Mission, Vision, and Value Statements: Why They’re Not For Everyone

Elyse Kamibayashi, Former Senior Brand Strategist

Article Category: #Strategy

Posted on

Your mission, vision, and values statements require more than a section of your About page.

You’re a company on a mission. What’s more, you have a vision — and a gleaming set of nouns that reflect your organizational values. It took an incredible amount of time and effort to find and articulate your mission, vision, and values (alternatively, you might have a “purpose” statement). You searched your soul, brainstormed with team-members, wrote and rewrote each statement, solicited feedback, and rewrote it all again.

And now that you finally have your mission, vision, and values, the question is: what do you do with them? How do you share them with people? How do you get people engaged and excited about what you’re doing and why?  

If you’re like most people, your first thought is probably: “let’s put them on the website!” After all, you spent a lot of money creating that website. It’s where people are supposed to go when they’re trying to get to know you.

While that may be the most logical response, it’s not always the most effective.

To understand why, we first have to understand the purpose of your mission, vision, and values statements. Broadly speaking, there are two reasons why you’d want them shouted from the digital rooftops.

Reason 1: You want to reach potential customers who would be attracted to your mission, vision, and values.

Reason 2: You want to reach potential employees who would be attracted to your mission, vision, and values.

Let’s discuss reason 1 first. Why wouldn’t you simply create a page for your mission, vision, and values — or feature them, front and center, on your “About Us” page? People do like to buy from companies that align with their personal values.

The problem isn’t what you’re doing — it’s how you’re doing it.

Telling people what your mission, vision, and values are doesn’t mean they’ll believe you. In fact, they probably won’t. As Forbes points out, there have been too many instances of companies like Wells Fargo, who talk loudly about valuing “what’s right for our customers in everything we do”...and are then busted for account fraud.

No matter how engaging and well-written your mission, vision, and value statements are, people are bound to be skeptical. There has to be a better way — a way to remain true to what the statements say, while helping your audience understand what they really mean, and why they should care. As it happens, there is a better way. We call it a brand strategy.

But, more often than not, the response we get is: “okay but is that really what a brand strategy is for?” Most people assume that their mission, vision, and values statements are the real stuff — the lifeblood of their organization — while their brand is just the flashing arrow that gets people in the door. Not so. Your brand strategy is how you get people to listen to your mission, vision, and values. It captures the essence of who you are, what you do, and why — and delivers it in a way that people can relate to and and believe in. Said another way: brand strategy tells a story, and people will always prefer stories over statements.

Bottom line: investing time and effort into formulating your mission, vision, and values is important. But if you want them to reach potential customers, you need to invest in a brand strategy.

Now, let’s talk about reason 2. Let’s say your main goal is to reach potential employees who would be attracted to your mission, vision, and values.

Potential employees can be just as skeptical as potential customers. But that isn’t the main issue. You don’t just want your employees to believe in your core values — you need them to embody them. Your team-members should be walking proof to the outside world that you are who you say you are. That means you need to do more than tell new hires what your mission, vision, and values are. You need to help them understand how to live them.

The good news is that there is actually a way to accomplish that through your website. Take Netflix, for example. Rather than simply featuring their mission, vision, and values on their “About” page, or their “Careers” page, they created a “Culture” page. On it, they don’t just list values like “judgment” — they break it down into examples. They make it tangible and personal. They wax poetic about their philosophy regarding team structure, responsibility, and communication. They even bring in Le Petit Prince. It’s beautiful, and it’s practical. Netflix understands that if you want to turn values into culture, you have to do more than make a list. You have to make your mission, vision, and values something that future employees can own and exemplify.

Main takeaways: if you’re trying to attract customers, let your brand do the talking. It doesn’t mean abandoning your mission, vision, and values statements. It just means talking about them in a way that people will believe.

If you’re trying to reach future employees, focus on creating something that people will actually use — something that can sustain a culture by making your values tangible. To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (and Netflix):

"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

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