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This article reflects on the value of a business mantra from a corporate perspective and breaks down its implications on Corporate Identity (including mission statement and branding).

Let’s look at the new era of enterprises, entrepreneurs, and professionals and think beyond products & services to focus on meaningfulness and make a positive contribution to the environment.

The Business Mantra reflects the higher purpose of a company. It encapsulates the emotional and social benefits of the organization based on human motives.

The main focus is a positive contribution to people and the environment.

Many contemporary companies, start-ups, and new entrepreneurs exemplify how to live by a business-related mantra. They connect their business goals to a higher purpose.

As one prominent example, companies like Google show why a connected, transparent, and well-integrated Business Mantra is becoming the basis for long-term business success.

So, where did this movement come from?

In this article, we will take a closer look at these three perspectives:

Why are companies bringing a “new meaning to work”?

What does it mean for traditional organizational structures?

What are the implications for the  Corporate Identity (CI)?

Corporations are going through a cultural transformation to bring a new sense of meaning to work: Why?

Today’s ongoing corporate transformation to change into more human-focused enterprises with human-centered products & services call for a reinvention of work. This is mainly related to the spiritual and philosophical perspective.

We’re bringing a new sense of meaning to work.

The 2019 Global Human Capital Trends study from Deloitte Insights “Leading the social enterprise: Reinvent with a human focus” talks about meaning at work as:

“an aspirational driver that seeks to support others in making a difference that matters and motivates people to continuously do better.”

The report emphasizes the importance of connecting the business mantra to the workforce, stakeholders, and clients.

So it refers to the importance of “bringing a refreshed sense of meaning to work.” It defines the purpose statement as an invaluable ingredient to a successful company.

Sources of meaning in the context of work

While reading last week, I came across an interesting interview between Dr. Scott Barry Kaufmann and Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski (organizational psychologist & professor at the Yale School of Management).

They spoke on “The Psychology Podcast” in an episode about “Finding your Calling at Work.”

In the podcast, Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski identifies four sources of meaning, which is based on her research about the spectrum of human experience in the context of work:

  • Self: motivation, values, and experiences

  • Social environment: groups, teams, communities, and family

  • Work: how work is designed and what is the mission

  • Spirituality: “The work that you do has a greater contribution to the world beyond yourself…”

Dr. Wrzesniewski highlights spirituality as a source of meaning. She identifies it as a key aspect of creating business-related meaning.

These types of behavioral studies are the starting point to defining a higher corporate purpose. Understanding the motives that drive us to go beyond the average and continuously want to do better is the baseline of every business mantra.

Key performance drivers for employees: Business-related purpose versus passion

In the book “Great at Work: How Top Performers Work Less and Achieve More,” Dr. Morten T. Hansen (Professor of Management at the University of California, Berkeley) discusses results from a survey of over 5,000 employees.

In one key section of the survey, Dr. Hansen analyzes purpose versus passion as key drivers of employees’ work performance.

Some of the key takeaways from the survey are that purpose clearly overtakes passion, and passion alone doesn’t motivate good work performance.

The stars were those who had both – passion and purpose.

“Purpose mobilizes us to go beyond average. We become dedicated when we feel we’re making contributions to a larger purpose beyond our ego.”

Because if there is a genuine and well-integrated business mantra – a higher purpose – it will be the daily reminder and motivator for everybody to go out there to continue delivering great work results.

The purpose is the ingredient that drives us to complete tasks beyond service or a product offer. The contribution to the bigger picture is key to nurture a healthy corporate culture.

Purpose motivates, energizes, and mobilizes beyond working hours and salaries.

So at the end of the day, that’s what drives all of us – a profession that provides a source of meaning to us.

We become dedicated when we feel we’re making contributions to a larger purpose beyond our ego.

More Reasons to redefine work to a more human-centered experience

Further results of the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends study from Deloitte Insights (which are in line with the results of other similar research studies) report on the detrimental effects of digital transformation and new work environments on employee wellbeing and health.

Companies have been concerned about this emerging issue. One dimension to their reaction has been to redefine the employee experience into a more human-centered experience.

This results in initiatives to redesign workplaces to fulfill human needs (based on human behavioral sciences).

Cultural Change Programs

The initiatives to redesign work include a cultural change to bring more meaning and purpose to work and programs that promote employee health and mobilizes talent for more productivity.

These initiatives’ ultimate goal is to increase productivity and cultivate valuable human capital in a globally competitive environment.

Here are four examples of programs to promote employee health and mobilize talent in organizations:

Business Mantra Implications on Corporate Identity & Branding

Transforming into a purpose-driven business is a multi-layered task and affects the entire organization.

As a marketing and communication strategist, I like to highlight the Corporate Identity and Branding perspective in this part of the article.

Reinventing the corporate cultural identity in the context of purpose calls for an update of the traditional Corporate Identity (CI 1.0) at an early stage of the cultural change process. Think CI 2.0.

In the infographic below, I compare CI 1.0 with CI 2.0, including new components of CI 2.0.

The nucleus of Corporate Identity (CI) 2.0 is the predefined business mantra. Which is encapsulated by the CI and its components as transmitters

Summary of the most important differences between CI 1.0 & CI 2.0:

Corporate Identity 1.0

  1. CI based on a marketing strategy
  2. CI is implemented as a communication concept
  3. CI (internal perspective) ≠ Corporate Image (external perspective)
  4. Brand development primarily executed by marketing & promoted via image campaigns to target audiences
  5. Mainly based on marketing & sales related goals
  6. Mission statement communicated by top management & marketing (top-down)
  7. Branding mirrors desired image – aiming to raise brand value and increase sales

Corporate Identity 2.0

  1. CI reflects genuine business purpose based on human motives
  2. CI integrated as a holistic management concept
  3. CI (internal perspective) = Corporate Image (external perspective)
  4. Branding based on mantra which gets developed by employees. Branding primarily promoted through “Behavioral Branding” from employees as brand ambassadors
  5. Primary goal is to establish meaning & purpose which results in Sales
  6. Mission statement is
    • identified by upper management,
    • developed & formulated by employees,
    • composed, orchestrated & integrated (bottom-up) by e.g. Marketing, HR (Cultural Development).
  7. Branding is extension and carrier of business mantra, aiming for sustainable image through authenticity by promoting credibility & reliability

Mission Statement: Traditional vs. Contemporary

The definition of the term Mission Statement often includes terms like “purpose,” “philosophy,” and “values.”

In many cases, these mission statements have been developed to promote the desired image.

But have these mission statements been truly authentic and reflected in actions beyond marketing?

The Corporate Social Responsibility as a Marketing Instrument

One example is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which has been an effective marketing tool for companies:

CSR initiatives are often promoted as one pillar or an integral part of the corporate mission statement(s). Their purpose is to “promote” an image of a company that contributes to a “higher” purpose.

That’s a great effort for social contribution – but only if the engagement is based on genuine social responsibility awareness.

Unfortunately, CSR has been in the media focus in the context of corporate hypocrisy in the past years. The subject matter of investigations is often focused on genuine CSR motives vs. Corporate Hypocrisy.

This example reflects the importance of an “authentic” business mantra based on a genuine purpose and not an “image” based on a marketing strategy.

Because the authenticity of a corporation reflected by actions representing credibility and reliability are the base of long-term market positioning and invaluable currencies – today more than ever.

Corporate Authenticity & Mission Statements

I mentioned Google at the beginning of the article as an example of a well-integrated business mantra.

Let´s have a look at their mission statement, reflecting business mantra:

“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

When searching for information via Google, we find universally accessible information, no doubt.

And when looking at the content standards of Google, we find that the “usefulness” of information is an important ranking factor listed in many different content requirements of Google, e.g., Google SEO starter guide.

The business mantra of Google is: democratizing information for anyone, anywhere at any time.

But some traditional companies fail to live up to their mission statements.

Here are 4 critical success factors:

  • Cultural change

    The integration and establishment of an authentic overall corporate mantra is a deep cultural change that requires top management buy-in and promotion.

  • Secure a budget

    Short-cuts in budgets are often the reason for failing cultural change initiatives. This is the case when the awareness of the emerging priority to the initiative is missing. Building awareness to secure a budget is an important step to be taken.

  • Committed to the mission

    Employees of each operational level need to be committed to the mission. That requires comprehension of the higher purpose and personal identification with the purpose statement. In order to accomplish this goal, everybody in the organization has to play an active role in the development – to own it.

  • Positive mission statements

    Mission statement(s) nowadays need to be based on a genuine purpose, characterized by positive actions, e.g., with employees and social engagements.

The main success factor of contemporary organizations is composing the official mission statement based on the internally culturally-rooted business mantra. Members of the organization understand it, identify with it, and live by it.

One of the positive effects is that clients, prospects, and business partners perceive the organization as an authentic, reliable, and credible corporation and business partner.

Business Mantra implications on Branding

Developments like Emotional Branding by Marc Gobe aim to win the hearts of customers rather than minds.

As one result in the past years, for most brand specialists and agencies, the “branding mantra” has become one important success factor for strategic branding initiatives.

From a business management perspective, I like to think that a branding mantra is the business mantra’s extension to work as a carrier, a broadcaster.

How to move from functional brand purpose to establishing a higher brand purpose

According to Philip Kotler’s article, “Branding: From Purpose to Beneficence,” (American Author, Marketing Consultant & Professor of International Marketing Kellogg School of Management), too many companies believe brand building work is done once the brand’s name and logo are established.

But setting the brand’s identity comes secondary to the brand’s purpose. But the “purpose” that Kotler refers to is positioning and differentiation.

Later in the article, he refers to David Aaker, a brand-building specialist, and underlines the importance of going beyond a functional purpose to establish a higher purpose with emotional and social benefits.

The development of a purpose-based branding is one streamline to an overall cultural business mantra initiative.

As one example of a purpose-based branding development approach, I’d like to refer to “Kotler’s 6-Step conceptual model” below:

infographic brand identity / brand mantra / brand beneficence / authentic marketing / by Philip Kotler

Ready to break down outdated structures and promote cultural change? Let’s start here:

10 Preconditions to Successfully Implement a Business Mantra:

  • Define the Business Mantra with top management to get buy-in
  • Develop key pillars of the Business Mantra with employees
  • Integrate & establish the Mantra with a bottom-up approach for widespread ownership & identification
  • Connect the Mantra to each operational unit to establish awareness about the impact & contribution to the overall business purpose
  • Let employees develop concepts on how to integrate the Mantra into their work scope
  • Hand over responsibility for their work scope to employees
  • Give employees room to develop their own effective working methods
  • Redefine outdated processes to support cultural change integration

What are your experiences?

I would like to hear your thoughts, questions, or any remarks — leave them in a comment.

Do you work in organization development, Human Resources, or Cultural Change Management and have an upcoming project to develop and integrate a Global Business Mantra?

For further reading, I would like to refer you to some newer developments — they’ve been gaining a lot of steam lately, so maybe you’ve heard or read about them already. These ideas are a natural output of well-integrated and understood Business Mantras within a corporation: check out “authentic marketing” (by PowerReviews Blog) and authentic leadership (by Forbes).

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