2 million with media outlets such as The New York Times and Fortune, and with PR, research and design agencies. He also increased the visibility of senior executives and key programs by securing coverage in BusinessWeek, The Economist, FastCompany.com, Reuters.com and other media outlets. As an example, Amon got the CEO of IKEA an appearance on CNBC and prepped him to deliver BSR messages during the interview. Finally, the rebranding Amon led not only brought BSR’s identity materials up to par with its competitors, it also transformed organizational culture and inspired the CEO to create BSR’s first-ever sustainability leadership agenda.

Blue Shield of California Foundation

Success Story

Blue Shield of California Foundation

“As a result of the valuable guidance you provided, we’re now more strategic and effective in our public affairs and communications activities.”

  • Scott Travasos

CFO, Blue Shield of California Foundation

 

Backstory

The Blue Shield of California Foundation works to shape the broader field and policy agenda around its core issues: successful implementation of federal health care reform and transformation of the safety net health care system, and ending domestic violence in the state. The Foundation’s leadership knew that delivering on those goals and increasing its impact would require a higher level of integration between its program and public affairs functions, and they turned to us for help developing a strategic communications plan to guide the way.

Leading Role

We started by evaluating the Foundation’s existing public affairs and communications systems and activities, and then worked across the organization to help implement operational improvements, such as guidelines for program staff on how to get the communications support they needed. We then gathered the best ideas from more than a dozen plans, reports and memos on public affairs and communications that had been developed by staff and consultants. Finally, we led a series of strategic planning exercises with the Foundation’s leadership team and public affairs staff, and incorporated our findings and insights from the entire process into a comprehensive and integrated public affairs and communications strategic plan we developed.

Happy Ending

The operational systems we recommended and helped implement led to more effective collaboration among public affairs and program staff, and resulted in greater collective impact for all involved. The strategic plan we created was put to use immediately, helping to guide public affairs and communications activities, and achieve the objectives in it: promoting adoption of promising practices, creating awareness and understanding of the Foundation’s work, and building credibility in the health care field.

Shining a Light on Automotive Industry Responsibility

Success Story

Shining a Light on Automotive Industry Responsibility

“I was impressed with how you engaged our corporate responsibility steering committee in the strategy workshop and gathered the key information from them. The marketing communications plan you developed as a result has helped guide our activities ever since.”

  • Tanya Bolden

Corporate Responsibility Program Manager, Automotive Industry Action Group

 

Backstory

The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), an association of global auto manufacturers—including Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan—and their suppliers, works collaboratively with its member companies to develop solutions to common corporate responsibility challenges they face, from improving global working conditions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to sourcing materials throughout the supply chain in a responsible manner. The group turned to us for help telling the story of the auto industry’s ongoing commitment, and collective action, on these issues through a variety of communications channels.

Leading Role

We kicked off the project by leading a strategy workshop with AIAG’s corporate responsibility steering committee, including representatives from Chrysler, GM, Nissan, TRW and other member companies. Using the insights gained, we created a series of high-priority collateral materials for an upcoming conference, including website content and one-sheets covering AIAG’s activity across a range of issues. We then developed a corporate responsibility communications strategy to position AIAG as an authority in the space, promote the group’s history of accomplishments, and build on its reputation within and beyond the auto industry.

 

Happy Ending

We then worked with AIAG to implement communications activities aligned with the strategy, including a campaign to call attention to the auto industry’s proactive approach to tracing “conflict minerals” in global supply chains. We developed key messages, member communications and media materials, and reached out to reporters covering the issue. As a result, we got GreenBiz, Just Means, and Compliance Week to cover the story, and helped our client write and place an article in Sustainable Brands. These pieces demonstrated the effectiveness of AIAG’s corporate responsibility communications strategy and helped validate its role as a voice for the industry’s efforts on high-profile issues of concern.