My tennis partner and fellow brand strategist Stefan Saidac wrote a clear and insightful piece on how to develop a strong Vision statement (in Swedish). He argues the importance of a Vision to be credible, intelligent and inspiring. And that it needs to be relevant and engaging for multiple target groups, including customers and employees.
In my brand strategy work, I have, on multiple occasions, encountered companies with a highly rational Vision statement involving cliché business strategy lingo about leadership and profitability goals that seemed to primarily be targeting investors and top management peers. The consequence is a highly sub-optimized Vision, which limits the amount of value that can be derived from it.
A few common issues that I have often identified are…
- The Vision does not represent a rich and engaging expression that conveys an aligned business-brand strategy. While the business strategy and the brand strategy are closely linked, they are not the same thing but they absolutely have to be aligned. And the Vision is a great place to concisely express this alignment.
- The Vision is not inclusive enough to engage a wide range of target groups such as employees, customers, partners, investors, media etc.
I think there is a fairly straight-forward explanation as to why there tends to be this fairly standardized formula for Vision statements. Or, at least my hypothesis is that, over time, a formulaic way of arriving at a Vision statement has evolved among CEOs, CFOs, Board of Directors and strategy consultants á la Bain and McKinsey. Just like in any industry, a culture of how things are generally done develops and people get familiarized and comfortable with it. I remember working on a project for one of Sweden’s largest corporations and its CEO was very wary about adopting a language outside of his comfort zone as he was preparing for a large investors’ meeting.
I fully understood his perspective, but at least he opened up to slightly going into an ‘unknown’ territory. While we brand consultants have to argue why a more emotionally laden, dynamic and richer way of expressing multi-dimensional, purpose-driven and customer-oriented ideas is the right path to take, we also need to be conscious about not delivering anything that can be regarded as shallow or fluffy. We need to come up with communications that is supported by solid, credible arguments and that represents a fusion of the worlds of business strategy and brand strategy. But it has to explore imaginative and evocative avenues to arrive at something that is distinctive, differentiating and engaging.
I have seen an interesting change during the past 5-7 years in the brand engagements I have been part of. As company management has become increasingly brand-driven and brand-savvy, they have more often than previously been embracing a reformulation of the Corporate Vision and Mission as part of a major brand engagement.
While McKinsey and other business strategy consultants have traditionally driven the crafting of Vision statements, it has become increasingly relevant for brand consultants to do that work as part of aligning the brand and business strategy.
Thereby, the role of the Vision has in many cases been elevated and expanded into being a very powerful purpose-oriented tool to boost and rally the internal culture and uncover substantial value from increased engagement in the relationship with customers, partners, media, investors and society at large.
To conclude, a strong Vision statement is set out to achieve the following…
- Rally and energize all employees around a common purpose, beyond generic notions of leadership and profitability (such aspects can be captured in a more detailed Vision text and/or in the business strategy; just not in the actual Vision statement)
- Inspire and engage multiple stakeholder groups, deepening their connection with the brand and growing demand for the brand’s product and/or service offering
Crafting a Strong Vision Statement
Do you wish to review, revise or reimagine your current Vision to pave the way for increased brand growth?
Please, get in touch for a discussion about the issues you are currently seeing and let’s collaborate to effectively align your business and brand strategy, manifested by an engaging and inspiring Vision statement.
Image source: nikmorris