Let me start off by addressing the skeptics in the room. If you’re a marketer who has always seen these fundamental elements of building a brand as being super indulgent, then let me share with you exactly why you’re wrong about that.
I actually do get it. Being a digital marketing specialist for the best part of a decade, I’ve lived in an extremely measurable world. There’s little black and white and we can in most cases, directly attribute how our hypothesis and assumptions correlate to results.
When we engage in “brand” work, we’re not afforded the same luxury. We’re living in the grey and it almost always takes a significant amount of time to build brand resonance and measure how it relates to our bottom line performance.
But here’s what we do know. As Simon Sinek shared with us in his viral TED talk, people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it. Marketers so often get distracted from what we’re truly trying to achieve. Our consumers are merely human and we connect through the art of storytelling. In a increasingly technological world, where almost everything has become a commodity, we need to feel connected to a brand and see how that brand aligns to our self-concept (painting a picture of who we are to ourselves and to the world) if we have any chance of cutting through and seeing an impact on our bottom line.
Where powerful branding and digital marketing meet, is the cornerstone of your success in business.
And if that didn’t convince you, let me give you two quick rational reasons as to why we must start by getting clear on your values, vision, purpose and mission – you know, before we get to the super fun digital geeky stuff:
Reason Number #1:
They’ll provide the basis for your communications and specifically, your digital marketing content pillars.
We’ll cover this off in far more detail when it comes time to crafting your foundational content strategy but for now, just know that they’ll provide a compass for guiding the messages we create, they’ll keep us on track and aligned to our “true north” – which is our brand essence. For if there’s ONE thing we know about the brands we love as consumers, it’s that they’re consistent and never veer from their reason for being. It’s the constant repetition of messages that are the ones that stick in our minds.
Let me throw you a quick example.
Do you remember the last Coca-Cola ad you saw? I’ll be impressed if you do. But if you were at a trivia night, I bet you would have guessed that it would likely look like a group of young, good-looking 20-somethings laughing on a beach and enjoying the icy cold beverage in the hot summer sun. Because, don’t all their ads kinda look like that?
Now let’s go one step further. Finish this sentence: Coca-Cola, open [FILL IN THE BLANK]. How many of you instinctively knew it was “happiness”?
Repetition is everything.
And how can we remain consistent with our message unless we know what we stand for and what we want to communicate?
Reason Number #2
Starting with your values, vision, purpose and mission will provide you with a framework to build out your other brand elements, such as tone of voice, personality and even the visual elements of your branding.
Which are not the most important elements by the way, but certainly what everyone seems to get caught up on.
Think about it: Do you think your friends feel connected to you because of what you wear? Perhaps they do if what you choose to wear, says something about who you are.
For me, I’m donning a god-awful Apple Watch tan as a direct result of where my passions collide. Technology and data with cycling.
But you know what, even if I wore any old watch, it wouldn’t change the fact that those of my friends who feel connected to me because of my love of those things, feel that way. And we need to see the visual elements of our branding the same way. They absolutely contribute to our ability to paint a mega-quick picture of who we are and make people feel something when they interact with us.
But – without the integrity of knowing what it is that those things actually say about us – what we stand for – why we’re here and who we are – well it certainly wouldn’t make for a lifelong friendship would it? It would be surface level at best – which is exactly why we need to get a little touchy-feely and deep before we can build a meaningful brand-customer relationship.
Alright so I’m hoping I’ve convinced you now as to WHY I’m starting your digital marketing journey with a piece around brand.
So let’s get into it.
Values, vision, purpose and mission. How they’re different and why you need them all.
Why all four? Values, Vision, Purpose and Mission. And how in the hell are they even different from each other?
Well I’m super glad you asked! If you don’t already know how they’re all different from each other, then you’re not alone. In fact I’m quite certain many marketers don’t really know the difference between them all either.
The differences are small but impactful, so yes, we’re going to take the time to craft each of them and I’ll tell you exactly why – right now.
Your Values: Your values set the code of conduct for how you will operate as a brand. They’re the principles and standards by which you will hold yourself accountable to as you work through the various tasks required in your business.
They also set the foundation for any relationship, even a brand/customer relationship.
I mean, can you imaging having a significant other who didn’t align with your core values and principles about how you intend to live your life? I imagine it would make for quite an unhappy time…
Your Vision: Your vision for your brand is how you intend to address the problem, need or desire in the key market you’re serving. This statement will succinctly talk to the tools, products and/or resources that you’ll create to make their lives better. Whether that’s addressing a need, solving a key problem or even just sparking joy – like a Louis Vuitton handbag, because while that serves a functional purpose, we both know that’s a desire-driven, status based purchase decision.
Your Purpose: Your purpose talks to WHY you exist. It’s almost always to solve the key problem or address a need or desire as mentioned in the vision. Your purpose should be all about the feels. It’s often the statement we use to onboard both our customers and our staff to get “on the bus” with our journey.
In my experience, I often find that many business and marketing leaders mistake their vision for their purpose.
And finally – your Mission: If you’re tight on time and you’re going to leave any out – I’ll let you leave out this one. For now at least. However crafting this up front will save you time when it comes time to dive into our copywriting for various channels, so while you’re in the mindset to be thinking about your brand, it’s a good one to tackle if you do have the time.
Our mission should be externally facing – this is the phrase we want our customers to read on the “About” page of our websites.
It speaks to the transformation. the outcome, benefit or relief your customer will receive as result of your existence.
See? All necessary.
So how do we go about crafting them? Well that’s the golden question, isn’t it?
Start with setting your purpose:
To construct our purpose, we first need to consider WHO we are serving. I always like to just sit down with a sheet of paper and describe them in detail to myself, as if they were sitting in front of me and we were having a coffee together. In future weeks, I’ll give you a customer persona worksheet with prompts for how to do this, but for this exercise, having a rough idea will be just fine.
Now consider your USEFULNESS to this person or group. Do you solve a problem of theirs? Address their fears? Create joy in their lives by addressing a desire? Finally, consider how you want your audience to feel if their problem or desire was addressed. Now, as we will with each of our statements, summarise this into a succinct sentence or sound-bite you can refer to. That’s it. You’ve nailed your PURPOSE. That wasn’t so hard was it?
Craft your vision:
Crafting our vision is probably the simplest of the set since it speaks to the “WHAT” of what you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve.
It focuses on the tangible tools, products and resources you wish to create to serve that customer and adding value to their lives.
Summarise a sentence into three parts. Consider the problem or desire your audience has, the tool or resource you’ll create to address that problem or desire and finally, how your customer will benefit and engage with this tool or resource.
If that all feels too hard then here’s the alternative. Craft yourself a brand vision board. Include images and words that speak to each of these things.
Your mission statement:
As I mentioned before, our mission speaks to the transformation that will take place in our individual as a result of them interacting with the product, tools or resources we provided them.
We’ll dive into this further in future weeks when it comes time to talk about our target market and we build out our customer persona, but for now, we can, at a top level, consider the pain that our audience will feel and the relief we will provide them.
Your mission statement should speak to the transformation that will occur as a result of engaging with you. This could be internally within the life of your target audience, for example, if you were providing a gym membership, you might speak to how they will feel confident and more energised. Or it could speak to the external transformation or impact that your target audience contributes to, for example, a business for purpose such as TOMS shoes or the Thankyou products could speak to how the purchase will impact their external environment – in this case, providing those who are disadvantaged in some way with something useful that will improve their livelihood.
When it comes time to craft your mission statement, describe the following three things:
- Who you are acting in service of
- The impact of your existence
- the transformation that will take place or the overall outcome that will exist once you’ve achieved what you set out to.
And that’s your mission!
So finally, the most important element of all.
Setting your values:
The reason taking the time to get really clear on your brand values is so important up front is because it not only provides the framework for what you intend to achieve – but keeps you clear on the opportunities you will need to say “no” to as they inevitably pop up.
Getting clear on our values up front gives us a true north to anchor ourselves to. In my experience, I find that it helps me to stay out of comparison when I feel myself falling into it. It’s so easy to spend too much time looking to others whether it’s our competitors or our audience for answers – and while this can lead to a well-rounded understanding of our market and the opportunities available, we DON’T want it to lead to mindlessly following the the masses – for it’s what makes us unique that makes us special and we are building REAL brand-customer connections here. I mean, they don’t call it a UNIQUE selling proposition for nothing.
So understanding how we’ll be different starts with understanding who we are at our core – and that’s to understand what we value.
When businesses set their brand values, they all too often oversimplify them using words like “trust”, “accountability”, “honesty”. Be honest, how many large corporates have you walked into where you’ve seen these words decal-ed across the office walls?
And look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those words. Heck – I value those things, don’t you? I find though that without context and meaning these words don’t provide us with any sort of useful framework for decision making.
So instead, I prefer to use sound bites and phrases. You may choose to do this or you may simply choose some words that resonate with you. Just throwing something out there for you to consider as you work through these steps.
So here’s the process I go through for uncovering my brand values which again, can be used for both your personal brand and your business or the business you’re working for.
I use the word “uncovering” deliberately too – since the answers already exist inside you, we’re simply bringing them to the surface.
So here are two exercises I find helpful in determining our values.
The first I call “crushing”. That’s – the romantic kind of crushing. Like I’m sooo crushing on Liam Hemsworth right now kinda crushing.
Sometimes we need to anchor ourselves to something that exists in REALITY that we can actually see and hear in order to observe what we like and don’t like.
I always start by considering two individuals and two businesses that I admire and then I write down the qualities I admire about them. Then, I look at the list and highlight the values that feel aligned to how I or my business intends to operate. Pretty simple right?
The second exercise is a reverse brainstorm. Sometimes when we’re trying to work out how we feel about something, a great place to start is to write down exactly what we don’t want.
So I do that! I brainstorm the qualities I know I don’t want and then review and see whether I can align an opposite and aligning value next to it.
And voila! Values set.
A little example from yours truly…
In case you’re interested, I’ll share a few of the values that underpin SPT Agency. You’ll notice that I’ve truly “stolen like an artist” from key individuals and businesses I admire – and you know you what – you can too! I won’t tell anyone.
The purpose of getting clear on our values is so we can operate in alignment with them and consistently – without getting distracted. So as far as I’m concerned, you do you. For me, sound-bites, tag-lines and mini quotes is what works for me.
Here are a few of them – feel free to borrow them as I have of others…
- Break down barriers and “just do it’
- Courage > comfort
- Create > consume
- Be in the arena
- Act in a place of service
- Protect the asset
So directly in alignment with those values, creating over consuming and acting in a place of service – we crafted this mini workbook that walks you through each of these exercises, step by step.
You can of course follow all of the instructions in this blog post to craft your purpose, vision, values and mission but if you’d like to consider your answers deeply (and have them be the cornerstone of your marketing strategy) you can download our secret sauce of reflection questions in our Work Shop.
If you decide to purchase it, and you find it valuable, we’d just love for you to leave a review or share it with a fellow leader who could get some value from it.
Once you’ve taken the time to set the foundation for your strategy, you’ll be in the perfect position to commence the build of your effective digital marketing strategy. Stay tuned for more resources and workbooks to help guide you through those steps too.