Type “how to write a mission statement” into Google’s search field, and it’ll return 434,000,000 results. Clearly, there’s a lot of advice out there for writing a mission statement.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about capital-M Mission: Your brand’s true purpose.
It’s easy to have a mission statement. It’s harder to live a true Mission. If your operations team or customer service team don’t know how to do their job against your company’s Mission, you’ve got a marketing tactic, not a vision for the brand’s higher calling in the world.
The Difference Between Mission and Mission Statement
You’ve done this at some point in your marketing career, right? Been part of an internal task force to develop a mission statement for the brand. Someone on the team Googled “how to write a mission statement” and you went through the steps. Maybe you even stenciled the resulting copy on the conference room wall. Mission statements are Marketing 101.
But a mission statement without a Mission is BS. “Ensuring stakeholder value” does not a brand Mission make.
Mission, rather, is the very soul of your brand. It is your promise and the ways in which you keep it. It’s the wrong you exist to right in the world, the fight you fight, the good you do.
Why does Mission matter? Because no matter how good your product is, eventually, someone’s going to come along with a cheaper version. David outlines how this happens, inevitably, in his book Beloved & Dominant Brands.
And if you aim to rebound from One of Many to Beloved & Dominant status, then your Mission is essential. It’s the foundation of your brand strategy. Remember: People don’t buy products. They buy brands.
Mission is a Holistic Business Strategy
Your brand’s Mission doesn’t just guide how you market the product to consumers. It flows throughout the entire organization:
- Does your corporate culture match? Do people in the organization treat each other according to your higher values?
- Does your payroll match? Can your employees afford your products?
- Does your decision-making match? Are the strategies and initiatives you pursue in line with your Mission?
- Does your ops match? Is your ingredient deck as clean and natural as possible?
- Does your philanthropy match? Do you work to solve real needs?
Every employee, from the C-suite to the folks taking customer calls and the marketers repping the brand in social channels, should understand how their work advances the Mission. It’s like the guy sweeping the floor at NASA in the 1960s, who knew that his role was essential to getting people to the moon.
When your Mission is clearly defined, it serves as magnetic north on your corporate compass; you can say no to all the stuff that falls outside the lines. Mission builds internal alignment, team trust, and momentum. If you’re working in a company that has a mission statement without a Mission, you know it: Every decision is hard, marketing campaigns don’t land, the organization is dysfunctional, and your product development is all over the map.
What a Strong Mission Looks Like
When we consult with a struggling brand, we often start by helping them identify or refine their Mission. A Mission should be a BHAG — a big, hairy, audacious goal. Furthermore, there are four key attributes to a strong Mission:
It must be an action – it leads with a verb to describe what the brand does toward the goal.
It must be specific and quantifiable – you need to have a dashboard on it so you can track how you’re delivering on your promise.
It must change lives — it’s not just about selling stuff and returning value to stakeholders.
It must avoid sentiment – you need to develop language that is not so emotional or self-focused so you can’t enroll the broadest audience both internally and externally. [Note: When you translate the mission into marketing, it can become highly personal and emotional.]
The magic happens, of course, when your Mission resonates so deeply with so many people that sales naturally follow. Consumers so thoroughly buy-in that they will stick with your brand over all others, no matter what. That’s Beloved & Dominant. (And that’s what we do!)
Organizations often write mission statements so they can check that box on the “what companies do” list. But there’s no there there.
Frankly, you can get by if you have a Mission without a catchy mission statement. But the opposite is not true. You can’t copywrite your way out of a lack of Mission. No matter what those 400 million Google search results might suggest.