Photo courtesy of thienzieyung
When starting the branding process with a new client, we always start with the mission. The mission is the one thing on which all other things in the business are based, and that includes marketing.
Yes, we know. Business has largely blown up the mission and bastardized it into a mostly useless mission statement. Mission statements are primarily crafted to put on airs while offending no one, thus inspiring no one either. You will often see it inaccurately described as a representation of a purpose. That’s inadequate. A true mission is an animal of a different breed: it is a destination. It is real estate.
What is a mission?
Keith McFarland defines a mission in his excellent book Bounce:
“a highly specific, clearly stated, and widely embraced goal that carries with it a strong sense of the imperative.”
McFarland further explains a mission this way:
“Tell me what hill you’re going to take and how you’re going to take it, then you’ll know you have a mission.”
Know what hill you are going to take.
This is where missions start going awry and it’s where brands go off course. Entrepreneurs want to conquer the world and so we have trouble starting with one hill. Service is not a hill, it’s a continent. To be the best in service is to be too broad. To potential customers it sounds like “I want to be king of the world.”
Have a mission to conquer something specific. The more specific your mission the more vivid and inspiring it is to customers and to your team.
How Does it Affect Your Brand?
Specificity is also important in building your brand. Brands are about something specific because customers can get their minds around something definitive. They have a hard time grasping abstractions like this big company mission: “To create value and make a difference.” What does that mean?
Instead, try this hill on for size: “You don’t have to wait to see your doctor.” from a local medical clinic. There’s no doubt about the mission for this clinic: Reduce wait times. See your doctor now. It is a brand the people can wrap their mind around.
When you have a specific mission to take an individual hill, you can build a distinct brand. Specificity in mission gives your brand more meaning and a stronger connection with potential customers. That’s why branding starts with the mission.
Building a Good Mission to Take a Specific Hill
What’s your mission? McFarland lists four areas to help you articulate it for your business.
- Identify the market you want to serve.
- Determine the precise customers you will go after.
- Specify the needs you will fulfill.
- State your unique value proposition.
With those four answers in hand, what hill do you want to take? Answer that question and you have a mission. You also have the makings of a powerful brand.