Brand Mission

BRAND MISSION: Focus on the Why, Not the What

by Anne Berg

At his famous trial, Socrates proclaimed: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” He was later sentenced to death. To this day, business experts from Jim Collins to Simon Sinek focus on this paramount question of why we exist. It’s also embedded within the popular EOS construct designed by Gino Wickman and made famous by his book, Traction.

And yet so many organizations seem to get it wrong. Their mission (purpose) statements say more about what they do than why they do it.

Your purpose should feel inspiring to your team and be a genuine expression of what you care most deeply about — why you exist. Once clearly and succinctly articulated, it should never change. And it can never by fully achieved.

Your mission statement serves as your highest guiding light, and also your least specific. We’re not seeking uniqueness here; just simplicity and clarity.

A great mission statement should help you think broadly about what you could be doing. It also should help you decide what not to do. Here are some elegant examples:

TED
“To spread ideas.”
[nothing about 20-minute educational talks]

DISNEY
“To make people happy.”
[nothing about theme parks or movies or cruise lines]

BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION
“To see equal value in all lives.”
[nothing about curing disease or improving education]

Place your purpose at the core of your strategy work. Let it guide your decision making. Let it inspire your people to imagine how they’ll live up to its significance.