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Manifestos > Mission Statements in a Connected Age – 5 Reasons Why, 10 Faves and 12 Tips to Write Them Well

[ 2 ] February 25, 2013 |

Now I’m going to count to 5, could you please tell me what the guiding vision/direction of your company is …right…NOW…5,4,3,2,1…. Awwww, too bad, I was so hoping you could play it back to me.

Mission statements. Who needs them. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of them being tools of centralizing focus are excellent…but man, are they dull.

They are usually long-winded preachy pieces occupying dusty old plaques around many cubicles and office. Based on a Forbes article, many of them are likely using the same yawn-inducing, over-hackneyed words: service,  growth, customers, environment, quality, profit, value, leader, employees and best. Well-salaried, and I’m sure well-meaning employees actually sweat over these types of words.

Textbook strategy 101 for the executive suite! Please wake us up from our corporate vision slumber party.

The “mission statement” is failing to help what IBM considers the current-day CEO’s prime task on planet earth – devolving business direction, values and strategy throughout the firm. That’s a pretty serious indictment.

Beyond their overwrought words and their tedious length, do you know what else is wrong with mission statements:

  • they are almost always about the company, and maybe investors, but not about the real people they are supposed to influence, the people that generate your eventual success – employees, fans and customers
  • they are built in a vacuum, usually solely by the executive elite of a company, and thus generate no bottom-up ownership or commitment
  • based on all the above, they don’t pass the “broken telephone” test, they are colourless, vanilla and most are unrepeatable if not embarassingly broken
  • they are usually not choiceful, ignoring every learning principle that make people remember and recall, and perhaps even tell others
  • they chase outcomes like profit/share value vs. being about the company’s “reason for being” and “values”

Increasingly, smart companies are leveraging the power of what works and turning to brand manifestos, intentionally or unintentionally, to produce culture-changing artifacts that are altering how employees, followers and customers perceive companies. I have attached a number of my favourites here and noted my top 10 below:

  • lululemon - Love Manifesto
  • North Face - Never Stop Exploring
  • Mozilla – Take Back the Web Manifesto
  • Apple – Here’s to the Crazy Ones
  • Stanford Design School  - Napkin “Create the Best Design School. Period.” Manifesto
  • Holstee – “This is Your Life. Do What You Love. Do it Often.” Manifesto
  • Jamie Oliver – “Feed Me Even Better” Manifesto
  • Frog Design – “We are fanatical about improving the world” Manifesto
  • MOO.com “We love the web, but you can’t put it in your pocket. Manifesto
  • The RED Manifesto 
  • Google “The Ten Things We Know to be True”

Neuroscience is proving that if you can generate an emotional response out of a person, they will open their wallets, hearts and minds. Here are 12 ways to do that with a great Brand Manifesto:

  1. Brand Manifestos are built for the long term, as relevant 10 years from now as they are now.
  2. Brand Manifestos are tribal, espousing beliefs and values that state  ”we are definitively these type of people”.
  3. Brand Manifestos are human, explaining as much about our own psychology as they do about business imperatives.
  4. Brand Manifestos are visual, turning words into collages and sometimes, even video.
  5. Brand Manifestos are public, open and transparent – allowing the whole world to see and enrol in it themselves.
  6. Brand Manifestos are sensory – what does this brand and business feel, sound and look like.
  7. Brand Manifestos are choiceful, leaving out the superfluous and cutting to the heart of what’s important.
  8. Brand Manifestos speak to aspirations, bordering on incredibility.
  9. Brand Manifestos are group and crowd-built, but creatively inspired.
  10. Brand Manifestos teach employees what behaviors they do (or should do) consistently.
  11. Brand Manifestos tell customers what they should authentically learn about the company and brand.
  12. Brand Manifestos produce emotion, reaction and word of mouth effects.
So this year, what would you rather have for your business, a mission or a MANIFESTO?
Let me know if you have great examples of others and we will curate them here. 

 

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Category: Resources, Wikibrand Guidebook, Wikibrands by Industry, WIkibrands Hall of Fame, Wikibrands Insights

About Sean Moffitt: Managing Director, Wikibrands and President/Chief Evangelist, Agent Wildfire View author profile.

Comments (2)

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  1. VFS says:

    “[mission statements] are almost always about the company, and maybe investors, but not about the real people they are supposed to influence”

    Very good point. We created a manifesto recently that is 100% focused on our students. So far the response has been very positive!

    Here’s a link in case you’d like to add it to your collection: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151126635983861&set=a.483298553860.258064.6470763860&type=1

  2. Love the thoughts here — to the list of characteristics of bad mission statements, I would add “any other company could use your mission statement” — the articulation of your purpose and values should be as distinctive as the purpose and values themselves. — denise lee yohn

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