When branding or re-branding a company, it’s easy to focus on the logo, the website, the design, and the slogan. However, many companies forget about their mission statements.
It’s important to get the tone of your mission statement correct for a number of reasons. For one thing, your mission statement conveys to your customers at a high level who you are and what you do. It’s the short paragraph that allows your customers to get a sense of if your company is worth their time. Boring mission statements will often turn away customers while creative, memorable mission statements will often draw them in for a second look.
Mission statements also serve another purpose: giving your employees a sense of who you are and what you stand for. If your mission statement is powerful and intriguing, your employees will be proud to share it with their friends and family. This is a good thing for your business!
Let’s take a look at the science behind mission statements and explore some best practices for writing your own.
The Science Behind Mission Statements
There are four basic elements that every mission statement should include:
- What you do
- How you do it
- Why you do it
- For whom
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t worry too much about the exact wording of your mission statement. Research shows that it matters much more how people connect with and understand your mission statement. (After all, even most employees of your company would have a hard time reciting your mission statement from memory, but chances are they have a good sense of how it makes them feel.)
Fundera analyzed the mission statements of the Fortune 50 to get a sense of how successful companies think about their missions. They found that the average length was 18 words, and the median length was 16 words. That’s two small sentences or one longer one. This is important: mission statements should not be paragraphs long. Long, complicated mission statements ultimately confuse people.
The average readability for the mission statements was the 12th grade level, based on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. That’s fairly difficult to read. If you want to connect with the broadest group of people possible, you should make sure you use clear, easy to understand language.
In that same vein, the easiest to read mission statement award went to CVS Health. It was “Helping people on their path to better health.”
Meanwhile, the petroleum refiner Valero won the reward for the toughest to read mission statement: “Valero will be the premier manufacturer, distributor and marketer of quality transportation fuels and petrochemical feedstocks, while serving the needs of our employees, communities and stakeholders.”
Although this mission statement is specific, it is too long and not very memorable.
The most common verbs that the Fortune 50 used in their mission statements included provide (used seven times), help (used six times), improve (used six times), serve (used four times), and make (used four times). Notice that all of these verbs are action- and care-oriented.
Now that we have some helpful guidance on how to write a mission statement, what its length should be, and which verbs to choose, let’s look at a number of successful and unsuccessful mission statements.
Mission Statements That Need Improvement
Let’s look at three mission statements from major companies that could use some tweaking. Knowing what not to do can inspire you to craft the perfect mission statement.
The Home Depot
The Home Depot is in the home improvement business and our goal is to provide the highest level of service, the broadest selection of products and the most competitive prices.
Home Depot’s mission statement is specific in that it states three goals: providing the highest level of service, the broadest selection of products, and the most competitive prices. However, it’s somewhat uninspiring. It serves its purpose of informing customers of what Home Depot does, but it does little to convey a sense of brand identity or flair.
Museum of Modern Art (New York City)
In sum, The Museum of Modern Art seeks to create a dialogue between the established and the experimental, the past and the present, in an environment that is responsive to the issues of modern and contemporary art, while being accessible to a public that ranges from scholars to young children.
No one can argue with the fact that MoMA’s mission statement is unique and fits their brand identity. However, it’s quite confusing and a bit too long. It’s best to aim for a simple, clear mission statement.
Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment.
AGCO’s mission statement is short and sweet. However, it doesn’t give any insight into what the company does. Its mission statement could be copy and pasted and applied to a number of companies across a variety of industries. There’s no one factor that connects the mission statement to AGCO’s brand.
Mission Statements That Shine
Now, to end on a more positive note, let’s look at a number of major companies that did a good job writing their mission statements.
Utilize the power of Moore’s Law to bring smart, connected devices to every person on earth.
Intel’s mission statement is uniquely interactive in that it forces people to think. If you don’t know what Moore’s Law is, you would look it up. Most likely, Intel’s core audience understands what Moore’s Law is and appreciates this mission statement.
Another positive aspect of Intel’s mission statement is that it thinks big. It has the aim to bring smart, connected devices to every person on the planet. That’s a lofty goal that people are sure to remember.
Our mission is to become the world’s number-one destination for fashion-loving 20-somethings.
Like Intel, online fashion and cosmetic retailer ASOS thinks big with its mission statement, aiming to be the number one destination for fashion lovers.
ASOS also strikes up a playful, edgy brand tone in its mission statement and makes it clear who its intended audience is: 20-somethings. Again, this is an easy-to-remember mission statement that both customers and employees will likely repeat.
To help all families discover the joy of everyday life.
Some might argue that Target’s mission statement is a bit vague. After all, what does it even mean to help families discover the joy of everyday life? How is Target going to do that? What kind of joy are we talking about?
However, the mission statement works in this situation since shopping for groceries, electronics, and toys is very much a part of everyday life. We also know that Target aims to make this seemingly ordinary experience a pleasurable one. Like Inel’s and ASOS’s mission statements, Target’s mission statement is short and sweet and easy to understand and remember.
Honorable Mentions: Memorable Mission Statements
To give you a few more ideas of just how creative you can make your mission statement, let’s look at a few more great examples.
To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.
Amazon is such a large company that one can buy just about anything. The mission statement perfectly encapsulates this idea: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
In a world in which companies rebrand fairly often, Amazon’s mission statement to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company” has remained more or less consistent, and customers surely appreciate that.
To drive human progress through freedom of movement
At only eight words, Ford’s mission statement is one of the simplest ones out there. However, it touches on big themes like “driving human progress” (pun very much intended) and “freedom of movement.” This is one example in which customers and employees probably could recite these eight words by heart.
Check out the infographic on how to craft the perfect mission statement that inspires and energizes customers and employees.
About the Author!
Meredith Wood is a vice president at Fundera. She is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and marketing and frequently contributes to SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, and StartupNation.