Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forget the Mission Statement. First You Need a Mission.

George Harrison, MBE
(but not MBA)
Where are you going? (Brandwise, I mean.)

Your brand’s destination is important because, as George Harrison sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

In branding terms, your destination is your “mission.” And mission is the first item in the top drawer of your all-important red brand toolbox.

Notice I said "mission," not “mission statement.” 

A mission statement is a set of words, usually drafted by committee and often bland as a lima bean casserole, generic and ultimately useless in branding.

Like these mission-statement yawners:
To offer intelligent solutions based on innovative products and tailor-made service. (BASF)

To earn money for shareholders and increase the value of their investment. (Cooper Tire & Rubber)

To supply outstanding service and solutions through dedication and excellence. (Hughes Supply)

To be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders. (American Standard)
Almost every company has a mission statement. They keep it locked up in their employee handbook or buried on their Website. Sometimes they trot it out for meetings, where it's used to answer the question "Do we have a mission statement?"

A real mission, on the other hand, is a genuine goal that is carved right into the hearts of all employees. It’s your quest, like the Holy Grail, or Level 90 on FarmVille. It drives all the company says and does.

Your mission is essential in branding because it provides focus. Everything else in your
brand toolbox flows from it. And anything that doesn’t move you toward fulfilling it is a diversion and should be questioned. It’s that important.

What . . . is your quest?

Yet I’d guess fewer than one company in 10 (no, I'm being generous—make it 20) has a real mission.

Does yours? There’s an easy way to find out: Stop a handful of employees and ask each what the company’s mission is. If you get the same response, delivered with passion, you have a mission.

Mostly, though, what you’ll have is blank stares.

But don't get me wrong. There are some great statements out there that reflect real solid missions and function perfectly as foundations for communications. Like this one:
To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Do I even need to tell you that belongs to Google? And you can probably identify this next one as well:
To lift the spirits of America's troops and their families.
Yes, of course, it's USO. Which brings us to my favorite mission statement, which you'll also identify easily.
To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations—to boldly go where no [one] has gone before.
Beam me up, Scotty—we have a viable mission! 

So, what exactly makes a mission viable? As it happens, there are three very specific criteria. 

My mission is to boldly go there in the next Brandiloquence post.

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