Mission, Vision, Values… And The Missing Piece

Some financial institutions have mission statements. Some have vision statements. Some have both. Some companies have a defined list of core values, while others don’t. One thing is for sure: There is a lot of confusion about what each of these tools should do.

The difference between a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement and Core Values in the simplest terms:

  • Mission Statements – Say what you’re doing today
  • Vision Statements – Say what you want to accomplish tomorrow
  • Core Values – Define what you believe in

Reality Check: Most mission statements are full of trite, feel-good expressions. They only get approved because they say nothing unique nor courageous.

Here’s an example of a mission statement for an imaginary financial institution:

“Our mission is to be the premier provider
of superior financial solutions by
earning people’s trust in the most friendly,
professional manner possible.”

It is no one’s in particular. And yet it is everyone’s.

The day-to-day purpose, goals and beliefs of most financial institutions are almost identical, so it’s no surprise that they have similar-sounding missions, visions or values. They all want to “do what’s right,” and “hold themselves to the highest standards,” so they can…Yeah, yeah. It’s the same stuff you hear from hundreds of financial institutions.

Reality Check: In this economic climate, you’ll have to forgive the folks on Main Street. You may say you’re trying to do the right thing for your community, your employees and your shareholders, but right now, people are a little jaded and skeptical about such statements. When most people read a mission statement (including employees), they roll their eyes and think, “Phhbbbt…’a premier financial institution.’ Just more corporate mumbo-jumbo.”

Lookalike missions, visions and core values aren’t the real problem though. It’s when the board, CEO or senior leadership of a financial institution confuse any of these things for a brand strategy or brand position that real problems arise. In most cases, they aren’t anywhere close.

The missing piece: a brand position

All too often, senior management and the board are left trying to build a 3-legged brand strategy out of statements that essentially say the same thing as their competitors. The result? An undifferentiated brand.

Reality Check: The #1 thing that prevents an organization from crafting a brand position is that the CEO or board thinks the mission or vision is “the brand.” Odds are, these brands will live stunted lives.

What they need is the fourth leg of the table: a Brand Position. A Brand Position (or brand essence, or brand strategy, or USP, or whatever you want to call it) is where you can really differentiate yourself in relevant ways.

Things like mission, vision and values clarify what an organization is about, while a Brand Position says how you will deliver on those things. A Brand Position says how you will achieve your mission, accomplish your vision, and live out your values. It says how you will be different than your competitors. Will you become “the premier provider” by making banking easier? Will you be the most knowledgeable advisors?

Let’s use Disney as example. Their mission might be something safe, like:

“Our mission is to provide a wide range
of quality entertainment options
to families and children of all ages.”

Other entertainment companies could very well have an identical mission statement. And Disney’s core values are probably shared with at least some of their competitors. After all, Disney isn’t the only innovative family entertainment provider out there.

So what makes Disney special? It’s their Brand Position:


And they live this out. If you’ve ever seen a Disney film, gone to a Disney theme park or cruised on a Disney vessel, you should have had a fairytale experience. That’s how they provide “quality entertainment to families” differently than everyone else.

They can train people to live out their brand position. They can (and do) teach people how to make magic moments — how to use their imagination and creativity to do something people will remember. It’s engaging. Fun. Inspiring.

They are “The Happiest Place on Earth” because “The Magic Kingdom” is the kind of place “Where Dreams Come True.” (See the how a brand position can bring clarity, relevance and differentiation to tangible things like slogans?)

It’s a lot harder to help your staff understand what “premier” or “preferred” mean. Those kinds of terms are hard to train because they are vague, and have many varied interpretations to different people.


Give them something inspirational — that’s also credible — and watch them respond.

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