Why the mission statement is important – A lot of companies have a hard time making the connection between Branding and the Mission Statement. As companies focus on their brand identity, brand differentiation, or other brand activities, mission statements often get set aside. But in fact, they are the foundation of all branding efforts.
Not having an impactful mission statement is one of main reasons Branding projects never really get off the ground. So why are mission statements and culture important to a brand? In this article we want to clear that up quickly and succinctly.
Let’s put Brand and Brand Awareness into context.
To understand the importance of the mission statement, we have to work backwards and look at where “brand” and “brand awareness” come from.
A good “brand” is a company name or logo that is well recognized in the market. We, as customers, feel a brand awareness, or an affinity to a brand through our experiences with the company’s products and services. That’s what “brand” and “brand awareness” are.
The question begs though, how does my company brand get there?
Photo by Medhat Dawoud on Unsplash
Brand Awareness is much more than the product
Good experiences help to develop a brand awareness. These experiences, however, are not limited to product only. In fact, it encompasses the entirety of one’s experiences, which includes User Manuals, Websites, Mobile Apps, Commercials, Blogs, Store Visits, Customer Service etc. We call them “touch points”.
As customers, we are exposed to good experiences at each touch-point, and we begin to gradually build up to a tipping point that reveals, “hey, this is a pretty good company”. This is how brand awareness develops and sticks, through gradual, consistent positive reinforcement.
A company and all employees would do well to collectively ensure those touch points are taken care of.
Small to Big Growing pains – everything is diluted.
As a company grows, some of those touch points can be easily neglected. You may have a good product, but your user manuals are hard to understand. In the market, this creates conflict and confusion which are brand killers
In a small company of say 5 people, it is easy for the boss to disseminate his or her mission and ideals. It’s easy to be visible and reiterate your values on almost a daily basis – that’s how you build culture. Consequently, this will ensure that quality is pervasive and the goals of the company are on track.
However, as a company grows to 20, 50 or 100 people, everything is diluted: focus, goals, and even the mission. And you may also have a new lineup of managers each with their own ideas about company, management, quality etc. It’s impossible for the boss, as one person, to continue to emphasize his/her ideology to every single employee and maintain forward direction in your company.
And as your company grows, your “touch points” will be compromised. Soon you realize that your user manuals contain errors, your software has bugs, customers are complaining, employees are unhappy, and managers are bickering. I imagine, some or even most of you have experienced some aspects of this.
This is where mission statements and culture become really important.
Why mission statements are important?
You just have to look at Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Disneyland, all great brands with tens, even hundreds of thousands of employees. How do they do it? Everyone is on a mission … the same mission.
- Apple: To “Think Different”
- Disneyland: To build “The happiest place on earth.”
- Starbucks: To “Nuture the Human Spirit, a person, a cup, a neighborhood at a time.”
All three are simple taglines or slogans – they are not the mission statement themselves. However they are derived from it and with one broad stroke, represents the essence, the mission of their organizations.
The actual mission statement is a paragraph or a list of guiding principals. A mission statement may also include these:
- Focus on employee spiritual well-being
- Include conservation and earth preservation in decision making
- Advocate equality and freedom
- Promote curiosity and creativity
Bernadette Ziwa in her book “Story Driven”, talks about and gives many examples of successful companies and their mission and impassioned focus.
These mission ideologies pervade these companies at every level, becoming the culture that keeps an entire organization moving in the same direction – this is called brand alignment.
How a mission statement becomes culture (i.e. brand alignment)
I’ve seen companies plastering posters on walls with words like “cooperation”, “integrity”, “passion”, hoping to inspire culture in the ranks. No one really pays attention to those. Some companies may go a step further, by writing a 100-page employee handbook, also hoping to build culture – these handbooks are often skimmed, if not ignored completely, and soon to be forgotten.
Culture is established through consistent, daily reinforcement through walk-the-talk (not only talking about ideas, but backing it up with action). And it all starts from the top. Steve Jobs was the epitome of “Think Different”. Walt Disney was all-out determined to build “the happiest place on earth”. They were very visible bosses, on stage, on camera. And at every turn, you could feel their mission resounding in their actions and words.
The boss does not always have to be so visible. But they will surround themselves with a C-Suite (CFO, CTO, CEO, CMO etc.) team who share the same convictions, and who themselves become advocates for the mission, reinforcing ideology through the ranks. And how do they do this?
Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash
Everyone Walks the Talk
Nike’s mission includes “do everything possible to expand the human potential”.
When Nike interviews for a position, they will ask the question, “will hiring this person help our customers expand their potentials?”.
When they consider new clothing materials, they will ask “will this material help our customers expand their potentials?”.
In every meeting, with every decision, and with every hire, the boss and high-level managers will, in their own ways, re-emphasize the tenets of the organization’s mission. This consistency is the key for disseminating the message and establishing company direction.
The North Star
In branding circles we often call the Mission the “North Star”, or guiding star.
Bosses, Managers and employees often find themselves in difficult situations, muddled in the quagmire of details, unable to make a decision, quibbling over minutiae and not seeing the forest through the trees.
This is a great reason to have impactful mission statements. When you can remind yourself of the original tenets of your mission during these times, it puts things back into perspective, prioritizes the focus and gives you the confidence in making an objective decision.
And once a culture is established, the company can virtually run by itself and endure through the generations.
Organic nature of Mission Statements
Mission Statements are organic in nature and propel a company forward through shear determination. It can’t be forced. If they are artificially conjured and pressured throughout an organization, it will be difficult and tiresome to implement.
Mission statements need to be genuine, relevant and serve a greater purpose. And when all employees are entrusted with this responsibility, they feel their own importance in the larger picture. It’s the “cause” that helps to propel the mission into becoming a great culture. It’s not forced, it happens organically – everyone walks the talk.
As long as the boss walks-the-talk in everything he/she does and says, the mission cannot help but trickle down and pervade through the ranks to one day become the company culture all bosses dream of.
Conversely, if the boss is reticent, hesitant, conflicted and inconsistent, so will be the culture of the company. Consistency and reinforcement are the cornerstones of brand, and it starts inside the walls of a company. That’s why pundits say branding is “inside-out”, or as Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) says “if your employees aren’t happy, nor will be your customers”.
Take the Starbucks Mission for example
“Nuture the Human Spirit, one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time”.
These are the words of Howard Schultz, who for all intents and purposes, built the Starbucks empire. He infused this spirit into every aspect of the company. He walks-the-talk in interviews, books, youtube videos, and on the website.
The pervasive mission at Starbucks is evident all the way to their front line stores. Imagine you are an employee, no matter you are an accountant, sales rep, store designer, or even a barista with Starbucks. You have been entrusted with the keys to “Nuture the Human Spirit” in everything you do. It’s the “cause”, the opportunity to “make someone’s day”, which is the reason employees enjoy working there.
Now imagine yourself as the customer. You order a Latte and go pick it up. But you forgot to tell the barista to make a “soy-latte” because you are allergic to milk. The barista, without hesitation, remakes it for you, and says “by the way, take the milk Latte and give it to a colleague”. Just made my day 10 times over.
The coffee is good, the snacks are delicious, the décor is fine Italian, no one bothers you, and the bathrooms are always, always clean. And this is consistent with every Starbucks I go to, without fail. 346,000 employees (2019) – how do they do it? Everyone is on a mission – to Nurture the Human Spirit.
This is Starbucks.
Experience the Starbucks Brand (Brand Primer Part 1)
Mission Statements are important for Brand
As a company grows, it gets harder to maintain efficiency, focus and quality. A mission statement is the guiding star that begets a great company culture. It starts from the top and trickles down through the ranks by walking the talk, which keeps an entire company on track – this is brand alignment.
It is brand culture that is the foundation of consistency, quality and inspiration. This ensures that your customers will have a great experience everytime, reinforcing their connection to your brand, as part of an enduring relationship. And the company will establish its legacy and heritage for generations to come.