Every brand plan should start with a brand vision of where you want to be in the long term. Yet, too many brand leaders try to write their brand plans so quickly, they go directly to strategies and action plans. They never think far enough out (e.g. This is a one year plan) but rather just focus on HOW to win NOW with their get-it-done attitude.
But, if a brand vision answers “where could we be?” and the brand strategy answers “how can we get there?” then how could you ever write the strategy without knowing the vision. How can you write how to get there, if you don’t know where “there” is?
Imagine leaving the house, without knowing where you’re going.
Think of the brand vision as the end-in-mind goal of an ideal state where you would feel completely satisfied that you achieved it. To get to that idealized state, we always ask the question:
“If you woke up on January 1st, ten years from now, and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on the brand, then what are the three biggest things on your business that you would you have accomplished?
At first, we keep it as a “straw dog” vision, with 3 simple bullet points, knowing we can always word-smith it later. But we have found that we have to ask this same question 5+ times, because normally the first few answers are complete B.S., filled with corporate rhetoric, cool statements that look good but say very little and lines that try to please your boss rather than provide the authentic direction of where you could be.
Does having a brand vision statement pay out?
Companies that have vision statements have a better sense of where they are going. And the proof that it pays off:
- A Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with vision statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
- Newsweek looked at 1000 companies and found companies with vision statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
- “Built to Last” showed that for companies with vision statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a vision.
A brand vision helps to frame the overall brand plan
“Where could you be” should be a stake-in-the-ground that inspires and pushes you, while motivating others. It should scare you a little, but excite you a lot. Think of the Vision as the end in mind achievement towards your purpose. Some call them Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). Even if it’s a one year plan, think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful. Ideally, balance the statement in the qualitative (want) and quantitative (measurable). It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused. It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—supporting why you got into this business.
Things that Make a Good vision:
- Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
- Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
- Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
- It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.
The watch outs for vision statements:
- It’s not a positioning statement. Almost positioning neutral Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
- Make sure we haven’t achieved it already. If you are #2, then don’t put “be #2”.
- Don’t put strategic statements. Vision answers “where could we be” and not “how can we get there”
- Try to be single-minded: Tighten it up and don’t include everything!! Can you say it in an elevator. Can you actually remember it? Can you yell it at a sales meeting?
Your brand vision scare you a little, but excite you a lot.
There is no value in having a brand vision that is easy to meet. I once had a client tell me their vision was “to be the #2 brand” and I said “what are you now” and they said “we are #2 now”. I said “this was the easiest project I’ve ever worked on”. Having an easy vision won’t push you, stretch you or inspire you to work harder. A funny story: when my son was in 9th grade, his teacher asked on the first day “what grade do you hoped to achieve in the class?” My son put a D. When I asked him why, he said “I like to over-achieve”. I would rather he put A+ and miss it, than a D and over-deliver. Imagine if he had an A- at the mid-term, the stretch vision would have motivated him to work even harder or change his habits to reach that stretch goal of an A+. Even if he fell short, he would have achieved an A. It’s better to narrowly miss a stretch vision that pushed and inspired you to work harder than to have an easy goal you cheerfully achieved.
Below are a few examples of brand visions that will hopefully inspire you.
- I love the Nike vision of “Crush Adidas”, written in the 1960s. I’m sure when they wrote that vision, it seemed somewhat insurmountable (scares you a little) but certainly provided a single-minded focus (excites you a lot) and steered them to actually crushing Adidas by the early 1980s, forcing Adidas to make a necessary come-back.
- Princess Margaret Hospital is a cancer hospital with a beautiful and inspiring vision to “conquer cancer in our lifetime”. This speaks to the ongoing on-going battle against cancer, but speaks to the purpose (the why) that everyone connected to the hospital lives and breathes everyday.
- Lexmark took the inspiration even further by getting the employees to write the brand vision, because they are the brand. The idea of “customers for life” helps inspire and focus everyone who works for Lexmark.
A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day. For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential. Adding in brand values and even service values can help people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it. For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.
A brand vision has to stretch you, the point of uncertainty that you can actually meet it.
I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders. Click on any of the topics below:
- How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
- How to Write a Creative Brief
- How to Write a Brand Plan
- How to Think Strategically
- How to Drive Profits from Your Brand
- How to Run a Brand
- How to Write a Monthly Report
To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at:
If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org