MAT MARTIN | Branding Statements – Vision, Mission, Essence, Personality and Positioning
12 April, 2017, 10:30
In order to clarify the message of a brand it can be useful to create a series of statements of intent for a business. Doing this can focus a branding project and make a business much more effective as a result. Whether or not you choose to share your branding statements publicly, they should clearly express the core values of your business, of which your client should be aware.
Branding statements express the various aspects of your business’ persona in language. This is similar to the areas defined within the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism, and along with that diagram they can give us some resources with which to understand the nature of a brand. An effective way to arrive at these statements is by answering a set of questions designed to elicit detailed reflection on the brand in question.
Questions for creating Branding Statements
The questions included here are researched and designed to help you identify, develop and communicate the key qualities of your brand. Note that this is not a one-time exercise, and that successful brands revisit, fine-tune and sometimes outright change up their branding statements, identity principles and assets according to the market and to the development of their business. The more experience your company gains, the more accurate and insightful the information it will be able to feed into this process and the more precise your branding statements will be. Make a note in your diary to come back in a year and see if anything can be adjusted or has changed.
A quick SWOT analysis will never hurt to prepare you for the more specific questions which follow. It’s good practice to have a sense of your business in these terms in any case. To the best of your current knowledge, jot down some thoughts on the following subjects with regard to your business.
- Strengths: What are the characteristics of your business or project that give it an advantage over others?
- Weaknesses: What are the characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative to others?
- Opportunities: What are the elements that the business or project could exploit to its advantage?
- Threats: What are the elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project?
Your Vision Statement is “a one-sentence statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from an organization or program’s work”. Is is a simple expression of your company’s intention and desired end-state. Consider the following things, without worrying at this stage about how you intend to achieve them. This is about what you want to achieve.
- What are your most important products and services?
- Which products and services will you never offer?
- What is unique about doing business with your brand?
- How would your customers describe your brand?
- Where do you want your company to be in five years?
Mission statement example: Oxfam’s vision statement is: “A just world without poverty”.
- What, in one sentence, sums up your company’s vision?
Your Mission Statement should clearly set out your company’s purpose. This should be free from specialist language (it should make sense to the average general reader without further explanation). The Vision Statement is where you say something inspiring – here it’s more important to be clear than anything else.
Be careful to consider the Vision Statement’s intentions when creating this. Consider the difference between these two of Apple’s Mission Statements:
“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”
Both of these statements have been part of the Apple brand at different times, and they are quite different in meaning. The first clearly puts quality of life and the advancement of humanity at the fore, where the second concentrates on a purely technological set of values.
Consider the following:
- What are the specific market needs the company exists to address?
- What does the company do to address these needs?
- What are the guiding principles that define the company’s approach?
- Why do customers buy from you and not your competition?
Mission satement example: Google’s mission statement is: “To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, whereas their Vision Statement is: “To provide access to the world’s information in one click”.
- What is your company going to do to achieve its Vision Statement?
The search for the Essence of your brand can be reduced to a simple question: What does your archetypal customer feel when using your service? Examples include “safe” (Volvo) or “magical” (Disney). Perhaps your customers will feel “enabled” by the support and/or information you offer them, or perhaps they will feel “luxurious” when experiencing the richness and extravagance of your product.
Take a look at this blog post on cultural archetypes in branding for some guidance on defining the personality type of your business, and answer the following questions:
- What emotions are elicited by your customer’s experience of your product or service?
- If your brand were a person, how would you describe its character?
- What single word would best describe the experience of interacting with your brand? How will your customer feel?
This is, simply put, the manner in which your brand’s Essence is communicated. Think about the various messages we send via the decisions we make about how to present ourselves and interact with others. For some businesses it will be appropriate to have a fun, mischievous personality; for others a serious, even old-fashioned tone will be more appropriate (consider the difference in tone and style between Apple’s and IBM’s brands for example – they are effectively selling the same product but have vastly different personalities). When thinking about this, give attention to the frame of mind your customer is likely to be in (e.g. Does your service offer help at difficult times in people’s lives?) but also the frame of mind you would like your product or service to elicit (see Essence).
- Are you playful or serious?
- Are you led by your client or do you lead them?
- Is it more important to your business to be considered trustworthy or exciting?
- Do you provide a bespoke service or a global solution?
- Is the nature of your business one which requires a certain style or tone?
- How does your client feel about approaching you?
In one or two sentences, your company’s Brand Positioning Statement expresses the unique value and benefit of your product or service. It should “define the audience, define the category in which the brand exists, cite a clear product or service benefit, set your brand apart from your competitors, and instill confidence the brand will deliver on its promise.”
Think about the following (we have answered some of these questions already, above):
- To whom are you speaking? (Target market, demographic, and persona)
- Which market segment does your product or service serve?
- What is your rational brand promise (pragmatic deliverables)?
- What is your emotional brand promise (feelings and validation)?
- Why is your product or service different from the competition, and why should your clients care?
A strong statement of this type will take into account the target market/consumer, the frame within which the decision to buy this product over an alternative and the points of difference between the product/service in question and the alternatives on offer.
For example, ZipCar’s Brand Positioning Statement is “To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy consumers [target], when you use Zipcar car-sharing service instead of owning a car [competitive frame], you save money while reducing your carbon footprint [points of difference].” [source]
How would you describe the position and unique benefit of your product or service in a single sentence?
Use this series of questions to define five concise and definite branding statements. They will offer you most if they avoid vague language and are explicit in their intent and meaning. Don’t be afraid to be specific – it may feel like you will alienate people by doing so but if you are not definite you stand a much higher chance of speaking too generally and engaging no-one.