One of the communication tools many organizations embrace with great enthusiasm to gather their audiences around the answer to “why we exist?” is the tried and true mission statement. Corporate mission statements are fun to create because they are usually created in an “off site” creative session– usually in exotic places where the participants can get a nice tan or play golf in the bargain.
For all the attention and effort the crafting of a mission statement receives from business leaders and consultants who create them, most of them sound something like this:
“Our purpose is deeply rooted in a strong commitment to professionally build long term, high impact relationships with our customers so we may leverage the existing equities within our effective product innovations to stay competitive in tomorrow’s challenging business environment”.
Pure gibberish! I venture to say many of these statements were created using the Dilbert Automatic Mission Statement Generator (which apparently is no longer on line because I can’t seem to find a direct link to the site through Google search). Nobody cares about mission statements except the people who create them. They serve no other purpose than wall décor in the lobby, or to make the creators feel better about not having a simple compelling proposition of real value to share.
One of the components of our corporate identity and brand development practice is to help organizations define who they are and why they matter to people. Inevitably the identity conversation is driven by the CEO who exclaims, “We need a strong mission statement!” Upon hearing these words, everyone in the room begins to nod their head up and down and the great work of crafting the definitive mission statement begins. In my experience, most of these efforts are a major waste of time, energy and money. Nobody outside the group cares. To focus stakeholders on the answer to “why we exist’, we suggest you consider something much simpler, far more powerful and useful.
Create a Mantra not a Mission Statement.
A mantra is defined as a word, sound or statement repeated frequently to aid in concentration of thought. In Sanskrit, mantra literally means “instrument of thought”. In business, and particularly in marketing communications, I suggest a mantra is a highly effective organizing principal or idea easily shared by people who care. A mantra, unlike a mission statement, is a short 3-5 word statement that clearly defines why your value proposition matters to people. A mantra is also far more useful in communicating a single differentiating idea about who the organization is and what value it provides people.
A mantra is a powerful, energy infused chant that everyone inside and outside your organization can instantly get their heads around.
A mantra is far more useful in creating meaning than the verbosity of a mission statement. Here are a some mantra ideas for some well-known brands:
Federal Express = peace of mind
Target = good design for everybody
Nike = authentic athletic performance
Patagonia = eco-friendly weather proof fashion
You get the idea. Nothing complex, romantic, or clever about a mantra–but it is a far more compelling and memorable way to define the meaning of who you are and why you matter to people. A good mantra can even become a customer facing tag line. “We Try Harder” is a classic mantra example from Avis.
If you are in charge of corporate or marketing communications in your organization, and your CEO wants some tweaks to your mission statement, perhaps you could suggest creating a mantra instead. Make it easy for people to know what your organization or brand stands for. If you should choose to create one, make sure it is no longer than 5 words.
By the way, our mantra here at PULL Brand Innovation is “influence by design”. In three simple words we tell you what benefit we provide your business and how we provide it. We don’t have a mission statement.