Quantitative-oriented diffusion studies, either focused on diffusion patterns or mechanisms, take for granted that policy adoptions are manifest and therefore directly observable in the legislation. A more nuanced perspective of policy adoption taking into account gradual differences between adoption and non-adoption is proposed with this paper, valid for diffusion among communities and states in federal settings and among countries on the global level. Besides the aspect of visibility, intentions are also important when measures are adopted. While some measures are transferred with a clear instrumental aim, others are rather transferred for symbolical reasons. Looking at specific processes, the paper proposes a concept that disentangles the current understanding of policy diffusion and provides empirical evidence that current diffusion research misconceives instances. The four different transfer types are illustrated with empirical evidence from sub-national energy policy-making in Switzerland. The systematic investigation of the cases allows to finding explanations for the different transfer types.