Is it possible for a company's mission statement to be the same as its marketing slogan? Most people don't realize that mission statements and market positioning are very closely related. For example, a good mission statement can be a rallying point that the entire company can embrace, while a bad one can confuse employees to the point of apathy. Likewise, a consistent marketing message -- think BMW -- can keep a company focused on its core, while an inconsistent marketing platform can sink a company faster than a torpedo.
The criteria for a good mission statement and a good marketing slogan are also the same. Both should be unequivocally clear in communicating the company's goals and proposition. Unfortunately, most company mission statements end up as generic boilerplate, usually something like "Our goal is to be the leading company in satisfying customers while making money and providing jobs to employees who believe in satisfying customers." Meaningless drivel!
Likewise, the majority of marketing programs are so unfocused that they change directions on an annual basis. While everyone knows BMWs are The Ultimate Driving Machine, does anyone know Ford's current slogan?
I recently had the opportunity to work with marketing guru Mark Joyner, and while discussing marketing slogans, it occurred to me that what he calls "The Irresistible Offer" in marketing terms was really just a public statement of a company's core mission and value proposition. Joyner explained that many of today's leading companies built their businesses on a clear marketing slogan that presented the customer with an obvious, sometimes guaranteed reason to buy from that company. As a marketer, Joyner saw the slogan as primarily a sales tool, but as a leadership trainer, I realized that in many cases the marketing touchstone of the company came to serve as the de facto company mission statement. Consider Federal Express, which for many years used the slogan "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." For FedEx, this wasn't an empty pitch line, but it became what the company stood for. Nothing mattered more than getting your package delivered the next day. As a testament to how effective this was both as a marketing slogan and de facto mission statement, have you ever heard anyone say, "FedEx it to me"? Of course you have. The term "FedEx" has become synonymous with sending packages overnight.
Another example of a marketing touchstone that also serves as the company's de facto mission statement is Wal-Mart's slogan "Always Low Prices!" The value proposition contained in this slogan is simple, "shop here because we are cheap." And as much as this is a good pitch line, Wal-Mart has in fact done an extraordinary job of streamlining their operations and reducing prices to previously unattainable levels. I recall walking through Wal-Mart for the first time and being amazed that they could sell things for what seemed like pennies on the dollar compared to their competition. Like FedEx, Wal-Mart's marketing slogan became their mission and as a result, their focus on lowering prices has -- for good or bad -- forced almost everyone to lower prices in order to compete.
Combining your marketing slogan and mission statement is more than a matter of brainstorming a catchy slogan. For a touchstone to work both as a customer value proposition and as a rallying point for employees, your company must commit to fulfilling the promise contained in its slogan. In the early 1980s Ford used the slogan "Quality is Job 1." In theory, this could have easily served as the company mission statement as they tried to regain their footing against the Japanese. But in reality, independent research showed Ford's quality was still far behind Toyota and Honda, and within a few years the slogan was gone because consumers didn't believe it. Compare this to BMW's claim of being "The Ultimate Driving Machine," which the company has used for over 30 years. By consistently ranking high in performance tests, BMW established itself as a luxury and sporting brand -- and as a result charges premium prices for their cars.
When discussing leadership, mission statements have always presented a dilemma. While they are theoretically useful as a leadership tool, more often than not their message is muddled and little known to rank and file employees. Alternatively, marketing is rarely considered a key component of strong leadership and almost never core to a company's mission. But if a company chooses a marketing touchstone that sets an expectation of performance and legitimately strives to meet that challenge, the public nature of the slogan can make it the most powerful mission statement of all.