Purpose, Vision and Values

Purpose, Vision and Values

What are they and why are they important?

We look at purpose, vision and values at both the organisation level – the corporate brand – and for a standalone branded business that sits under the corporate brand, as there are slightly different implications. 


Purpose is your organisation “why” – why you are in business, why we exist, for what purpose beyond profit. But there’s not much point in being in business if that why isn’t of value to your customers, employees and stakeholders.

At the organisation level, the purpose of an organisation has been defined by the Davos Manifesto, ASX and the US Business Council “to create long-term value for all stakeholders”.

This signifies the shift which has been happening, mostly over the last 10 years, arising from environmental, governance and social issues caused by doing business – such as Enron and the GFC, palm oil, coal and climate change, sweat shops, blood diamonds and human rights. It shifts the focus from delivering short-term profits for shareholders to considering the impact of how your organisation behaves – towards employees and customers, partners and suppliers, communities and the environment, as well as shareholders – in defining and achieving its goals; and pave the way for stakeholders to do their bit.

Therefore, purpose at the organisation level needs to connect the values and needs of all stakeholders to the goals and behaviours of the business.

An organisation with multiple customer brands – known as a “house of brands” in brand architecture speak – like Unilever or Diageo, may have a looser purpose than an organisation where the customer-facing brand is the same as the corporate brand “monolithic brand”, like Virgin or Disney.

These examples are:

  • Unilever: “To make sustainable living commonplace”
  • Diageo: “Celebrating life every day, everywhere”
  • Disney: “Creating happiness”
  • Virgin: “To change business for good”

At the branded business level – it could be a service or product such as Virgin Atlantic or Unilever’s Dove – the purpose needs to connect the stakeholders of that brand to the goals of the business. It also needs to align with corporate or master brand so that each branded business drives the corporate purpose.

Dove’s purpose “To make a positive experience of beauty accessible to every woman” aligns with the company’s purpose through empowering women and girls and promoting health and wellbeing (both sustainable development goals).

Virgin Atlantic’s purpose “To embrace the human spirit and let it fly” aligns to the company’s purpose in that it “stems from its values optimistic, inclusive and adventurous – which ensures they remain a business for good, develop as innovators and provide customers with unique experiences”.


Some organisations call their purpose a mission. It’s exactly the same thing and they use the language interchangeably. Like GE “We rise to the challenge of building a world that works” and Microsoft “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Other organisations use a mission that describes what the organisation does, for whom and benefits. If purpose is the “why”, then mission is the “how”. Like the BBC’s mission “enriching people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”.

Unilever uses mission as a measurable ambition or goal for a brand-driven movement that addresses a societal problem.

For the Dove Self-Esteem Project, the mission is to help young people build positive body confidence and self-esteem, reaching ¼ billion people by 2030.

For the Vaseline Healing Project, the mission is to promote better skin health around the world, and to help heal the skin of 5 million people by 2020. 

It depends on the organisation whether there is a purpose and/or a mission and how they’re used.  

It is very easy for your people to be confused by many elements – what’s the difference, which one do we remember, which one do we follow? So any elements should be clearly defined, aligned and activated, specific to your organisation. 


The vision statement provides inspiration and aspiration through describing what the future looks like for your organisation. It contextualises and quantifies your position in the world in 5-10 years’ time.

  • BBC “To be the most creative organisation in the world”
  • Microsoft “There will be a personal computer on every desk running Microsoft software”
  • ASPCA “That the United States is a human community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness”

For a brand vision that sits under a corporate vision, it needs to align, driving towards the corporate vision. For example:

  • William Grant & Sons: To make the best dram in the valley
  • Glenfiddich Whisky: To be regarded globally as the premium whisky brand

Like mission and purpose, vision and purpose are often mixed up. 

If your organisation wants or needs them all, the easiest way to pull them apart and work out if you really need them all is:

  • Where are we going: Vision
  • Why do we exist: Purpose
  • How will we get there: Mission

When they become similar in language and meaning, you’re better off selecting fewer elements than all. 


In the same way that purpose has risen up in importance, as have values. What were once some words on a wall, it has become paramount for organisations to not just define but live their values.  

Values provide the link between the vision “where to”, purpose “why” and the strategic goals “what”, as to “how” leaders and employees behave, how they go about their everyday jobs, how they treat others and expect to be treated.

Translating your values to behaviours provides a guide for people’s everyday actions – what they say and do. They form the foundations for an organisation’s culture “culture is values in action” in which like-minded – or like-valued – employees feel safe and belong.

Values are two-way: guiding what the employee does and what they get from others and the organisation as a whole.

Values provide the link between the business strategy, the brand strategy and the employer brand strategy.

For both brand and employer brand, values help to differentiate and position the brand in the marketplace and draw customers, employees and stakeholders who seek those values. As such, they influence your reputation as an organisation, brand and employer brand.

We use brand values as the start point for brand personality and tone of voice, so values become the image your brand projects to the marketplace, against which the organisation and its people deliver.

Organisations in which all brands – corporate, customer and employer – are the same (monolithic brand architecture or ‘branded house’) work with the same values at the core, or an expression thereof that is more relevant to the audience and brand.

Organisations with multiple brands (product brand architecture or ‘house of brands’) align to the corporate brand values, whilst honouring the individual brand’s audience and proposition.

With all this potential, the opportunity is to develop values as distinctive drivers for your organisation, its people and brands.

Generic “values” – innovation, teamwork, leadership – don’t work hard enough to attract, retain and engage the employees, customers and stakeholders you want, reflect your unique brand positioning and drive desired behaviour towards your organisation’s vision and purpose.  

For example, instead of innovation, Virgin uses “smart disruption”, SUMO Salad “keep it fresh”, Unilever “pioneering”, Amazon “invent and simplify”. You can see how these values are more distinctive, inspiring and descriptive of the desired behaviour.  

Find out more about getting the most value out of values in this article HERE.  

How we go about it

We engage leaders and employees, customers and stakeholders in defining your purpose, vision and values.

This would usually involve:

  • Briefing stage including understanding your business strategy, your market, competitors, customers and current organisation or brand purpose, vision, values (should you have them), key business problem and why you’re looking to create new or refine purpose, vision and values
  • Understanding and defining the elements you need: purpose, vision, mission, values
  • Qualitative research with all stakeholders
  • Armed with stakeholder insights, definition workshop with the core team
  • Migration strategy – from where you are now to where you want to go
  • Translate values to behaviours for employees
  • Immerse employees in the purpose, vision, values and behaviours
  • Translate corporate values to brand values
  • Translate brand values to personality and tone of voice for your brand

For existing organisations and brands, the process to refine purpose, vision and values would be more comprehensive than for a start-up organisation or new brand. This is because we need to understand where the organisation or brand is coming from and differences in points of view (for example between leaders versus employees) in order to determine how we move it forwards.  

You can download a copy of the strategy brief here: THBC STRATEGY BRIEF

How can we help you?

Contact Us

Please contact us to discuss further what we can do for you. 

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