Pop quiz: Why does your company exist?
Unless you work for the U.S. Mint, we’re betting you didn’t answer “to make money.” Yes, companies generate profit for investors and provide livelihoods for employees, but saying your company exists to make money is like saying you exist to breathe, sleep, and eat. Those are necessary functions for survival—not your core purpose.
Take Hewlett-Packard as an example. The company doesn’t just churn out printers to make a quick buck. Its vision is bigger than that. HP focuses on technological innovation and problem-solving, which has led the company into a wide range of initiatives and helped it grow into an international tech giant. Cofounder David Packard put it this way:
“A group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately. … You can look around and still see people that are interested in money and nothing else, but the underlying drive comes largely from a desire to do something else—to make a product—to give a service—generally to do something which is of value.”
You started or joined your company because you believed in something more than the bottom line, but it’s easy to lose sight of that purpose. That’s where a brand manifesto comes in. It’s not a mission statement—which expresses a company’s goals—or a strategic plan—which explains how the company will reach those goals. It’s a set of beliefs, things your organization collectively holds to be true, the remedy to a company-wide identity crisis. Take a look at this example from Apple:
This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. When you start by imagining what that might be like, you step back. You think.
Who will this help? Will it make life better? Does this deserve to exist? If you are busy making everything, how can you perfect anything?
We don’t believe in coincidence. Or dumb luck. There are a thousand “no’s” for every “yes.” We spend a lot of time on a few great things. Until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches.
We’re engineers and artists. Craftsmen and inventors. We sign our work. You may rarely look at it. But you’ll always feel it. This is our signature. And it means everything.
Designed by Apple in California.
Published two years after founder Steve Jobs’s death, Apple’s manifesto explains the company’s driving philosophy. It doesn’t lay out specific goals or state their mission. It outlines the principles that guide Apple’s decisions and everyday actions.
Vesper’s manifesto does the same. The Dutch hotel emphasizes its belief in the importance of leisure. Leisure is not merely an entertainment or an escape, the manifesto explains, but an art form in and of itself. Take the excerpt below, for example:
Vesper is packing up and wandering off the beaten path, because Vesper is freedom. It’s pleasure. It’s taking a step back from responsibility, taking a break from the grind, finding a retreat that inspires the senses. Vesper is connecting with nature. It is jogging along the beach with the wind in your face. It is the sound of the sea murmuring in your ear and saying: “Relax, take your time, enjoy the sun as it sets.”
In a similar way, Pivot’s manifesto expresses what we believe and explains how that belief system guides our actions:
We work with people we like,
causes we can rally behind,
and brands that look ahead.
We believe in progress,
so we never stop challenging ourselves.
Short and sweet, yes. But important. This manifesto motivates us to keep moving, and when we’re facing a tough choice between two paths, it helps us choose the way forward. A manifesto is more than window dressing. It serves as a rallying cry, both internally and externally. It can function as a recruiting and sales tool, and it can also help sustain company culture through difficult seasons.
A brand manifesto won’t magically make everything else fall into place, but it’s an important first step. Once you know what you’re working for, you can start taking steps to get there and find the resolve to push through the hardest moments.
So why do brand manifestos matter? They tell you why your company does.