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Brand mission

Carlos Rey

In a recent book, Philip Kotler1 refers to the importance of the “brand mission”, an idea that has been around for decades in the practice of mission-focused companies but which, until just a few years ago, barely occupied a relevant space in marketing literature.

 

When we talk about brand mission, we might think of brands such as Apple or IKEA, but it is not necessary to be popular to have a brand mission. In fact, brand mission does not depend on popularity, but on the extent to which the public perceives that “behind” a brand there is a community of people excited about achieving a mission that is worthwhile.

 

This concept has a lot to do with the company’s mission statement, which explains its raison d’être, the purpose of the organisation. The mission is normally defined briefly and generically, specifying what the company brings to the world and the different stakeholders (clients, shareholders, employees, etc.). In the same way that the mission of a company is the contribution that characterises the identity of the company2], the mission of a brand is the contribution that characterises the identity of a brand.

 

The company’s mission has a formal or explicit dimension, the “mission statement” written on the website, and also a personal or implicit dimension, which is that found in the heart and mind of members of the company. The brand’s mission also has a formal dimension (coinciding with the company’s formal mission) and a personal dimension, found within the audience which the brand targets: clients, consumers, intermediaries, competitors, suppliers, etc.

 

While the company’s mission is created by internalisation, where the members of the organisation internalise the company’s mission, the brand mission is created by identification, where interest groups identify the company’s mission in its brand.

 

To create a brand mission, the first step is to promote a strong feeling of mission among company employees. Does the company have a mission that is worthwhile? Is the management team committed to it? Do the employees know about it? Are they really committed to the mission and proud of contributing to it? Is there consistency between the mission and action? If the answer to all these questions is yes, we have a good basis on which to build a brand mission. But it is still not enough. In fact, not all companies with a mission manage to create a brand mission.

 

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A brand mission is created when, as Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz3 would say, three stars align: mission statement, corporate culture and the images generated by the brand for the different stakeholders. The relevant questions to create a brand mission are as follows: are the perceptions (images) held by interest groups aligned with the company’s mission? Do they recognise the organisation’s mission in the brand? Do the employees transmit the company’s mission to stakeholders?

 

In short, it is a matter of the company’s mission moving beyond the borders of the organisation itself and reaching clients, consumers, opinion leaders, suppliers, shareholders, competitors and the general public. As Simon Sinek advocates in a TED presentation downloaded over 15 million times, it is not about transmitting what you do, but the purpose behind what you do.

 

There is still a lot of research to be done to discover the meaning behind and consequences of brand missions. It is not clear whether this is a concept that all companies should follow, or in what contexts it provides greater economic value or competitive advantage. We also still do not know to what extent the public, especially clients and consumers, value the mission of a brand. However, everything points to the fact that brand mission is one of those powerful concepts which will have an important impact on how marketing will develop in the coming decades.

 

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1. Kotler, Kartajaya and Setiawan. Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit. John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey, 2010.

2. Cardona & Rey. Management by Missions. Palgrave, New York, 2008.

3. Hatch & Schultz “Taking brand initiative”. John Willey & Sons, 2008.

 
 
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