Brand purpose, vision and mission: what's the difference?


What is a brand purpose? How is it different from a brand vision? What about a mission - is that the same as a vision? The terms purpose, vision and mission are often bandied about, and swapped around as if they were the same thing. But they are quite distinct from each other. Each has a very specific role to play in building a brand that people can believe in. So what's the difference between purpose, vision and mission, and how do they work together to drive your business forward?

What is a brand purpose?

Ever since Simon Sinek delivered his seminal Ted Talk introducing the concept of "Why?", brands the world over have been defining their purpose. In a nutshell, a purpose is the reason why you do what you do. 

A brand's purpose is heavily influenced by its back story. That's why understanding the original motivation of the brand - what the founders believed when they set it up - is often a very useful shortcut to uncovering its purpose. I say uncovering, because the purpose is almost always already there. It is the fundamental belief that's been running the show, even if it hasn't yet been distinguished or articulated. If you have no access to the founder's motivation, look to the current leadership and what belief has been behind their success - because people always shape companies in their own image.

The challenge is in understanding and articulating the purpose. It needs to be something that gives the work meaning beyond financial incentives. Crucially it has to be something people in the business recognise as true. If you're making it up in order to have something that sounds good, or will resonate with the market, it won't last - and more importantly, it will have no impact on your business.

Remember that, no matter which part of the brand framework you're looking to define - purpose, mission, vision, values or personality, you will (and must) find the evidence in the leaders. 

What is a brand vision?

If everything went your way, if you were able to continually build and shape your brand, always hitting the mark with customers, how far could your brand go? What is the biggest, most inspiring impact it could have? Will it change the neighbourhood? The industry? The country? The world? Your brand vision describes that future state. It's the thing far off in the distance that you can see. It's what you're working towards - a long term vision of a reality you really want to bring into being. While purpose is the driving motivation, the vision is a worthy, final destination.

A clear, inspiring vision gives direction to the business, and motivation to the people in it. Using it as a point in the future, a line can be drawn back to the present, and a path plotted. Vision directs your business strategy, clarifies what sort of products and services you should be developing, and helps you decide where to invest. For a vision to have power it has to be believed, owned, and declared by the business' leadership. Otherwise it will just be marketing fluff - and nobody believes in that.

What is a mission?

When everyone arrived at work this morning, did they all know what their job was? I'm not talking about the tasks left over from yesterday, or the tasks that will be added to today. I'm talking about the job everyone, together, is focused on achieving. The job of the business. The job that, if focused on, if done diligently, day-in, day-out will eventually lead to the fulfilment of the vision. Mission is the immediate objective, today, that everybody is concerned with.

Mission is connected to selling the products and services that best represent your brand right now. By focusing everyone on delivering the benefit of working with you, you build your reputation and create an appetite for your next product or service. A clear, prominent mission breaks down departmental silos and builds teams across the business.

A triple whammy of brand power

Purpose, vision and mission are fundamental to establishing a brand that feels alive - a so-called living brand. When this triumvirate are articulated together, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Imagine how quickly you could onboard new team members if they knew what was driving the business, what it was working towards, and what everyone was focused on achieving each day. Imagine how easy it would become to theme your conferences, or come up with a content strategy. As long as they are kept alive, and not just paid lip service to, they can power your people and the business to long term success.

For more information contact the Free team at

“Vision without execution is delusion.”

Thomas Edison