Without an established key message blueprint—what I call an Essential Story—companies and brands cannot scale. Scale can fail for many reasons; dilution and confusion are the two that strong messaging and positioning can prevent.
Check for these seven indications that your brand efforts may stall due to dilution or confusion:
Issue 1: Lack of a concise (or any) description of the problem the company or product solves.
Everyone wants a concise elevator pitch, and that requires a concise statement of the problem being solved.
Why it matters: Articulating the problem solved establishes the brand’s purpose. When a leadership team—and by extension the whole company—is crystal clear about why they exist, they can stay on the same page and make effective decisions.
Issue 2: Unclear distinction between vision and mission statements.
Most people can’t clearly define the difference between vision and mission statements, let alone write and agree on effective ones.
Why it matters: When a statement is flagged as a vision or a mission, people pay close attention, so it’s critical to have one version of these truths. A lack of clarity leaves people throughout an organization to write and refer to a variety of statements as “visions” and “missions”, diluting the message and the brand.
Issue 3: Confusing a mission statement with capabilities.
What a company, product, service, or team can do is wider and deeper than what it must do to achieve success.
Why it matters: A well-written mission statement clarifies exactly what the brand or company will focus on to achieve the vision and goals. It is a touchpoint for the whole team to channel its capabilities toward the same goal.
Issue 4: Confusing long-reach benefits with mission and purpose.
A brand’s work in the world may have positive impact beyond its intentions but losing focus dilutes the effect.
Why it matters: Brands, products, and services may experience a curb-cut effect, but it’s important to honour the initial intention or focus that made the long-reach possible. Articulating a clear mission and purpose is the first critical step to having real impact.
Issue 5: No articulation of values/beliefs.
Many companies/brands feel they have clear values or beliefs but they often go unstated.
Why it matters: Abstract concepts like these are perhaps the most critical to articulate through the concrete power of words. Stating values and/or beliefs informs tone and style. It is a powerful attractor that signals like-mindedness to the kind of leaders, employees, customers, and partners a brand desires.
Issue 6: Inappropriate competitive landscape.
From the branding perspective, a competitor is not any other company that does or could make the shift to doing what yours does. Focusing on the wrong competition distracts companies from what’s most important to their ability to excel.
Why it matters: To own a position in a marketspace, a brand must express its unique identity with crystal clarity. Part of that exercise must be to differentiate not from everyone who could be a competitor, but from those who are actually vying to be. Inappropriate competitive landscapes dilute focus and differentiation.
Issue 7: No single version of the brand’s truth.
If a company’s leaders and team members aren’t conveying a single brand truth, no one outside the company is consuming a single version of the brand.
Why it matters: For the same reasons we care about having a single version of the truth in financial or other performance data: it is critical to knowing where to focus and making the best decisions. It provides reliable feedback on how the brand is received and keeps all stakeholders “on the same page” when determining a brand’s next step.