Mission and Vision and Purpose… Oh, My!

So what’s the difference between a “Mission,” “Vision,” and “Purpose” statement? Different organizations have different definitions for these terms which can make it tricky to know what’s what – especially if an organization wants to include all three within their strategic blueprint. 

Here’s how I think about it. 


The Vision is CATEGORY-centric. It establishes what the organization aims to be in the future relative to its competitors and the rest of the industry.

The typical structure: We aim to become (goal) in the (industry) 

An example: Southwest – “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.” 


The Mission is COMPANY-centric. It articulates what the company does and how it does it. Whereas the Vision statement is more future focused, the Mission statement is more about what the company does today. 

The typical structure: We are a (type of company) that is (what you are doing) in a way that is (differentiated way of doing it) .

An example: Warby Parker – “We offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”


The Purpose is CUSTOMER-centric. It’s all about who the company is serving and why the company does what it does. 

The typical structure: We (benefit you provide) to people that are (description of customers) .

An example: Nike – “We bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*if you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Now, I think Nike technically describes that line as their “Mission Statement” rather than their “Purpose Statement.” Which further illustrates the fuzziness around this topic. That’s okay if a company operates against just that one statement and isn’t trying to create a Mission, Vision AND Purpose statement for its brand. 

However, if you are using all three, you need some clear guardrails so the three statements don’t overlap and start to sound redundant. 

I’ve found that keeping the Vision category-centric, the Mission company-centric and the Purpose customer-centric is the simplest way to give each of these statements a distinct, yet complementary role.