These days, brands do more than just represent a product or service. They also personify a set of beliefs and lifestyles, a list of rules and goals. Increasingly, consumers are interested in the values represented by their hard-earned purchases. And companies are responding with manifestos.
A brand manifesto, done well, is more than a catchy way of identifying what makes your brand unique. It’s your plan for a better world, a declaration of independence, and a moral compass that will guide and define your brand.
Here, we learn a few essential lessons about manifestos from emerging and established brands that have caught our attention.
A manifesto speaks in the collective voice.
Notice anything unusual about the recent New Belgium Fat Tire Ale commercial?
If you said it talks more about its people than its beer, you’re right. Instead of promoting its product, the commercial lets you know what New Belgium values: sustainability, employee-ownership, underdogs, mustaches.
The spot features a social, party atmosphere, and the voiceover speaks for a collective “We,” implicitly asking the viewer, “Are you with us on this?” Their manifesto declares their independence and claims their rights as a group—a powerful tool that has worked for countries as well as companies.
A manifesto speaks in the active voice.
Take Nextdoor, for example. They’re a private social network for neighborhoods, a kind of digital town square and community bulletin board into one. The Nextdoor manifesto is a collection of “We believe” statements; other manifestos might use similarly declarative verbs like “We choose,” “We embrace,” “We refuse.”
The point is, a manifesto is a living, engaging thing that rallies its supporters to act accordingly. In this case, if you believe in old-fashioned manners and embrace new technology, maybe you should sign up for Nextdoor.
A manifesto is prompted by a desire to change the status quo.
Really great manifestos are agents of change. Their creators are pursuing a better something, and they think you should too. The concept behind Everlane, an online-only clothing retailer, developed out of a desire for transparency in the fashion retail marketplace.
Their manifesto is short and almost reads like a set of “Thou shalt’s”: know your factories, know your costs, and always ask why. For Everlane, knowledge is radical, and fashion-minded intellectuals have used their dollars to show their support of this philosophy-product.
A manifesto is the framework for future decisions.
DuckDuckGo is a bold, new search engine with a simple manifesto that’s a terrific template for any brand to follow. It declares, “We believe in better search and real privacy at the same,” and goes on briefly to show how their beliefs play out—how they’re manifested—in real life.
Even if your brand has no interest in a manifesto right now, you can at least fill in these blanks: “We believe in ______________ , and that’s why we _______________ .” You’ll find that everything—from your design guidelines to the break room coffee—can be defined in some version of this statement.