I’ve often wondered…
Why are so many well-known (not to mention the rest of the less-well-known) company mission statements so blatantly self-focused, self-serving, undifferentiated, and ultimately uninspiring for their customers or even the people who work there?
It’s equally true for B2B and B2C organizations—most mission statements I see offer either lofty, generic platitudes or default to offering the best service, quality or price. They offer nothing about the actual mission of the company—something so differentiated or focused that employees and customers alike can easily rally around it and find a meaningful connection for themselves within it.
Most of us probably believe it is important to have a well-crafted company mission statement, but what purpose does it really serve?
And how do we best create one that isn’t as bland or awful as some are?
We will answer both of those as well as share our 31 company mission statement examples. So let’s get to it!
Importance and Purpose of a Business Mission Statement
You might be asking yourself what purpose a business mission statement really has these days.
Is it truly as relevant and important as it once was?
Yes and yes …
And when we say “business,” we are talking about nonprofits as well as organizations who have shareholders. This mission statement stuff is clearly beneficial to both. For those of us who are in “business,” we should make sure to include a bit more of the emotional heart tug that our charity counterparts often display more readily.
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Mission statements shape strategy by focusing the energy and attention of the organization towards its external audiences. They also serve to shape your internal culture. It is both this outward and inward focus of an organization that helps marshal the company’s resources in a specific direction towards a stated goal.
Your mission statement defines your purpose for existing, and (spoiler alert) it’s not to gain more profit, sales or customers.
This combination of internal and external messaging is more critical to the success of your organization than you may realize. Without a cohesive, compelling message that is lived out both among employees and customers, how will you ever cut through the noise and beat your competition?
Some of your competitors have this clearly defined and staff more aligned around it than your company does, don’t they?
You better believe it.
The mission statement is one part of our Customer Experience Ecosystem that we use to align your brand’s message in a way that is both authentic and galvanizing internally and externally.
How to Create a Mission Statement
Here’s our definition of what a mission statement should be:
A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or a person, its reason for existing. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.” It’s like a goal for what the company wants to do for the world.
So how do we create an effective one?
The typical company mission statement consists of four essential components; ask and answer these three questions in order to forge your own:
Contribution: What impact does your organization make?
Emotion: Why does your company do it?
Differentiation: How does your company do it? How is it unique?
Implementation: How can you make it come to life?
Focus in on the word “why” in the second question above—the “reason for existing.” If you’re going to be around long, your mission needs to be about more than making money or simply providing great products and services. Leaders can provide that vision to help define the mission to rally around.
The very best mission statements offer something inspiring and emotional to embrace. A higher purpose for existing. It should be a true calling that offers a connection not only to customers but to everyone internally—from the boardroom to the forklift drivers.
They should feel like they can contribute to that mission, and that it’s something unique to your organization.
But let’s not forget that the best mission statement in the world is meaningless if people don’t know about it and it doesn’t seep into your internal culture. And don’t forget about your marketing materials. Make sure it (or at least its spirit) ends up on your website, in handouts, in your environmental graphic design, and becomes a rallying cry for your organization.
8 Epically Bad Mission Statements
So that’s what you should do. But we started out by lamenting all the less-than-stellar mission statements we see every day. Let’s take a look at some of those. Because there’s plenty to learn from them about what not to do.
At best, these statements below don’t mean a whole lot. At worst, they’re a bunch of jargony nonsense.
They might as well have been written by Weird Al:
The video is funny because it’s full of jargon and meaningless phrases that do nothing to get us excited about the true mission at hand. Unfortunately, most mission statements contain at least one (if not more) of the superfluous phrases Weird Al refers to.
Take a look at yours … how does it stack up? Be sure to use the language your audience speaks if you hope to connect with them.
Now take a look at these bad mission statement examples from some very high-profile Fortune 500 companies (names deleted to save them from embarrassment), along with our own perspective on each one.Can you name any of these companies by their mission statement?
If you were an employee, would you be excited about working there? Would you understand what’s expected of you? And if you were a customer, would you feel valued?
We don’t think so …
Not only are those mission statements undifferentiated, they’re not memorable or exciting, and most focus on “us,” rather than the customer. Note that these are the short ones. We threw out a number of verbose examples that droned on and on (and aren’t remembered by staff or customers anyway) in the interest of saving you the boredom.
1. “Be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders.”
Isn’t that every company’s goal?
2. “Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment.”
3. “We strive to be the acknowledged global leader and preferred partner in helping our clients succeed in the world’s rapidly evolving financial markets.”
… and I’d bet all your competitors strive for the same.
4. “The Company’s primary objective is to maximize long-term stockholder value, while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards.”
Ummm … what? Really?
5. “Undisputed Marketplace Leadership.”
Nice goal. But what about your customers?
6. “To supply outstanding service and solutions through dedication and excellence.”
But to whom? And how?
7. “Create value for shareholders through the energy business.”
You can’t do that if your staff and customers don’t care.
8. “We will continue to build a corporate culture that respects and values the unique strengths and cultural differences of our associates.”
I honestly love this sentiment, but again, what about your customers?
23 Best Mission Statements
The good news is that there are many companies leading well in this arena.
Writing the best mission statement doesn’t have to be an exercise in verbose literature. The best ones home in on key truths, inspiring emotions, and a higher purpose, while remaining simple and to the point.
Now, remembering the four essential components of contribution, emotion, differentiation, and implementation, consider these 23 best mission statements (names included to give them credit).
While this is an article primarily about company mission statements, we chose to include some nonprofits since many of them can teach us “for-profit” types a thing or two.
9. Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Who hasn’t owned (or wanted to own) a pair of Nikes at some point in their lives? Their focus isn’t so much on the products they sell but on how it positively impacts the athlete user, and by Nike’s definition “if you have a body, you are an athlete.”
10. CVS: “Helping people on their path to better health.”
Better health is something many of us aspire to. Considering that CVS discontinued cigarette sales when other drug and mass retailers kept the profitable business, they live up to their mission.
11. Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
They don’t just create green, electric cars; they are at the forefront of a movement to renewable and sustainable energy.
12. Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Forget the coffee. Their stores are all about making connections between people. How novel!
13. YMCA: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
This organization plants their flag in the ground when they could’ve been more vague using the term “faith-based” instead of "Christian.”
14. Lularoe: “To improve lives and strengthen families – and we happen to accomplish this through fashion. LuLaRoe is a community that instills confidence and bases itself on quality products made with you, the Customer, in mind.”
Again, this isn’t about selling clothes but rather improving people’s daily lives.
15. Disney: “Creating happiness through magical experiences.”
Those magical experiences sell well and keep their employees focused. Just ask their shareholders, who have seen a 182% return on their investment over the last 10 years.
16. Sony: “To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.”
Curiosity is an amazing concept, isn’t it? This statement plays to the little kid inside all of us and encourages us to dream and play.
17. Salvation Army: “To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
This isn’t about programs for poor people; it speaks to helping people without judgement.
18. Lifetime Fitness: “To provide an educational, entertaining, friendly & inviting, functional & innovative experience of uncompromising quality that meets the health & fitness needs of the entire family.”
Muscleheads need not visit. These gyms are about meeting not only the fitness needs of families but being educational and entertaining.
19. Ford: “To make our cars better, our employees happier and our planet a better place to be.”
Who doesn’t want to live on a happier planet? They just happen to sell cars to make that happen.
20. Boys & Girls Club: “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
It’s not the particulars of their after-school programs they’re talking about. This statement is all about the difference they can make in young people’s lives..
21. Zappos: “To provide the best customer service possible. Deliver WOW through service.”
Famous for selling shoes, they don’t even mention that in their mission statement. Fantastic customer service is their soup du jour.
22. Habitat for Humanity: “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
This nonprofit builds homes, but is really selling hope to families that have significant housing needs.
23. Johnson and Johnson: “To make diversity & inclusion our way of doing business. We will advance our culture of belonging where open minds combine to unleash the potential of the brilliant mix of people in every corner of Johnson & Johnson.“
While they have come under fire for allegedly knowing their baby powder contains asbestos recently, they have a focus on using diversity and inclusion to innovate in a new way.
24. Goodwill: “To enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.”
I’ve donated and purchased items from Goodwill; have you? This company not only receives donations of items that would otherwise hit the landfill, they improve the quality of life for those who aren’t typically employable elsewhere.
25. United Way: “…… improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.”
Another mission statement about caring. Our world could always use more of that, couldn’t it?
26. Harley Davidson: “We fulfill dreams of personal freedom.”
Long known for the bone rattling sound emanating from its motorcycles’ tailpipes, this one is all about the dream of personal freedom.
27. Patagonia: “We’re in business to save our home planet.”
Even as an outdoor equipment company, they are really out to make our environment healthy and safe for generations to come.
28. H&M: “To drive long-lasting positive change and improve living conditions by investing in people, communities and innovative ideas.”
This mission statement says nothing about the clothing company it represents.
29. Nintendo: “We believe it is essential not only to provide products of the highest quality, but to treat every customer with attention, consideration and respect.”
This laser focus on what the customer wants has driven its new console innovations to new heights, year after year.
30. Boy Scouts: “To prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
No longer for just boys, this organization is about instilling values and ethics into the lives of youth today.
31. McDonald's: “To be our customers' favorite place and way to eat and drink.”
Similar to the Starbucks mission statement, this organization is seeking to make its restaurants a destination to hang, not just eat.
Should We Revise Our Company’s Mission Statement?
We know you likely have a mission statement hanging on a wall or written down in a binder somewhere, but is it sufficient to enable future growth of your company?
• Does it truly resonate with customers and employees alike?
• Is the marketplace getting mixed and confusing messages due to misalignment within your organization?
• Is the mission statement defendable against the onslaught of competitors who have more finely crafted rallying cries?
If the answer is no to any one of these questions, you likely need to take a hard look at your company’s mission statement for revision.
It might be time to revisit things …
We know the challenges of a mission statement gone stale because we’ve been there. Not only have we successfully helped our clients more clearly speak to all audiences, we’ve done it for our own brand.
At Imaginasium, we’ve helped clients with defining their vision, mission, and values—it’s a key part of what we call the Customer Experience Ecosystem which helps align who you are, what you say, and what customers experience. And from there, we usually help clients with a positioning statement that highlights their company’s unique buying and selling propositions.
We’re all about taking the time to understand your business and ensuring that message never misses the mark with your potential customers. Because that’s how we succeed together.And if defining and aligning how your company is communicating to the world is something you know you need to work on, we can help. Contact us today to learn how we can help you create high-performing brand that engages and delights potential customers, clients, and/or donors.