This 10-part article explains how to create a compelling brand story for your company, products and services. Great brands are great stories that are always in the process of being told, refreshed and continued. Great brand stories are easy to recognize and sometimes happen intuitively, but a clear framework can improve your chances of success.
Part 3 of 10: Business Strategy, Mission, Vision and Values
The Brand Wheel model assumes that your company has already articulated its business strategy, mission, vision, and values. Your brand strategy and messaging build on that foundation.
Business Strategy: Where to Play and How to Win
As A.G. Lafley, Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Procter & Gamble, and Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, explain in their book “Playing to Win”, a business strategy answers five seemingly simple questions. As Lafley and Martin explain, making choices is at the heart of making strategy. You have to be willing to make choices if you want to win.
If you aren’t trying to win, if you’re just trying to participate, you are wasting the time of your people and the money of your investors. A company has to define its purpose strategically, decide what specific victories would lead to its ideal future.
2. Where am I going to play to win?
You can’t win the whole world or please everybody. Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for failure. You have to strategically narrow the field to the geographies, demographics, and channels where your company is most competitive, and can get the best possible results.
3. How am I going to win where I play?
This choice is intimately connected with the former. It’s deciding how to create unique value, and how the company can deliver it over a long period to create a superior return.
4. What are my core competencies that are going to enable me to win?
In order to make the above decisions work, they have to be based on and supported by the things that a company’s best at. For P&G, it was innovating quickly and understanding consumers.
5. What management systems and measures are going to help me execute?
Strategies have to be measured and executed by people. Companies have to decide who they need, how to enable them, and how they can tell whether the strategy’s succeeding.
Mission and Vision
Your company’s mission and vision inform your brand strategy. They aren’t assets of the brand; they’re business fundamentals regardless of the story you want to tell in the marketplace; they help you focus your strategy and align your organization in a fundamental way.
Mission (or Purpose): Your company’s reason for being beyond making money.
Simon Sinek’s best-selling book, “Start With Why”, challenges business leaders to answer the question “Why” to uncover a purpose, cause or belief that transcends the profit motive. His core tenets include the idea that “People don’t buy what you do; they buy into why you do it; what you do simply proves what you believe.” Sinek presented his core principles in a popular TEDx talk entitled “How great leaders inspire action”, the third most-viewed video on TED.com.
Kyle Irving’s creativity and fluid style of play inspires a whole new generation to buy into Nike’s purpose or mission, which is to “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” and, as Bill Bowerman taught, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Vision: What will it look like when we’ve fulfilled our mission or purpose?
A brand vision paints a picture of what it will look like when your organization has lived up to its purpose. President John F. Kennedy translated NASA’s purpose into a concrete vision during the cold war space race in 1961 when he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
As chronicled in David Meerman Scott’s book “Marketing the Moon,” Kennedy’s vision ignited the imagination of the American people and, with the support of a highly effective marketing and PR effort, created a sense of shared national purpose and ambition toward realizing a common goal that resulted in the Apollo moon landings.
Values: How you spend your time and money.
Understanding the founder of your brand, what her values are and the life experiences that shaped and informed those values helps to illuminate the “Why” of your brand. Dev Patnaik, co-founder and CEO of Jump Associates, believes that every brand should have a naturally differentiated position by virtue of the fact that every founder is a unique individual with a unique set of life experiences and values: a brand is simply an expression of those values manifest in the world.
At its core, Nike embodies the values and competitive spirit of Bill Bowerman, who was the head coach of the University of Oregon’s track and field team from 1949 to 1972. Bowerman coached Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, in the late 1950s and invented the company’s first innovative products with the purpose of serving athletes, including some waffle-soled shoes that he prototyped at homein his kitchen with a waffle iron:
“From breakfast to an idea to a revolution for the whole footwear industry … we always go back to fundamentals, which are to serve the athlete through innovation by paying attention to their needs.
“It’s part of our DNA, it’s in our soul to look out at the world and to challenge the conventional wisdom of the day because you have to do that if you want to grow. You have to innovate. You have to also be courageous. And, if you fail, guess what? Do somethin’ else.
“It’s our job as a company to prepare people’s mental state—no matter what the issue … if we choose to do something, we have to be competitive. You don’t just do somethin’ to get by. You compete to win no matter what it is you do.” — Nelson Farris, one of Nike’s first employees
Bowerman’s values became Nike’s values. And, not surprisingly, Kyrie Irving embodies many of Nike’s 11 values or maxims as outlined below—especially the part about mastering the fundamentals.
Nike’s 11 Values or Maxims:
It is our nature to innovate.
Nike is a company.
Nike is a brand.
Simplify and go.
The consumer decides.
Be a sponge.
Do the right thing.
Master the fundamentals.
We are on the offense – always.
Remember the man. (The late Bill Bowerman, Nike co-founder)
Just Be You
The first principle of defining your brand values is to know yourself. In fact, the JBY that appears below Kyrie Irving’s logo on the bottom of his sneakers stands for his personal motto: “Just Be You”, which helps him remember to be himself and to be humble. Growing up, Kyrie’s dad encouraged him to “Stand out from the group, don’t follow it.” As Kyrie says, “[He taught] me lessons about life that I truly appreciate now because it’s made me who I am as an individual. … I’ve always learned from my dad to be a leader, not a follower, and it’s okay to be abnormal. That’s what I learned most — it’s okay to be yourself.”
Kyrie puts his motto into practice by playing his own brand of basketball, by spending time with a tightknit group of family and friends off the court and by finding meaningful ways to give back. He has spent time talking with children and families who have lost a parent, sharing stories about how he and his family coped with their loss.
Achievements came easily to Kyrie growing up: he was popular in school and didn’t have to study to get good grades. He inherited these abilities from his mother, Elizabeth, who passed away from organ failure when Kyrie was just four years old. His mom’s birthdate and the date of her passing appear on the bottom of Irving’s new shoe design as well. Irving’s dad, who played basketball at Boston College and professionally in Australia, challenged Kyrie to work hard and excel, which helped Kyrie apply himself and take his basketball skills to the next level. Still, his sister, Asia, who is just fourteen months older than Kyrie, helps him maintain a balanced outlook by reminding him that there is more to life than basketball.
As Kyrie Irving explains in a Basketball Insiders interview, “Family means the world because they put everything into perspective for me, that there’s life outside of these four lines,” Kyrie said, pointing to the parquet in front of him. “I’m truly appreciative of [that] because when I step on the court, it’s living in the moment, being here. But outside I have such a happy life that I thank God for every day because I have the most awesome family and they support me in everything I do. They understand that I have a long way to go … because I still have to live life and figure things out. I have all this so-called pressure. It’s just a basketball and a hoop. That’s all it is.”
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