Reinterpreting Vision, Mission and Values for the CSR age

In the 80s/90s, when nobody gave a shit and we were all busy getting rich, we brand people invented vision, mission and ...

July 23, 2003

In the 80s/90s, when nobody gave a shit and we were all busy getting rich, we brand people invented vision, mission and values as a way of articulating the fundamental business questions: why? what? how?

The dominant model was competition, money ruled and stakeholders had no power. Centralisation, rationalism, planning and control were the order of the day.

But that changed, as we all know: collaboration, balanced scorecard, stakeholder influence, emotional balance, learning by doing and empowerment came into the ascendant.

But we still need to know: Why? What? and How?

Difference is, it’s not just employees, investors and shareholders who need to know these things. Instead of communicating to those ‘in the club’, these brand attributes must be made available for debate, input and shaping by hordes of stakeholders who potentially have no direct stake in your business, but who wield enormous influence.

In this emotional marketplace, the why, what, how, have become: Cause? Purpose? Values?

This ‘C’ause is no longer about value promises, the Purpose is no longer about competitive positioning, and the Values are no longer merely about codes of conduct, but instead about beliefs and motivations.

Organisations should pause long-enough to decide this type of ‘C’ause (big ‘C) before they move headlong into defining the small ‘c’ causes that such a brand might logically (or even illogically) want to champion.

Even discretionary philanthropic activity is non-trivial. It is the means by which brands extend their emotional license to innovate. Chairman’s wife syndrome must not dictate it. It must be part of a consistent brand sustainability strategy.

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