And we're back. Same question, more answers! Last week, we talked about the importance of building a brand that makes sense for you by using Brand Attributes and Core Competencies. It's not meant to be gimmicky, but rather a way for anyone to create a sustainable brand for themselves – something authentic and personal and that makes sense for your resources and ideas. Once you have that sort of mapped out, hopefully some "branding magic" starts to happen. Well, a Value Proposition and a Mission Statement are part of that magic, and they serve to further guide you forward in an actionable and productive way. (This is also something sponsors/investors love to see!)
2. TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE: VALUE PROPOSITIONS / MISSION STATEMENTS AND HOW TO USE THEM
You may be asking, "what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is a 'Value Proposition?" And I can't say I blame you. This sounds like something out of a self-help book, but go with me on this. To put it simply, a Value Proposition is a short statement of benefit outlining something specific that a brand consumer/customer receives if they — through investment of either time or money — buy into a brand. A Value Prop should be used as a cornerstone for developing a brand identity, and likewise it can be used as a compass to guide any and all resulting design or business decisions. It can also help to ensure that anyone involved with the brand understands its core values — it's a constant reminder of who you are and the purpose you serve. And because I'm about walking the walk as much as talking the talk, I offer you a little (fun) guide to writing one:
Mission Statements. Now here's where we can get (literally) ambitious. The brand Mission Statement is just that: the reason your brand exists, and the mission that made you get started with it in the first place. While your Value Proposition is private for you and your team, the Mission Statement — though similar — should be posted for the benefit of potential brand consumers/customers. If you're still unsure about this, take a look around some of your favorite websites. You'll usually find a Mission Statement of sorts in the "about" section. (Mine is over there on the right. It could use some work.) Some examples:
Are you surprised by any of these? I am. Gap's mission is not to make the perfect t-shirt, or dress the world in swingin' khakis. Nope, it's to create (what is essentially) an addictive consumer experience. The product and its marketing are just contributing factors of that larger goal to take over the world with neon legging jeans. Ahh! (Kidding.)
I would expect Apple's mission to wax emotional about customer experience simply because they are truly the masters in this regard. But their exclusive mission is to be THE category leaders for product innovation. Inversely to Gap, their consumer experience is the most adaptive part of their brand. Getting their "innovative" products delivered to the public in an impactful, disruptive way can only work if their products are, in fact, disruptive. (I mean, let's recall their first ever 1984-style TV ad.) The mission starts there.
And let's not forget to look at a non-retail organization. I picked the Levo League. (If you're not familiar, you should be.) You might stumble across their website and think: "Their goal is to provide information to people. That's cool." But their mission statement communicates something else. Their goal is to create an active, symbiotic community of professionals. They have leveraged this mission and their core values to design an online environment that facilitates and encourages active knowledge sharing. Their website/videos/workshops are the carefully considered and designed tools. The living network is the result. Mission being accomplished!
But Sarah, what does this mean for bloggers and small businesses? It means... Think longer and think harder about what you're doing. Think about the value you can bring to the larger community. Make maintaining that value your mission. Let all of the little details (your visual identity, your blog's aesthetic, language, attitude, Instagrams, whatever) be the stepping stones that guide a user through your brand's experience so that they, too can understand your mission and live it with you. And finally...
3. AS A RULE (NOT A REACTION) EMBRACE CHANGE AS A CONSTANT
Value Propositions and Mission Statements are not intended to be set in stone. Economies change. Technologies change. Markets change. Customers change. I think the blog world itself is a great example of how tumultuous any customer/consumer-centric environment can be (re: this post). So, my final piece of branding advice is simple: Schedule time to revisit your own ideas. Reflect. Reevaluate. Update or edit. Adjust your direction accordingly. Just make sure you never lose sight of what will always matter most: Your strengths and your ambitions. They are yours. No one else has them. They will guide you.
Until next week...