Is the Mission the Brand? Or is the Brand the Mission?
How many words are in your organization's mission statement? Go ahead, count them. More than 20? More than 50? Two full pages of 10-point type? If it takes that many words to explain the essence of your organization, then how do you possibly convey that essence in your brand?
Great mission statements [are] the brand. They allow you to hire, train, promote and fire. They are the touchstone for every decision, strategy, brand extension and policy. And they are embedded in vision, values, strategy and operations.
Tightly weaving together your mission and brand creates a powerful organizational dynamic that provides perfect structural alignment. While this is difficult work, it is far from impossible — unless you are unwilling to jettison the four-paragraph mission statement that currently adorns your lobby walls. [Creating] the kind of mission-brand integration that elevates organizations to market dominance requires short, succinct mission statements — eight words or less — that resonate with both internal and external stakeholders.
In 2000, Memorial Health in Savannah, Ga., adopted a five-word mission statement: "We help people feel better." The organization carried that mission statement into its branding, with the simple, two-word tag of "feel better." After tightly aligning its mission and brand, the organization rose to market dominance, which included four consecutive years on Fortune magazine's list of "100 Best Companies to Work For," as well as record margins.
In 2008, LibertyHealth in Jersey City, N.J., adopted a three-word mission statement, "We enhance life," and a two-word brand tagline, "Enhancing life." Since then, the organization has made tremendous strides culturally, clinically and financially, and is emerging as the market leader in New Jersey's highly competitive Hudson County.
It takes a great deal of thought and reflection to define your organization's mission in eight words or less. Doing so requires you to strip away all the extraneous stuff you think is organizationally important and home in on the purity of your existence. However, when you are able to do this, amazing things happen. At Memorial Health, every employee not only knows the organization's mission, but also how his or her job helps people feel better. And at LibertyHealth, they all implicitly understand how what they do every day enhances the lives of those they serve. In other words, they live the mission while also living the brand.
For these two organizations, is the mission the brand? Or is the brand the mission? The simple answer is that they are both the same, which is as it should be. Mission and brand — inextricably linked as one.
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