Beloved Brands Are Built on Great Cultures

Ros Weadman

  • Author, brand communications specialist
  • Website
Ros Weadman is the author of ‘Enhance Your Reputation – how to build a brand people want to work for, buy from and invest in’ and a brand communication and reputation specialist.

Like the foundations of a house, the elements of culture are the pillars of an organisation. In my work I’ve come across a diverse array of definitions and criteria used for developing the key culture pillars of purpose, vision, mission and principles.  

I’ve noticed that when there is a lack of clarity between the concepts, it can result in culture statements sounding the same or lacking meaning, often leading to misunderstanding, confusion and disengagement by staff.  

Let’s look at the distinctions between these vital corporate culture pillars which feed directly into your brand positioning, marketing messages and employee value proposition.

PURPOSE – your brand’s ‘why’

Your purpose answers the question ‘why do we exist?’. Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ concept is a simple yet powerful way of discovering purpose by exploring the ‘why’ (higher purpose cause) behind the ‘what’ (your product/service) and the ‘how’ (your methods and processes) of your business.

The most powerful ‘whys’ are connected to a higher purpose and are an expression of love – not the romantic kind of love but a version of love that improves people’s lives in some way and moves humanity forward. Love can be expressed in different ways through your ‘why’, depending on the contribution and impact you make on people’s lives through your work.

VISION – your brand’s ‘what’  

Your vision answers the question what outcome are we aiming to achieve?’. A vision is an aspirational, future-oriented, outward-facing statement about the big picture difference you seek to make in the lives of those whom you serve or the world more generally, because of your contributions. Here’s some examples:

  • Who Gives a Crap – We donate 50 per cent of our profits to ensure everyone has access to clean water and a toilet in our lifetime
  • Oxfam – A just world without poverty

As with the above examples, visions are ultimate end states. An end state could be a place, a world, a community, a legacy, a benchmark or a state of being, for example.

MISSION – your brand’s ‘how’

Your mission answers the question ‘how are we going to get there?’. A mission is an inspirational, now-oriented statement about what you’ll do exceptionally well every day in delivering on your purpose and in pursuit of your vision. Here’s some examples:

  • Patagonia – We’re in business to save our home planet
  • The Body Shop – As part of our Enrich Not Exploit initiative, we’ve made it our mission to enrich our products, our people and our planet
  • Unlike a vision which is an end state destination, a mission is the journey.

PRINCIPLES – your brand’s ‘who’

Your principles answer the question ‘who are we being in delivering on our mission and in pursuit of our vision?‘. Principles are the non-negotiable core values that guide our thinking, decisions and actions. For example, Patagonia, a beloved brand, defines its core values as powerful statements of action, reflecting the minimalist lifestyles of its climb-and-surf-loving founders:

  • Build the best product
  • Cause no unnecessary harm
  • Use business to protect nature
  • Not bound by convention

When employees share a collective mindset nurtured by a positive and purpose-driven culture, great things can happen. Take care of culture and may the positive ripple effect of your work enhance your reputation.

Tags: CSR, ESG, brand strategy, brand purpose, brand values

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