Dreaming of Chicken Eggs: Creating Vision and MissionBy
One good way to open ourselves up to creating a powerful vision for a commodity is to look past the commodity itself and focus on what customers hope to gain from its purchase. Two examples come quickly to mind when thinking about chicken eggs: Egg Beaters and organic eggs.
Visions of health through no cholesterol and no fat
Once upon a time (when I was a kid), fresh eggs came in a cardboard box. Sure, you could buy dried, powdered eggs, but they did not taste anything like the real thing. It was simple. There were no other egg products on the grocery shelf.
Then came the news that too much cholesterol was harmful – and egg yolks were loaded with cholesterol. Suddenly, eggs went from being a “wonder food” to being suspect. What do you do, if you are in the egg business, to generate more sales?
From somewhere, the vision came, of an egg product that was “Our Pick for Best Health… a nutritious alternative to shell eggs… Made from real eggs… a low-calorie, good source of protein with no fat, no cholesterol” . That is a pretty good vision statement for this product, right off the package, minus a few advertising words.
But the product needed fleshing out. How to retain a good taste? What could be done to give it additional benefits that would make it stand out? How to manufacture it? How to position it in the stores? It is easy to picture at least three separate mission statements coming from this new vision of an egg product:
- Create a new egg product with benefits that a health-focused customer would want to buy.
- Create a sustainable manufacturing process to produce the product.
- Create a new buying experience around the product that would cause people to buy it when they see it in the store.
Why three mission statements? Don’t most books talk about a vision statement and its mission statement? Sure, and you could spend a lot of time and money trying to create one mission statement, but it might turn out rather general and vague. Having three is an advantage in that each is crystal clear so you will know when you have achieved each of your objectives. When all three are accomplished, they will make the vision real. Besides, if your company has more than a few employees, it is likely that you will assign the missions according to the experience and skills of your employees – and according to who shows the most enthusiasm for the assignments (remember, it’s your leadership and these are the folks who want to do what you want done).
Let’s look at the mission of creating a new buying experience. That was important for this product, because it was creating a new category of egg product, no fat, no cholesterol. Packaging would be important, as it would have to be attractive and tell the story of this new product category to encourage buyers. But where the product appeared in the store would also be important. Egg Beaters came out in 1972, when most health conscious folks in the US were growing their own vegetables or buying frozen veggies in the grocery stores. The logical place for Egg Beaters to appear was in the frozen foods department near those healthy frozen vegetables. An added benefit for some consumers was the long shelf-life of frozen foods.
By 1994, customer buying habits were changing as fresh produce was now available 12 months of the year and Egg Beaters were introduced in refrigerated liquid form, positioned next to the eggs and butter/margarine products, thus creating a buying experience that was in sync with the times.
Egg Beaters has expanded from a single product in a new product category to being a product line. The vision statement works for all the products in the product line, but what is the vision statement for the whole company? ConAgra is the parent company and it’s vision statement is “One company growing by nourishing lives and finding a better way today … one bite at a time.” Catchy – and the Egg Beaters vision statement fits clearly within it.
Visions of health through through organic eggs
Remember when eggs were all the same, except for size and color and came in gray cardboard egg crates? If you believed there was a market for organic eggs, you’d want them to not get lost among the other eggs. From my perspective of making things easy, you’d have at least two mission statements:
- Establish an organic egg farm.
- Create a unique buying experience so you could charge more for the organic eggs and consumers would be attracted to putting them in their shopping baskets.
Let’s consider the new buying experience mission. In some gourmet or natural foods stores, you might be able to get your eggs put in a separate organic products refrigerated unit. But in most traditional grocery stores, you would expect to be put right in with the other eggs, so your eggs must stand out. How can you create a new buying experience compared to regular eggs?
The egg carton is a good place to start the new buying experience. If regular eggs typically use gray cardboard boxes and the new lower cholesterol eggs use white Styrofoam cartons, what can you use? Clear plastic has several advantages:
- Clear plastic conveys “clean” even more than the Styrofoam carton does,
- High quality graphics and colors can be used on paper inserts inside the carton top, and
- The buyer can see whether any eggs are broken without opening the carton. That is a new and convenient feature for the customer.
Finally, clear plastic with high quality graphics will bring attention to the eggs. In fact, what eggs will look the most “organic” in the container? Since most eggs in the American market are white, why not use brown eggs? They will show to great advantage in a clear plastic container and speak to the idea that these eggs are different and special.
Visions and missions need not be difficult
Don’t let your leadership get bogged down or derailed by struggling with vision or mission statements. You’ve seen vision and mission statements created around what was once a commodity product. The message here is that useful vision and mission statements do not have to be difficult. Perfection is not required to produce useful statements, especially at a product or product line level. As leader, you can make mission statements easy by allowing yourself to have multiple mission statements, especially during the product development phase. When you have a mature product, then a single mission statement can be sufficient to direct the investment of time and money in the product by your organization. Clarity is most important.
Organizational visions and missions can be much more difficult, especially for large corporations. But if you are clear about what your products are about and why you are selling them, then you’ve taken an important first step.
[A little disclosure here. There is little published about the history of the development of Egg Beaters or organic eggs. Besides the direct quotes I’ve used and referenced, the balance of this post is conclusions I’ve made based on my experience with companies in similar positions.]
- Egg Beaters advertising statement. Recorded on May 12, 2009, from Original Egg Beaters retail packaging. ConAgra Foods.
- Vision Statement. ConAgra Foods. Retrieved May 12, 2009 at http://company.conagrafoods.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=202310&p=aboutus.
Gary Clayton is a leadership coach who works with leaders and those who wish to become leaders in business and life. He has seen many companies succeed based upon their vision and the strength of their commitment to it, even when their products and customer service were unremarkable. He has also seen many companies fail because of their lack of vision, even when their products were technically superior. Gary’s mission is to empower leaders to greater success and larger leadership roles in business and life.