Writing a great corporate manifesto takes a lot of serious thought and soul-searching, but it’s worth it. The right manifesto gives people a clear reason to buy into a company’s vision.
Standout brands, such as Johnson & Johnson, The North Face and Google, have all built successful businesses around strong and durable corporate manifestos. A manifesto is a “longhand” exposition of why a company exists, how it seeks to do business and what it aims to achieve. It has more depth than a strapline or set of one-word values, and more soul than growth plans and mission statements.
A great manifesto speaks to the emotions and adds depth to an overarching vision. It’s a clarion call that gives expression to higher ideals. Manifestos win hearts and minds: But how does a company set out a crystal clear vision that everyone inside and outside the organisation will want to be a part of?
There are five magic ingredients to a great corporate manifesto.
Purpose: A compelling purpose is central. As business author Simon Sinek put it, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Purpose is all about the emotive “why”, not the rational “what”. What was the inspiration behind the founding of the company? How is that kept alive today?
Authenticity: This is no place for smoke and mirrors. A great manifesto has to be honest and faithful to an organisation’s ideals.
Values: A manifesto is not just about where a business has come from and where it’s going. It’s about the values that drive it forward. Whether that’s a set of principles, a cause or agenda, or a way of being, the manifesto is a chance to say, ‘this is what we stand for – and this is what we’re against’. Ultimately, it is about differentiating the company from its competitors
Touch everyone: Customers, colleagues, investors, and suppliers are all invited to invest their time, money, blood, sweat and tears (and above all, their reputations) to become part of something bigger. A manifesto is a chance to show everyone that the brand’s higher purpose is relevant for them.
Grounded realism: A manifesto should recognise that business exists in the real world. Companies should not get carried away and exaggerate their importance, or world-changing potential. It should connect the work of the organisation with the real lives and concerns of customers and colleagues. True love is grounded in reality and empathy for others.
THREE GREAT MANIFESTOS
Etched in stone at its New Jersey headquarters, the Johnson & Johnson Credo has guided the health care company’s growth since 1943. The credo lays out the firm’s “responsibility” to doctors, nurses and patients, as well as to its employees, communities and shareholders. Johnson & Johnson describe the credo as “more than just a moral compass… it’s a recipe for business success”.
Written only a few years after the search giant was founded, Google’s manifesto covers its singular focus on the power of search (“it’s best to do one thing really, really well”), its belief that “democracy on the web works”, how to create a casual working atmosphere where team achievements are celebrated, how to anticipate as-yet-unarticulated needs and how to balance profit with responsibility and trust (“You can make money without doing evil”).
The North Face Brand Manifesto
The North Face takes an innovative approach to its brand manifesto. It’s expressed in video form rather than text, and it features the voices of its customers – runners, climbers, skiers and outdoor adventurers – finding a common thread in their shared need to explore. “What drives us to do all these crazy things?” asks one. “These experiences are the richest in life.”
Graham Massey is the Business Head of The House, a consultancy that believes valuable businesses are born out of purpose.