In my last post I talked about why Mission Statements are diminishing in value, and offered an alternative – something we call the Brand Principle Statement (BPS). The BPS crystallizes the reason for your organization’s existence into a simple statement that everyone can understand, and can serve as inspiration for your employees and customers.
Here are three examples of great brands’ Brand Principle Statements:
- Google immediately satisfies every curiosity.
- Fedex delivers peace of mind to everyday interactions
- Apple empowers creative exploration and self-expression.
We’ll use them to illustrate what makes for a powerful, inspiring BPS:
- Emotional instead of rational. The key words in each of the examples are Curiosity, Peace of mind, and empowers. These emotional states are universal, and touch on core needs that all human beings have. When you can hone in on exactly what you want customers to feel when they use your product, you can speak to them in a way that resonates more deeply than with numbers and facts. A good BPS bravely states the emotional value you fulfill. It’s not about you – it’s about what you do for others. At its most fundamental level, your organization exists to deliver an emotion that your customer – and the world at large – needs.
- They are short and succinct, no more than 7 to 10 words. This forces you to focus on a single idea. It makes you choose only the most important words. It’s the art of sacrifice. That way, the statement is easy to remember and repeat – something every employee of your company can understand and internalize. If it goes beyond a sentence, people forget or omit portions of the statement, and it evolves into something else. Longer statements can also invite people to add or embellish, with ideas and meaning that weren’t intended as part of the original statement.
- No what. Just why. The statement does not include any words associated with your product. No mention of packages from Fedex. No computers or phones for Apple. Talking about products gets you away from talking about values. The products are just a means to the end of delivering on that emotional value. Products are the “what” and “how” of your emotional value. That’s not to say that products aren’t vital to your organization, but focusing on them in your brand principle statement shows that you prioritize them over delivering on the emotional value. Products may come and go, but the reason for existing should endure. Apple doesn’t make so many iPods these days, but they still allow people to express themselves with music. Again, it’s not about you. It’s about what you do for the world.
- A grand scope. Google’s statement doesn’t say Google immediately satisfies every curiosity for people using computers or other connected devices. As soon as you use a phrase like this, it narrows the scope of the statement and makes it less compelling. You are delivering an emotional value for the whole world. Yeah, that’s grandiose. But as humans we want to be part of something bigger. Your employees and customers want a reason to engage with you, and if you exist to be the leader in plastic extrusion, or to provide great shareholder value, you don’t offer much of a reason to customers and employees. Millenials in particular, are demanding more meaning in their work. And customers are flocking to businesses that stand for something. If you don’t have a clear purpose, you’re probably hurting your business.
- Not too clever, thank you very much. A BPS doesn’t need clever wording. It’s really meant to be an economical statement of fact, full of glorious promise. It’s NOT a tagline or slogan. Sure, if it rolls off the tongue, that’s a bonus. The idea is what’s important. Get the concept across. Suffer the wordsmithing when you use the brand principle statement as the basis for creative execution in your homepage or outbound marketing. The idea itself should inspire.
If you follow these guidelines, you effectively have created your organization’s North Star. Your strategic plan will spring from it. Product development will be directed by it. It will inform your choice of partnerships, and provide a foundation for the content you create. Give a brand principle statement a try to see just what it will inspire in your organization.