Differentiating vision statements from mission statements. That was the intent of my last post before it morphed into a savage take-down of Wikipedia’s definition of vision statement.
After that diatribe, you’d think I’d move on to other topics. Maybe customer experience or strategic planning. Nope. I’m back for round two and ready to tackle mission statements.
I was pondering this topic on my drive into the office when a random memory sprang to mind.
It was 1985. Foreigner wanted to know what love is. REO Speedwagon couldn’t fight this feeling anymore. A-Ha asked us to Take On Me (a grammatical mess that miraculously works). And 1985 brought us the pizza saver — an epic feat of engineering that keeps the top of the box from touching your pizza.
At the box office, Back to the Future, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Beverly Hills Cop dominated. But it’s one lesser-known film that prompted my mental detour into the 80s — a dinosaur thriller called Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend.
Credit source: amazonaws.com
I never saw Baby start to finish, but it’s permanently etched in my mind thanks to my job at the drive-in concession stand. Even as a teenager, I marveled at the title. They’d managed to mash together four magnetic words, any combination of which would’ve had irresistible appeal. Think about it:
- Lost Baby: Secret Legend
- Legendary Baby: Lost Secret
- Secret Baby: The Legend That Was Lost
- The Secret Legend of the Lost Baby
- The Legend of the Secret Lost Baby
Each title sparks our imaginations in different ways, but all sound intriguing. That’s because, in Baby‘s genres — science-fiction and adventure fantasy — juicy words like lost, secret, legend, and baby push all the right buttons to pique moviegoers’ interest.
Credit source: rottentomatoes.com
Quick heads up before you add this cinematic masterpiece to the kiddo’s queue: PG ratings have changed A LOT since 1985. A quick sampling of reviews tells you everything you need to know:
With such lines as, “This is craptacular” and “I’d whip the b*tch,” this is a great fun-filled romp for the whole family, complete with full frontal, drug use, foul language, extreme gore, and sex.
I defy you to find me a PG-rated film that features this much nudity in the first 5 minutes. Go on, I’ll wait.
I can only assume the director was making a family film and one of the producers was like “needs more t*ts and bloodshed.” Also, of all the dinosaurs that were able to survive mass extinction and stay hidden for a million years, it HAD to be the Brontosaurus. Makes complete sense.
Credit source: giphy.com
How does this connect to mission statements?
When it comes to mashing up buzzwords, movie titles have nothing on mission statements.
Many are nothing more than a collection of jargon and buzzwords tossed like dice into a Yahtzee cup. Shake ’em up, roll ’em out, any order will do. The typical recipe goes something like this:
- Choose lots and lots of business buzzwords, clichés, and industry lingo. The more, the better! Don’t be afraid to get super technical. Remember, this is for insiders who know your business. No noobs allowed!
- Drive the action forward with power verbs. Forget wimpy verbs like make and do. You need verbs on a mission like drive, empower, slay, and dominate! (Scratch the last two. I’m a bit amped up.)
- Pepper in confidence-inspiring adverbs and adjectives. You aren’t merely driving market share; you’re passionately driving market share. Come on!
- Go big or go home. Take your mission statement and zoom way, way out. Think you’re selling security systems? Heck, no. You’re healing humanity and the planet.
Credit source: licensing.andrewsmcmeel.com
Examples: How not to write a mission statement
So what makes a good mission statement? Start by avoiding the pitfalls illustrated in the following examples.
Walt Disney mission statement
The Walt Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The company’s primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.
Is this written exclusively for shareholders? I hope so, because nobody else would care. And let’s be honest, with all this jargon, even shareholders would zone out halfway through.
Bonus tip: If you’re Disney, you can probably shoot higher than “one of the leading.” There’s a time and place for superlatives, and this is it.
DemandForce mission statement
DemandForce thrives in helping small business owners create a sustainable stream of income through their products and services. They believe that small businesses and startups are the driving forces of any economy. And so, these entrepreneurial activities must receive the assistance required to flourish and grow.
DemandForce also aims to develop more innovative, business-centric technology. Such that enables business owners to execute tasks with simple clicks. For example, the easy-to-use appointment reminder automation tool allows businesses to connect with their customers and generate revenue.
Moreover, the platform strives to help entrepreneurs reclaim time and focus by the use of their tools. Since you will be automating tasks, you will have more time available to create strategies and grow.
We all know the concept “less is more.” This example perfectly illustrates the opposite — how “more is less.” The more jargon and buzzwords you add, the less understandable your message will be.
When writing a mission statement, remember: Your goal is to provide a concise snapshot of what you do. I’m talking aerial shot, not a closeup. You don’t have to include everything you do. Chances are that people are reading it on your website where you’ve detailed your offerings. There are numerous ways to share the nitty gritty. This isn’t your one shot.
Credit source: media.giphy.com
Barnes & Noble mission statement
Our mission is to operate the best specialty retail business in America, regardless of the product we sell. Because the product we sell is books, our aspirations must be consistent with the promise and the ideals of the volumes which line our shelves. To say that our mission exists independent of the product we sell is to demean the importance and the distinction of being booksellers.
As booksellers we are determined to be the very best in our business, regardless of the size, pedigree or inclinations of our competitors. We will continue to bring our industry nuances of style and approaches to book selling which are consistent with our evolving aspirations.
Above all, we expect to be a credit to the communities we serve, a valuable resource to our customers, and a place where our dedicated booksellers can grow and prosper. Toward this end we will not only listen to our customers and booksellers but embrace the idea that the Company is at their service.
Lots to unpack here. Let’s start with this head-scratching phrase: “regardless of the product we sell.” This comes across as “we want to be the best even if our products aren’t.” Clearly not the intention, but it’s just…odd. The “pedigree or inclinations of our competitors” is also strange, but not nearly as perplexing as “our aspirations must be consistent with the promise and ideals of the volumes which line our shelves.” Which volumes? All of them? With titles that range from Satanism and Witchcraft to Catechism of the Catholic Church, that’s a lot of conflicting aspirations. Good heavens, their team members must be exhausted!
Credit source: tenor.com
I will say, they beat The Walt Disney Company and DemandForce in one critical area — writing in first person — which is one of the simplest ways to boost your mission statement’s readability and appeal.
Zappos mission statement
At Zappos.com, our purpose is simple: to live and deliver WOW. Twenty years ago, we began as a small online retailer that only sold shoes.
Today, we still sell shoes — as well as clothing, handbags, accessories, and more. That “more” is providing the very best customer service, customer experience, and company culture. We aim to inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, vendors, shareholders, and the community in a long-term, sustainable way.
We hope that in the future people won’t even realize we started selling shoes online. Instead, they’ll know Zappos as a service company that just happens to sell ________.
Remember when wow was exclusively used as an interjection or verb? “Wow! That’s a huge pancake!” or “Your polka dancing really wowed the crowd!”
Call me old-school, but I find wow really corny as a noun. Beyond the cringe factor, its meaning is open to interpretation. What does living and delivering WOW look like? Is it grounds for termination if you don’t? “Sorry, Bob. While your living WOW is up to par, you just aren’t delivering it the way we need you to.”
Also, nothing says we know where we’re headed quite like a fill-in-the-blank. That’s a solid growth strategy if I’ve ever seen one.
More mission-statement examples: File these under “We want to be the best. That’s it. That’s the mission.”
Credit source: tenor.com
Albertsons mission statement
To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to mention what you do. Are they selling menswear, electronics, or household goods? Who knows?
Lufthansa mission statement
Lufthansa’s mission is to become a leading name in the world of air travel by being the top preference of customers and shareholders all over the world.
Every company wants to make customers happy, create a great working environment, make money, and be the top choice. Including things that are a given does nothing to inspire or inform your audience.
Ok, enough roasting. Let’s play a mission-statement game!
Your challenge: Create a truly terrible mission statement. Use as many words as you can from the chart below. Add lingo and buzzwords specific to your business or industry. You can even draw inspiration from this mission statement generator. The world is your oyster. The only rule is to make it as confusing and cliché as possible.
Play along and we’ll send you some Counterpart swag. Just pop your submission into our contact form and select “other” as the category.
Credit source: marketoonist.com
Keep in mind, many of these words are not bad. Some are strong choices for a mission statement. Some work only in certain circumstances (and only when used with finesse). Others are clearly duds. (Looking at you, pivot and pain point.) We just wanted to give you plenty of options.
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Creating a bad mission statement is easy. Creating a compelling one is anything but. Don’t despair. We have a sure-fire, pain-point-free method up our sleeves: Get yourself a counterpart.
By the way, creating a compelling mission statement is just one element of Single Slide Strategy™ , the strategic planning method we developed to help businesses define — and communicate — what they’re all about. That includes everything from your guiding principles, vision, mission, and core values to your why and the enduring concepts that drive your organization. We’d love to tell you more about it and see how we could help.