An effective brand’s most important reason for being comes in the articulation of its purpose or mission. A mission is no longer an exclusively internal consideration to be shared among the brand’s personnel. It is not something you write casually and pin on the boardroom wall for occasional reference. If it is to be pinned anywhere, it is on the minds of everybody—from your employees to your customers and all other stakeholders forevermore. It is bigger and more critical than a brand’s practical performance promise as usually expressed in advertising. In a nutshell, your mission must be the driver of your brand’s performance and the touchstone of its present and future success. If we want our brands to play a part in people’s lives, we do this most effectively through the practice and public expression of how it ideally contributes to their lives.
A “mission” is the expression of what your brand stands for; in fact, a better word would be “ideal.” People respond to others who live according to like principles and ideals. There is plenty of evidence to suggest they do the same with brands. In fact, you might even think of your brand’s ideal in terms of a higher calling, and it works only when you feel it in your bones and live it in the here and now.
The Body Holiday in Saint Lucia is a resort that combines the best of a luxury beach vacation with a comprehensive wellness center that has won awards as the number-one destination spa not just in the Caribbean but also in the entire world. If founder Craig Barnard were to communicate these facts alone, the resort would probably be successful, but he sees a much larger role for the brand’s ideal. The resort’s chosen mission is to provide guests with the lasting skills they need to maintain a healthy balance between body and mind that will stay with them long after their tans have faded. This powerful brand ideal is brought to life with one line: “Give us your body for week, and we’ll give you back your mind.”
This ideal resonates with potential guests and serves as a potent reminder for previous guests. It is a promise the staff of the resort can get behind: Every one of them is trained to live it. It allows The Body Holiday to command a premium price, only because it lives up to the promise made. Such is the appeal of a powerfully articulated mission that promises and delivers a contribution to people’s lives.
I find it fascinating that this small business instinctively stumbled upon a principle that supports former Procter & Gamble exec and author of Grow, Jim Stengel’s position: “If you are not ambitious enough to want to make a big difference in people’s lives, you won’t make a big, positive difference in your business. Ideals move millions, along with politics, war and peace, art, technology, science, and maybe mountains.”
When a higher calling guides a business to success, it makes a lot of nice noise. People admire you. The press calls for a story. The best workers come looking for you instead of the other way around. Analysts rate and respect your integrity. Investment gurus trust and recommend you. There is a buzz on the street, spreading far and wide. Without intending it, you strike fear into the hearts of your less-focused competitors. Your good fortune gives you no place to hide, and the limelight puts an added glow on your brand’s mystique.
Our advice? Everybody who deals with your brand—employees, customers, suppliers, the press et al.—is waiting to be your willing missionaries, given the stimulus of a potent mission.
Give them one.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below or tweet to us using #HDIMYF. How Does It Make You Feel? is my new book about how emotional brands succeed.