As consumer research indicates a shift to increasing appetite for ethical business consumption and the internet amplifies the behind-the-scenes ‘goings on’ of all types of organisations, now is truly the time that companies can no longer afford to work simply for profit. Of course, money must be made and deals must be done, but businesses should back up their efforts with a tangible and actionable goal: a brand mission statement.
Does your organisation have a set brand mission statement, and if so, do you know how your work contributes toward it? Or if it doesn’t, what would you expect it to be? Allow Skein to guide you…
What is a Brand Mission Statement?
A brand’s mission statement is an assertion of their reason for existing: what gets their staff out of bed in the morning and what they work toward. A mission statement should reflect the brand’s values and how it intends to work to solve a problem, improve an issue or make change. An all-encompassing declaration, a brand mission statement should guide every decision made within the business.
There are usually two parts behind each brand mission statement: the vision and ambition (what the brand would like and expects to achieve, the aggravation behind the initiation of the brand at all), and the action (how the brand will work toward it and how this will progress toward the objective).
There are often also two versions of a brand mission statement. The first is a short, snappy strapline which serves as an easy marketing tool, and the second a paragraph, giving more detail and body to the aim.
Big businesses holds some fantastic examples of brand mission statements, including Tesla’s “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”, TED Talks’ “To spread ideas”, PayPal’s “To build the web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution”, and Amazon’s “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything ythey might want to buy”. Of course, such big corporates have large marketing teams and goal-setting professionals working on their mission statements to shape and sell them but this shouldn’t deter from the fact that organisations of all shapes, sizes and types will benefit from setting one.
Why is a Brand Mission Statement important?
The world isn’t shrinking any time soon and marketplaces are becoming more crowded than ever. A brand mission statement has two key benefits: differentiation from competition and a key business development focus.
Infamous marketer Phillip Kotler is quoted as saying “The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then, price is everything – and the low-cost producer is the only winner.”. In order to manage a brand properly, it should be differentiated from its competition. A succinct and honest brand mission statement will help customers (both potential and existing) draw this difference and understand the benefits in choosing to purchase from or work with the chosen brand specifically. Market research studies have already shown that the emerging generation of consumers (Generation Z, who are hitting mature consumer age with growing disposable income) operate with a more ethical breed of companies and the events of the last two years and the coronavirus pandemic has seen a further shift toward higher moral expectations from brands. A mission statement helps communicate to consumers that a brand has not just a tangible non-profit focused reason for existence, but also that it intends to work to make something better.
What’s more, a brand mission statement helps provide focus for business decisions. When everyone working within a business knows the company’s mission and has a clear sightline of how their role contributes, they are able to ensure that they work in the most efficient and appropriate way possible in order to progress toward the goal. Where complex or difficult decisions are being made, staff can refer back to the mission statement and ask themselves: does this decision align with our mission? If the answer is not apparent, the decision may need to be reviewed.
Holding a brand workshop is often the first stage of brand building for new businesses but can be done as a revisit technique at any time during a company’s lifespan. It builds solid foundations from which for all in an organisation to focus their efforts and ensure alignment amongst all.
The exact attendees of a brand workshop tend to vary dependent on the structure of the organisation but usually include employees from a cross-section of levels and backgrounds as well as senior leaders and a brand specialist or marketing expert. The workshop facilitates attendees into visualising their aspirations for the business and what they would like it to look like and to achieve. This provides a basis from which a brand mission statement can be written and/or shaped; and ensures all present hold a common view and goal – to foster better collaborative working and cohesive team-building. If those working within a business don’t all have view of a brand mission statement they are unable to share a joint vision; and whilst not everyone’s may be entirely identical, a brand workshop will provide the groundwork for opinions and ambitions to be matched up.
As mentioned above in Phillip Kotler’s quote, if a brand becomes a commodity, it relies solely on being the cheapest option available to sway consumer opinion. While some brands indeed do position themselves as a budget option (or even, in some circumstances, always the very cheapest), brand positioning can be better achieved with a sturdy brand mission statement in place.
Few businesses are the sole operator in their field, entirely different from other solutions or providers. Where markets are crowded or busy, a brand mission statement can help an organisation identify its appropriate positioning through its core. While there may be a price focus, there may too be a demographic target (ie. a luxury brand; “to be the world’s leading”; or specific customer target; “to help busy mums”), an ease-of-use focus (ie. “to be the fastest” or “to be the simplest”) or other spotlight for the business to assert itself to. C-D (Centrality-Distinctiveness) graphs further offer a great way to map out differing brands within an industry into various categories and sub-categories, including unconventionality, aspirational perception, peripheral branding or mainstream acceptance.
A brand’s positioning helps provide them with a USP (Unique Selling Point) and gain competitive advantage through differentiation. For example, in the jewellery industry there is a huge variety of companies and they don’t all compete directly – from Elizabeth Duke by Argos as a budget range to Pandora as a high-street demographic-focused retailer and De Beers Diamonds as a luxury specialist. All operate in the same field but have vastly different offerings; demonstrated perfectly by their different mission statements. Pandora aims to “offer women across the world a universe of high-quality hand-finished jewellery at affordable prices”, but De Beers vow to “provide integrity in the industry through the application of a passion for the science of diamonds and market-led innovative technology”.
Of course, another aspect that can set a brand apart from others in its space is its storytelling. Brand storytelling is defined by the Marketing Insider Group as “using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers”. Indeed as a brand mission statement should reflect back its values, it makes the perfect tool from which to work with storytelling and feed into its direction.
Storytelling can help convey a brand’s purpose and communicate who it’s for, what it does and how it works. The mission statement can guide this through it’s succinct goal setting and its value links, using its key objective to work through a variety of narratives and align itself with the goals, wants and needs of its desired customer base. Knowing your target market is crucial for this activity and can be further guided by marketing research work and the creation of brand personas (that is, the ideal audience for the brand’s product or service and therefore those most likely to repeat purchase).
Market research continues to show that customers who believe their personal values align with an organisation are more likely to develop loyalty toward that organisation – and so using brand storytelling to demonstrate exactly this can be hugely beneficial.
Brand Tone of Voice
A brand’s tone of voice is the unique style with which it communicates to its audience, ideally reflecting its brand personality through its choice of words and emotional tone. The brand tone of voice should echo not just through its mission statement but all outbound communications: social media posts, adverts, emails, press releases, and customer interactions. Although well curated amongst marketing communications, it can too be reflected through customer communications from staff – but should not be considered prescriptive in these incidences, as it may need to be amended toward the individual being communicated with and the situation at hand.
Coffee chain Starbucks defines its tone of voice as functional but expressive – keeping wording simple and to-the-point for its POS to facilitate easy ordering but expressive throughout its brand storytelling communications. The MailChimp tone of voice, however, is defined as clear, genuine but with a touch of dry humour – easily seen through its one-liners and quips throughout its website and adverts. Both fit their target audience and convey brand personality efficiently.
It is imperative that a brand’s tone of voice is appropriate for its audience in order to be understood and pitched correctly; demonstrating the ease of doing business with the organisation for those considering it and the relevance of them for the target audience. What makes a relevant tone of voice for a brand targeting 14-year old boys is likely to be very different from one targeting retired women.
A brand purpose is a frequently used statement that dictates its reason for existing beyond the need to make money and is somewhat similar a mission statement but not entirely. While a brand purpose statement can be considered its ‘why’, its mission statement can be thought of as its ‘why and how’ and provides more context as to the business’ goals and objectives.
A brand’s purpose is often problem-focused – highlighting the issue or concern it wishes to solve for its customers or industry, whereas a brand’s mission statement looks more toward what drives it every day. If asked to quickly recall who a business is and what they’re about, on-the-street consumers are likely to be able to communicate something close to a brand purpose statement but are less likely to know a business’ full mission statement. This isn’t an issue on the whole, but can help influence the onward marketing of a company in order to effectively communicate their who, what, where, when, how and why.
Living and Breathing a Mission Statement
As with almost every aspect in shaping a brand, it is all too easy for a business to write a brand mission statement and promptly forget about it as the daily demands of the organisation take hold – and it happens all too often! A brand mission statement should be a guiding force for a business and shape its ongoing operations rather than act simply as a marketing strapline.
If all employees within an organisation understand its mission statement and how they can contribute toward it, the ambition within can be reached and fulfilled sooner. Living and breathing the mission allows a clear-cut vision for progression, a declaration of the brand being honest and doing as it says it will, and a demonstration of its truthful customer centricity. Efficiencies will be gained through working processes and practices as they’re aligned and employees, leaders and customers will all find greater satisfaction in their brand interactions.
A brand mission statement should be open, honest and ambitious; and so too should the business as a whole. Working with the experts can help shape and hone a brand mission statement to differentiate, focus and blossom – so nurture yours and reap the benefits of the seeds sown.