What is the Difference between a Mission and a Vision?

Difference between a Mission and Vision

If you’ve met me or taken a look at the Ladder Case Studies, you know that I believe a brand mission and vision are vital to brand success and meaningful brand communication.  I talk about them all the time and truth be told, I typically talk about these foundational assets together, along with Brand Values.

But it’s a frequently asked question among clients, “What is the difference between a Mission and a Vision?” And if you’ve asked this, you are not alone, the two are often mistakenly misused or substituted for one another. There is indeed a difference between a Brand Mission and a Brand Vision, they are not interchangeable. 

A Mission is defined as: Your present state and purpose, what you do, who you do it for and how.

A Vision is defined as: What you aim to be, your North Star, your optimal desired future state.

Both of these assets are incredibly important for the sustainability and growth of your organization. Having a Mission and a Vision allows you to bring on employees, board members or stakeholders who are aligned with your beliefs and goals. It allows everyone to more quickly realize if the organization is a good fit for them for now and for the future and likewise, it allows you to determine if people are a good fit for your organization. While both are crucial to your foundation, it’s important that you know that a Mission can grow with you as your business evolves and your product roadmap possibly matures. While you shouldn’t be changing it frequently, know that what you decide on today doesn’t have to encompass everything you will ever do. It can be updated, edited and refined as you do those same tasks for your business.

Let’s look at a company who in 1995 set out with the following mission, “To use the internet to transform book buying into the fastest, easiest and most enjoyable shopping experience possible.” This is of course the original mission statement of Amazon and it goes without saying that their business has grown just a little and as it grew, they were required to look inward to make modifications to their purpose and reason for existence.

Amazon’s current mission statement is, “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” It became much bigger than books as the Amazon product developed, and the brand made refinements to the mission where necessary, but it’s clear the brand has always been focused on creating the most enjoyable customer shopping experience.

Your Vision however should not change. When you decide on it, it should be bigger than your first product and how that might impact your consumer. It’s likely the reason you started a business or organization in the first place, it's the bigger challenge you hope to solve. Your vision is what you aim to be and also what you desire for the greater world and how you’ll contribute to that change and leave an impact. 

To reinforce this idea, let’s take a look at the vision of brand we all know well, Toyota. The vision statement for Toyota is an excellent example of a brand extending beyond current and future business categories to share what they see for the world. Toyota’s current vision statement is “Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.” Leading the future for what we think and know of as mobility and enriching the world by safely moving people is so much bigger than becoming the most popular car manufacturer in the world. 

The difference between a Mission and a Vision is distinct and important. Your mission is what you do every single day and your vision is what you are working towards, whether that be for your organization specifically or for the world globally.

The vision for Ladder is “A world where everyone gives of financial and human resources because organizations convey missions and messaging people can understand and stand for.” I work every day to connect brands to growth by defining and better utilizing their strategic core and I’d love to help you build a solid foundation for communication so more people can support what you do. If you still have Mission vs. Vision questions or are considering defining or realigning yours, ask your questions here.