About 1/3 of marketers will rebrand themselves this year and inevitably at some point before this "new and improved" brand vision gets hatched to the world , there will be some type of mission statement/ positioning exercise where executives, strategy, brand and creative departments will lock horns in some grey-walled conference room and drip on every word of the statement like life itself hung in the balance.
The coffee will be bad. The chairs will be uncomfortable. The lunch will be passable. The morning will be frenzied mix of powerpoint slide and "think out of the box" nattering. The afternoon will see the clash of egos of the leaders and the withdrawal of engagement of most of the other contributors as people dread one of two things: 1) the "beiging" and "mauving" of the statement based on compromise and 2) the reality sinking in that they just wasted a day out of their life (watch for the increased frequency of cell phone and Blackberry activity starting at around 2pm.)
And the result? Infrequently, will the outputs of these meetings ever be repeated by an internal employee and certainly not played back by a customer. Insanity! I feel sorry for planners who spend half their lives in low value-add meetings like these.
A possible solution- why not author a Manifesto? Even as a right-wing capitalist hawk, disregard the left-leaning associations (remember the American Declaration of Independence was a pretty powerful manifesto) and preachy Cluetrain and think about a manifesto's ability to change things and make people think.
Borrowing from some of the always spot-on work from Jennifer Rice at What's Your Brand Mantra? - a well written manifesto achieves 7 things that mission or vision statements rarely do .
1) Provides All Three Legs of the Stool - whereas mission/vision statements provide a summary of intentions, manifestos provide intentions, guiding principles and policies to achieve a vision
Bad example (sorry to pick on one - there are many): CBA Industries :"We are committed to achieving new standards of excellence by providing
superior human capital management services and maximizing the potential
of all stakeholders - clients, candidates and employees - through the
delivery of the most reliable, responsive, flexible, and cost-effective
services possible." Huh..
Good example: Ritz Carlton
2) Public Declarations - mission statements tend to be internal documents that end up on plaques of executive walls - manifestos are served up to all of their internal and external stakeholders ideally in a very public fashion (I particularly liked the refreshing candid, real and public Kodak's Winds of Change). (by the way, in my experience, I also find that videos served up at company sales conferences are so tellingly real, honest and entertaining, why don't they ever make it into public domain.) If you "don't live by a mission statement" - that's alright, you can write another one - nobody really read the words anyway, "don't live by a manifesto" - somebody is going to notice and call you out on it
Bad example: We wouldn't know because they haven't made their stuff available for us to see
Good example: lululemon
3) Ambition - mission/vision statements usually describe a number of elements that make up a business, Jennifer's description of Honeywell's vision is a classic example - instead, manifestos are revolutionary in nature, they get people energized and are actually worth reading based on the courage to try to achieve something stretching, soulful and important
Bad example: Oracle
Good example - Google : "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
4) Reality Checked - the temptation to boil the ocean in mission statements and literally invent oxygen strikes at either the ego or lack of strategic insight of the architects (or it could just be they've gone to Mission Statement 101 school and that's how everybody else does it); a manifesto although aspirational should provide some parameter of what business or idea people are operating in
5) Participatory - vision statements shut down the conversation - clinically telling people what they do with no appetite for consideration; manifestos ask others - employees, investors, partners, customers - to not only digest it but also to join in, contribute to and live the brand - the better ones leave enough room to let others build on it and create a community around it (* for the need to create another addition to the 2.0 pantheon of names - call this Manifesto 2.0)
6) Friendly and Passionate Banter - mission/vision statements are littered with corporate-ease and marketing-ease; manifestos are authored with the front-line employee and customer in mind and thus are decidedly more human and conversational in tone, the best ones are used as a rallying cry and are also usually visual (see lululemon's and Red's above).
Sidebar: Avoid these words like the plague. The most hackney and overused cliche words as judged by Jeremy Bullmore who went through the agonizing task of reading over 300 big company mission statements:
service (230 times)
Bad example: Exxon Mobil
Good example - Chipotle's "Food with Integrity"
7) Choiceful not Chockful - mission/vision statements try to be something for everybody; a manifesto's strength is in their ability to say what they are as well as what they're not - creating a visibly recognizable ethos on which an organization runs itself. Not surprisingly, the word "manifesto" in Latin translates to "clear and evident". When I led the marketing efforts for Guinness in Canada I thought the Diageo braintrust, captured the essence of what we did at the time through a singularly set of worlds "we make lips smile".
Bad example: Boeing (yawn)
Good example: Tech Disposal - "We have one mission: retire equipment cost effectively and save you money"
One caution I'm sure I will hear is that a manifesto is only worth the emphasis a company places on it. I wholeheartedly agree, but given some of the bad examples above - I don't even know how companies get out of the gates.
Mark my words...build a manifesto and they will come, build a mission statement and they will yawn.
??? I'd be curious to hear about other great business or brand manifestos (or manifestos masked as mission or vision statements). I'll admit finding good examples was difficult and even some of the companies I thought would have had good ones, fell well short of the mark.
Thanks as well to Man on a Mission for providing some of the fodder for this post.