Mission statement definition and examples
“Without a mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize it was leaning against the wrong building!” this is a very famous quote by Dave Ramsey which perfectly catches all the meaning and importance of a mission statement for your business.
A mission statement clearly defines where your business is going and why. Within a few seconds, anyone should be able to read your mission statement and understand what your business does.
Within this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about mission statements. We’ll answer some important questions such as what exactly is a mission statement? and how does it work? But that’s not all, we’ll show you some examples of great mission statements, we’ll give you some useful tips for start creating yours, and last but not least, we’ll walk you through the key steps for writing the most effective mission statement for your own business.
Mission statement: what it is and how to write
- 1. What is a mission statement?
- 2. What is the purpose of a mission statement?
- 3. Mission statement examples
- 4. How to create a mission statement
- 5. How to write a mission statement
1. What is a mission statement?
A mission statement is generally a short sentence elegantly and concisely explaining why your organization exists, and what’s its core purpose for the employees, and the market in general.
Mission statements work by succinctly communicating the purpose of a business. They answer the first questions everyone wants to know. What do you do? Why do you do it? And who do you do it for?
Beyond just explaining the purpose, great mission statements inspire the target audience to want to investigate further. They also serve as a foundation for your business, uniting your organization under a common purpose, and guiding it toward a shared goal.
2. What is the purpose of a mission statement?
The purpose of the mission statement is to bring clarity to you, your team, customers, and the market. Essentially it puts a stake in the ground and says, “This is why we’re here and this is what we’re doing.”
An effective mission statement serves several purposes:
- Gives internal clarity and direction: A mission statement is a guiding force for a business that can help keep leaders and internal teams on the desired path. It defines the who, what, why, and how which can continuously be used as a reference when making decisions.
- Removes confusion and misunderstanding: A mission statement helps to remove any confusion around why a business exists. This helps customers, press, investors, potential employees, and the population at large gain a clear understanding of your brand’s purpose. With clarity and consistency, your brand can effectively attract its ideal target audience.
- Creates a sense of unity within an organization (we are all working together for this): A shared mission can help bring people together. Employees are not only doing their individual jobs but are working as a team toward the same larger goal. This can improve employee engagement and retention.
3. Mission statement examples
Now for some juicy inspiration! Below, find a list of 10 examples of famous mission statements from popular brands and an analysis of each.
“To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.”
- Target audience: Communities
- Purpose: Inspire healthy living
- Product/service: Real food
Short and sweet, Sweetgreen concisely tells you the who, what, and how. You can instantly understand that real food is important to them as are healthier communities. As you investigate Sweetgreen, you’ll find the brand has expanded from offering farm-to-table food to hosting events, festivals, and education programs. They are really focusing on impacting communities with their fresh food message. This goal is summed up well in the mission statement.
“To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.”
- Target audience: Buyers of designer eyewear
- Purpose: Offer revolutionary price, socially-conscious business
- Product/service: Designer eyewear
Warby Parker does a good job of ticking several boxes in one concise sentence. The brand includes “designer eyewear” to show how it solves the problem. Then, it mentions “revolutionary price” which differentiates them from many competitors. The last piece includes a bit to show what they believe in and stand for — “leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.” This mission statement packs a punch by featuring it’s differentiating factors and values.
“Honest seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all.”
- Target audience: All
- Purpose: Grow a business with honesty and integrity to provide a great taste for all
- Product/service: Great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages
Honest Tea speaks to the quality and integrity of its business and products in one fell swoop. While this statement probably could be condensed to be a bit more succinct, it covers all the bases and gives you a clear understanding of what the brand is and does. It also incorporates keywords that can help to resonate with customers and employees, including great-tasting, healthy, and organic.
“To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
- Target audience: For the many people
- Purpose: Create a better everyday life
- Product/service: Not included
Ikea’s mission is very succinct. The brand is well-known so we all know how they solve the problem. Brand equity surely helps in crafting concise mission statements. But the mission is short, sweet, and on-brand. “Create a better everyday life” is powerful because Ikea’s home furniture and furnishings are products you use and see every day. The “for the many people” piece is smart because it says a lot by saying a little. Ikea is not exclusive. It’s not for a select few ,for the “many” people. It’s for everyone who wants it and affordable and down-to-earth. This is a great example of creative and effective wording.
“To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.”
- Target audience: Humanity
- Purpose: Inspire in air and on the ground
- Product/service: Not included
JetBlue abandons the literal explanation of what it does (transports people in airplanes), opting for a higher-level message about inspiring humanity. The possibilities JetBlue creates through its services can inspire humanity to dream and go anywhere in the world. Further, the statement can also speak to inspiring people with its service quality “in the air and on the ground.” This approach helps to bring a deeper meaning to a company which can help it resonate with customers. However, this route can be risky as you have to be sure your audience “gets it.”
“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
- Target audience: The world
- Purpose: Transitioning to sustainable energy
- Product/service: Not included
Tesla’s mission is succinct, innovative, and effective, just like the brand itself. The market is well aware that Tesla is at the forefront of battery-powered vehicle development, so this purpose makes perfect sense without further explanation. The “who” is the world and the “why” is the transition to sustainable energy. The “how” goes unsaid but is hinted at in the word “accelerate.”
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
- Target audience: The human spirit in us all
- Purpose: Inspire and nurture one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time
- Products/services: Beverages in cups
Starbucks has a stroke of creative genius here with its mission statement. It’s as soothing as sipping a fresh latte on a comfy café sofa. The brand is aiming to inspire and nurture the human spirit, which is universal. It wants to reach everyone but it does so one by one, one neighborhood at a time, and one cup at a time.
Starbucks indeed makes its impact one cup at a time which makes this powerful. But instead of literally saying, “we want to provide your daily dose of caffeine or deliver great drinks,” they took it to a deeper level. They touch on what the drinks lead to. Starbucks is often a part of interactions between friends, colleagues, and family, where the human spirit is nurtured and inspired. So this is a well-played line by the coffee giant.
“Our mission is to make Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation, and exceptional guest experiences by constantly fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less. brand promise.”
- Target audience: You
- Purpose: Making Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels
- Product/service: Store delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation, and exceptional guest experiences by constantly fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less. brand promise
Target makes it very clear what its purpose is and how it intends to achieve it. This can provide very clear guidance for internal teams. It also creatively incorporates its tagline of “Expect More. Pay Less.” However, an area of opportunity here is that it doesn’t really appeal or speak to Target customers. The general population doesn’t typically use lingo such as “channels, shopping destinations, and guest experiences”. The same message could be reworked to better serve both the internal team and external audience.
“Our mission is to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximize their success. We aim to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.”
- Target audience: Consumers, businesses, and content creators
- Purpose: Continually raise the bar of the customer experience, maximize success, and be the most customer-centric company
- How? By using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover, and buy anything, and empowering business and content creators
As a platform, Amazon has two parties to please, buyers, and sellers. This mission statement reflects both sides and then an overarching theme. It took a more straightforward literal approach and covers all the bases.
“Asana’s mission is to help humanity thrive by enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly.”
- Target audience: Humanity, the world’s teams
- Purpose: Helping humanity thrive
- Product/Service: Software that enables teams to work together effortlessly
Asana used the word humanity to encompass the entire earth’s population which is a powerful move. It also used some positioning with the words “enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly.” It’s not only sharing what it does but plugging the fact that the solution makes teamwork effortless. Overall, it’s a well-crafted, inspirational, and persuasive mission statement.
4. How to create a mission statement
Now that you have seen some examples, it’s time for you to start creating your own mission statement, and the best way to start the process is by answering these key questions:
- Who do you serve? Who is the primary target audience that benefits from the existence of your business?
- What is the problem that you solve?
- How do you solve the problem exactly? What level of service are you providing?
- Why are you solving this problem?
- What are the benefits of having this problem solved? How will you improve the lives of others through your business?
- How do you want your company to feel after reading your mission statement?
- How do you want your customers to feel after reading your mission statement?
- How do you want your brand personality to come across (inspirational, funny, geeky, simplistic, etc.)?
- What makes you different from competitors?
- What are three of your core values?
- What are your company’s core beliefs?
Answering these questions will get your wheels turning and will help in the creation process. Don’t feel pressured to write perfect answers. It’s best to just write what you think as if you were explaining it to a friend, leaving lingo and buzz words aside … for now.
Before you get started, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Remember, “less is more.” It’s easy to get wordy when crafting your statement. Try to keep it to 20 words or less. The goal is simple but compelling.
- Don’t get discouraged. Most creative writers spend many hours and days working through long lists of ideas to find “the one.” It’s a process.
- Don’t judge. Keep the creative space a judge-free zone. Let your ideas flow, good and bad.
- Listen to tunes. When brainstorming your mission statement, listen to music that aligns with your brand. This can help you focus and can spark creativity. it may help to opt for music without words.
- Talk to someone. If you keep getting stuck, talk with someone who is not close to your business. Ask what they see as the main purpose of your business. A bit of objective input can jumpstart your process.
- Don’t overwork yourself. Set time aside to work on the steps below, one hour at a time, and stop when the time is up.
- Get some space. Ideas can strike at any time. After completing step one (research), it can help to think about your business’s purpose while doing other things. Write down any ideas that come up along the way.
- Don’t stray too far. Ensure your creativity doesn’t take you too far away. The audience needs to get your purpose immediately.
5. How to write a mission statement
Now, let’s get to the step-by-step breakdown of actually writing your mission statement.
1. Define your market using a story
A mission statement can be near impossible to pull out of thin air. A good way to get started is to write a market-defining story. While this won’t be included in your mission statement, it will be a helpful tool in the process.
A market-defining story tells the journey of your target customer from their problem to your solution. It should cover who the buyer is, why they want or need to buy, how they find you, and what your offering does for them. In the end, it will sum up the group of people that make up your market and how you serve them. This is called creating personas.
Here are some prompts to help get your story going:
- Give your ideal target customer a name
- Describe your target customer’s defining traits and situation
- Explain the problem your customer faces that you solve
- Explain how you solve their problem
- Highlight the outcome of your customer experiences after utilizing your solution
Once you have your market-defining story and target audience personas, it’s time to pull out the parts that will compose your mission statement.
2. Identify how your business helps customers
The first part that you want to pull out from your story is how exactly your business helps customers. Why does your company matter to those that you serve? Your description should be concrete and specific. Be sure to explain exactly how you help.
The description should include:
- What you do
- Who you help
- Differentiating factors about your product or service
- The end result
The key here is to drill down to the product- or service-oriented specifics. For example, Cradles to Crayons does this well in their mission statement which reads, “Provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive — at home, at school, and at play.”
3. Identify how your business helps employees
For a business to be able to help customers at scale, it needs a strategy for building a loyal and engaged team.
The approach you take can help attract high-quality talent while also earning more confidence from your customers. Most businesses say they promote values like diversity, fairness, respect, and empowerment, which are great but they can lose their power due to overuse. The key is to incorporate a unique and original way you support your staff into your mission statement (you can explain the rest of your values on your about page).
Delta, for example, states: “Delta’s employees, customers, and community partners together form a force for positive local and global change, dedicated to bettering standards of living and the environment where we and our customers live and work.”
The way Delta supports its employees is by forming a positive force for local and global change to better the standards of their living and working environments. It’s very specific, which sets them apart.
4. Identify the “big picture” mission of the business
The third main factor you want to identify is what your business itself hopes to achieve as a result of helping customers and employees. What is the big picture mission? This can help to speak to investors or buyers if you hope to sell the business one day. It can also help employees and customers understand the bigger picture impact that your company is making.
For example, here is USAA’s mission statement:
“To facilitate the financial security of its members, associates, and their families by providing a full range of highly competitive financial products and services. In so doing, we seek to be the provider of choice for the military community. We do this by upholding the highest standards and ensuring that our corporate business activities and individual employee conduct reflect good judgment and common sense, and are consistent with our core values of Service, Loyalty, Honesty and Integrity.”
The bolded portion speaks to USAA’s bigger picture mission for the business.
Now it’s time to put the pieces together. Take the statements you came up with for steps two, three, and four, and work on how you can piece them together. The end goal is to make your statement as concise and specific as possible, truly representing the reason your business exists.
It can help to look through examples from other companies (like those below) to find statements that you like. You can then use them as inspiration in modeling your statement.
Keep in mind, you can create a full mission statement that addresses all three points for internal use. Then, you can create a shorter, customer-focused version that is outward-facing and speaks only to customers.
Take some time to write down a few variations. Once you have a shortlist of statements you like, get some feedback. If your business has other partners and/or employees, ask for their input. If you’re a solopreneur, you can reach out to other professionals, family, and friends. You could also consult with a brand strategist for their opinion or hold a vote on social media. Spend a few days gathering and reviewing feedback.
With the feedback you collected in mind, it’s time to look at your shortlist again. Did people favor the statement you liked best? Were they confused at all? Did they give any feedback you’d like to incorporate? In this phase, you will fine-tune your options.
Once you’re happy with them, it’s time to choose. At this point (drum roll), you’ll have your shiny, new, polished mission statement.
A mission statement is one of the most important pieces of your company’s brand,only trailing behind your company name, tagline, and logo in priority. It’s important to invest in either crafting the right message yourself or having someone do it for you. In doing so, you can attract your target audience, align your team, and put your company on the path to achieving your mission.
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