David over at Logic + Emotion has just posted on saying more with less which reminded me of a talk I once saw on the same subject by Marcus Child . He used an example of company mission statements and conducted a fascinating exercise where he put up a series of mission statements where the company names were blanked out, and then put a bunch of logos up and asked us to match them up. The companies were all very disimilar and from widely divergent industries and yet it was nigh on impossible to match them up with their missions.
How could this be? Surely the statements should say everything about their respective organisations? They all talked about the same things – great customer service, happy employees, leading markets, growth – all great and laudible things but where was the personality of the company? Where was the thing that made it unique? The thing that made it unlike any other company out there. The thing that captured the distinct character and identity of that organisation…what it was all about.
The other thing all these statements had in common was that they were all very long. I can see it now – a bunch of executives all sat round in a room deciding what should go into it, saying things like ‘well we’ve got to have something about our people in it because we’re a people organisation’ and ‘ we should have excellence there somewhere too’ and ‘don’t forget we’re market-leader – that should be in there too.’
He then put up some single words, and the same logos and asked us again. This time it was easy. The one that I remember was Disney and the word Magic. Say Disney, you think magic. Say magic, you think Disney. That’s all you need. That one word captures it all.
He then talked about how painful an exercise it is to get boards in companies to get rid of their word-baggage and pare their missions down to just a few words, or even better just one word.
Here’s an example of what I mean….
"In order to realize our Vision, our Mission must be to exceed the expectations of our customers…We will accomplish this by committing to our shared values and by achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction, with extraordinary emphasis on the creation of value….in this way we will ensure that our profit, quality and growth goals are met."
That’s from a Hotels group, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. Here are some which take a different approach:
"To solve unsolved problems innovatively" (3M)
"To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people" (Wal-Mart)
"To make people happy" (Disney)
It strikes me that this is a brilliant exercise for planners to go through to distill the essence of a campaign – what is it that you are really trying to acheive. What is the one thing you really want to communicate?
When we think up creative ideas for clients, we often try and follow this principle. It really works.