Would you call Nike’s “Just Do It” their slogan? A lot of people would, but they’d be wrong. Those famous three words are actually their tagline. What about Disney? Would you call their goal “To make people happy” their mission? It’s actually their vision statement.

So what’s the difference between these four brand definitions and why does it even matter? Well, you’ll find a lot of different answers to both of these questions online, but here’s our take (aligned closely with the David Aaker school of thought).

Tagline

According to branding expert and author Laura Ries, “Taglines can be cute, funny, flippant or irrelevant, but they generally have little to do with what makes a brand successful. Taglines are like the road sweepers at the end of a parade. They call attention to the fact that the commercial has come to an end. But they seldom position the brand.” That’s true of Nike’s “Just Do It” or Apple’s “Think Different.”

apple tagline
Image via Wikipedia

These taglines don’t tell you why you should use Nike or Apple products. They don’t include benefits or features. Instead, they act as brand triggers. You hear or see these phrases, and you instantly associate the brand they belong with. Ries continues, “What’s missing in most taglines is motivation.” Taglines act as a verbal logo. They should be as recognizable and as easy to digest.

tagline
Image via Behance

Make sure your tagline represents your brand essence. Are you an underdog like Under Armour? If so, your tagline should embody the perseverance, hard work, and tenacity that your brand stands for. In Under Armour’s case, that shows up as their tagline, “I Will.” Taglines are important because they position your brand in the industry and tell people who you are and what you stand for, rather than what you do. Because don’t we want to know who people (and brands) are before we do business with them?

Slogan

Slogans should communicate your company’s “why.” This is when you tell your audience why they should pick your product or service, what you do, or why you do it. In Nike’s case, their slogan would actually be, “Inspiration and Innovation for Every Athlete in the World.”

slogan
Image via Ad Slogans

Take FedEx, while they’ve had many taglines over the years (“Solutions that matter,” “We understand,” etc…), they’ve had one slogan that has stood the test of time, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” It manages to be long, but memorable at the same time. It tells you the benefit of choosing FedEx. What makes FedEx, FedEx? They’re fast and reliable. That’s what a good slogan should communicate. “We Understand” doesn’t tell me anything meaningful about why I should choose FedEx for my shipping needs, but “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” does.

Mission

Your company’s mission statement outlines the actionable steps you are currently taking to fulfill your goals. It defines company objectives and how you go about fulfilling them. It should be pretty straightforward and concise. And it should use specific language to outline how and why you do what you do.

dove mission statement
Image via Dove

Take Dove. Their mission statement (called a ‘The Dove Real Beauty Pledge’) is as follows:  “Beauty is for everyone. Dove invites all women to realize their personal potential for beauty by engaging them with products that deliver superior care.” It’s short and to the point, but tells you succinctly what Dove does in today’s market and why. It doesn’t get carried away with exotic language and hollow sentences. Instead, it tells its audience very clearly what they believe.

mission statement
Image via Disney

Another great example comes from Disney. Their mission is to “be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”

Again, it’s a practical outline of what Disney’s goals are and how they are achieving those goals today.

Vision

While a mission tells your audience, investors, or team where your company is focused today, a vision tells these same groups where you’re headed tomorrow. It’s where you hope to be in five, ten, or fifty years along with the impact you hope your brand has had on the world.

vision statement
Image via Dove

Let’s take another look at Dove and their vision statement. They say, “We believe beauty should be a source of confidence, and not anxiety. That’s why we are here to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.” They aren’t outlining a day-to-day strategy for spreading that belief that “beauty should be a source of confidence.” Their vision statement outlines their ideals, and what they hope the impact is that they leave on the beauty industry.

Another example of a vision statement comes from automobile giant Ford, which says they’re all about “People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.” It’s short, to the point, and not particularly eloquent, but it tells the audience where the company it headed: “to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.” That’s the mark Ford hopes to leave on the auto industry and on its customers.

The Difference Matters

The difference between these four branding terms may seem small, but the end result makes a huge impact on your brand. The more detailed you can get with the goals, values, and actions your company takes, the better you’ll be able to connect and communicate with your customer and your brand. Devote the same time and dedication to building out your brand persona and identity as you do for your customers. Consider it a little self love for your brand.

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