In this article, we are working on one of the essential pieces of your brand manifesto, your Vision Statement.
Given the fast-paced, competitive, and quickly changing world, today's CEO and CMO need to know how to draft an effective Vision Statement. These leaders must inspire their teams through difficult challenges and sustain long-term growth for their companies. They must have a Vision Statement truly matters, one that motivates and drives business success.
To help with this important task, let's proceed through three steps together:
- How to best define a vision statement
- Review examples and discuss what makes a strong vision statement
- Work on a key activity and answer some tough questions
By the end of this process, you can begin writing a vision statement that helps you build a reliable company, or gain further insight on how to strengthen your current statement.
If you'd like to skip right to the activity, here's the link to our vision statement learning activity.
What is a Vision Statement?
As a reminder, your vision statement is part of your strategic brand development and a significant component of your brand manifesto, which also includes your mission statement and your values. The brand manifesto is the foundation of your brand identity and the groundwork for a strong brand, so you need all three for successful brand development.
Best described, a vision statement is a brand's "WHAT" statement. It explains what you're trying to achieve. If you think of the vision statement in these terms, it helps contextualize the statement among the other components of your brand manifesto (e.g., Mission Statement and Core Values).
If you think about an analogy of climbing a mountain, your vision is the summit; the peak of where you're heading. It's what you're looking to achieve long-term. It's your goal.
One of the best leading questions to get you thinking about your vision statement is,
"What does real, meaningful success look like for you or your company?"
Take a moment to reflect on the question above. Please spend a few minutes thinking about it and write down as many answers as you can. Perhaps there is only one answer or a particular answer that stands above the rest; there might even be several that resemble each other. Whatever the case, spend some time with these answers, they are building blocks of your vision statement.
One easy way to remember what a vision statement is and how to define it comes from a great book called Built to Last by bestselling author Jim Collins. He refers to the vision statement as your BHAG, your big, hairy, audacious goal. I can't think of anything more memorable than imagining that summit, your higher purpose, as your BHAG.
Why is a Vision Statement Important?
You may have already come to this realization, but if not, ask yourself, why would I want a vision statement? What's the purpose of a vision statement?
Vision statements have a proven track record of motivating the success and the drive of businesses. A great book, called Drive by Daniel Pink, goes through 40 to 50 years of research and case studies to describe what truly motivates us and businesses. Pink finds that it comes down to three things:
Purpose is your vision statement. Purpose is everything. Purpose tells everyone in your company, including yourself, why you're getting out of bed, what you're reaching for, and why that higher purpose matters. Purpose, is translated as your vision, and ultimately materialized as motivation.
Remember this equation:
purpose = vision = motivation
A great quote that relates to the above equation by going a step further is by George Washington Carver. His quote reminds us that in the face of difficult challenges or BHAG's, our motivation comes from hope.
"When there is no vision, there is no hope."
– George Washington Carver
How to Write a Vision Statement that Matters
Now that we've learned how vision statements drive and motivate businesses, brands, and individuals forward, how do we know if we've written a good vision statement? How do we know if we've written one that matters?
Well, here's a litmus test for you:
- Does your vision stimulate progress?
- Does it create momentum and keep people going?
- Does it get you, the owner, out of bed every day?
- Does your staff find it exciting or adventurous?
- Is your company willing to put everyone's time, energy, and resources behind it?
If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, then chances are you have a vision statement that truly matters.
Examples of Great Vision Statements
Let's start with Coca-Cola and allow me to paraphrase to emphasize the point. Coca-Cola uses the aspirational vision of "...refreshing the world in mind, body, and spirit so they can inspire each other to be the best they can be."
This feels aspirational and lofty. It feels like a big, hairy, audacious goal.
One of the best vision statements ever shared comes from President Kennedy's famous declaration to Congress and the Nation on May 25, 1961:
"The nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to home."
Talk about a vision! This statement galvanized a nation. It allowed us to reach some of the highest levels of patriotism ever on record, and ultimately it allowed us to accomplish that big, hairy, audacious goal of putting a man on the moon.
What is a Firebrand?
Traditionally, a firebrand is defined as "a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action." In the branding space, one way we define a firebrand is a brand that achieves and reaches its vision. Let's read three examples, and see if you can name these companies:
1. "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
2. "It's our goal to be the Earth's most customer-centric company where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online."
3. "Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected."
Did you guess Google, Amazon, and Facebook? I'm assuming so, because these businesses are firebrands, and truly built to last.
For the key activity on vision statements, download the worksheet, and answer these four questions:
- What do I want to become?
- What is my primary future goal?
- What do I want to achieve, and why?
- And lastly, what is my big, hairy, audacious goal?
If you need to, refer back to the litmus test to make sure that you've written a vision statement that truly matters.
Additional Vision Statement Resources
We scoured the internet to find some of the best resources on writing a great vision statement so you can go as deep as you want. Check them out!
- Bringing the corporation into corporate branding
- The Cycles of Corporate Branding: The Case of the Lego Company
- Corporate Branding: the role of vision in implementing the corporate brand
- Mission and Vision Statements - Bain & Company
- How to Create a Compelling Vision to Guide You and Your Team - Radical Product on Medium
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