Building a strong brand can take time. You have to first sort out your brand identity, create a logo, define your goals and then start spreading the word.
But these days, consumers, employees and business partners want more from brands. They don’t just want to know that you have a top-quality offering—they want to know why your brand does what it does and what it stands for.
A brand manifesto provides the answers to this question, and more. This article will explain what a brand manifesto is, why it matters for your branding efforts, and provide tips and brand identity examples for how to write one.
What is a brand manifesto?
A brand manifesto is a public declaration that explains the motivation behind a brand and what sort of change it hopes to affect through its mission.
A manifesto isn’t supposed to just be an informative statement. It’s also a call-to-action meant to inspire others to unite around a shared cause, regardless of their relationship to your business. It’s this specific actionability that makes the manifesto different from, say, a mission or values statement. Let’s take a look at some strong brand manifesto statements.
First, take a look at The Body Shop’s brand manifesto. Because of the short sentences and poem-like format, it reads more like a personal speech or an inspiring talk. It doesn’t have to be written in this structure, though it is a popular way of narrating a brand manifesto and inspiring others to join a cause or take action.
The Body Shop begins by declaring their intention:
“We have a lot to say, but the real backbone of The Body Shop is our manifesto. Read it, memorize it. Write it on your walls, on your bodies, send it to your friends. This is for all of us, and it’s a call to arms.”
For another example, listen to a famous manifesto like the one featured in Apple’s “Think Different” ad. These examples deliver short, emotionally-driven sentences and big pauses, which gives each statement room to sink in before you move onto the next.
Why a brand manifesto is important for your business
When first outlining your company’s brand strategy, it requires a close examination of your mission and goals. In the end, you’ll have a powerful mission statement and an inspiring vision statement to share with the world. Manifestos aren’t just summaries of these statements, rather, they are a tool to amplify them to draw others to your cause.
The driving force behind a brand manifesto is taking action and standing for something bigger than your brand. According to a study from Accenture Research, 63% [of customers] are buying goods and services based on companies that reflect their personal values and beliefs. Furthermore, 74% crave transparency into how companies source their products, ensure safe working conditions and their stance on important issues.
Now more than ever, customers seek brands that uphold the same values and stand for something that’s meaningful to them. It’s not just customers that feel drawn to brands that share their values and causes. Brands can use their manifestos to connect with like-minded business partners and attract better, more devoted employees.
How to write a brand manifesto
01. Make it read like a story
In order to really get your point across and illustrate the purpose behind your brand, the first thing to do is jot down the answers to the following questions:
What is your larger purpose in this world?
What do you believe in and stand for?
Why do you do what you do?
What are your mission’s goals?
Can you achieve your mission on your own?
By answering these questions, you’ll have the major talking points for your manifesto.
Next, start writing it. Your aim is to have something that feels and looks like a speech you might give at a conference or as a commencement address at a graduation. Depending on who your audience is, you can also try writing it as a letter. This is the approach Saipem uses in the example below.
If you tackle it with the mindset that these are your words and not some ad or piece of marketing, the writing will flow more naturally. And the more conversational and honest it feels, the stronger the emotional impact it’ll have on whoever reads it.
02. Tie your brand to the bigger mission
Remember: a brand manifesto is not the same thing as your mission statement, vision statement, or values. While you can certainly place them all on the same page of your website, you should create a separate manifesto.
This is your chance to demonstrate how your brand is contributing to something more than its bottom line. Spire, for instance, is a global data and analytics company, and their brand manifesto briefly summarizes how its customers leverage predictive data related to the earth. But this is more than just an explanation of Spire’s offering. It demonstrates how its customers are empowered to, “address our planet’s toughest challenges with deliberate speed”.
It then correlates their clients’ work with ways in which they’re helping to heal the planet:
“Where economies flourish to support thriving families and safer communities. Where no child goes hungry, and no wild creature is driven to extinction.”
It doesn’t matter what your brand’s mission is, be it big or small. It could be as simple as bringing more joy to people’s lives. Just as long as you let prospective customers know what you’re about and why they should invest time, energy, or money into your brand and your cause.
03. Set your goal
This is a bit different from the goal-setting exercises you go through for your business. While it would be great if you could set a SMART goal for your brand manifesto, it’s not always possible. So work with what you have.
For example, Dove’s manifesto/pledge has spelled out a number of measurable goals:
Here are some of their promises and goals:
“Our campaigns reflect the population’s diversity.”
“Zero digital distortion of women.”
“Educate 20 million more young people around the world on body confidence and self-esteem by 2020.”
Don’t feel pressure to include numbers or unrealistic goals if you know they can’t be achieved or they weren’t what you set out to do. There are plenty of great brand manifesto examples that don’t do this.
04. Add a call-to-action
A manifesto instills brand trust in customers and extends their loyalty around the business. It can also be used to attract employees and partners who want to fight for a similar cause and take an active role in contributing to it. Whoever your brand manifesto reaches, it should include a call-to-action.
It doesn’t need to explicitly say “Join our cause!”, but the message of your manifesto should resonate so much with whoever reads it that they feel passionate enough to do something. To buy from you. To apply to work on your team. Or even donate to a shared passion or cause.
Lesaffre Group’s manifesto is a good example of an indirect call-to-action. Most of the manifesto explains the challenge of feeding billions of people and how fermentation is the solution to that potentially looming crisis.
Towards the end of the manifesto is when Lesaffre suggests that it’s going to take more than them to fix the problem:
“Today, microorganisms and ingredients constitute a new wide field to explore, to open up, and exciting boundaries to push. Faced with such challenges, we cannot progress alone. It is through our teams’ passion and commitment that we can enhance our partnerships.”
At the bottom, it opens up it even further:
“It is together with our customers, partners, researchers, and citizens that every day we reveal the infinite potential of microorganisms. This is the key to success.”
This is a good way to handle it. It doesn’t feel forceful or preachy. It simply appeals to others who share their concerns and may be just as passionate about getting involved.
05. Speak in first and second person
Listen to any TED Talk or commencement speech, and you’ll get a good sense for how a brand manifesto should sound. Those esteemed speakers don’t go on stage and talk about themselves in the third-person. They say “I” and “we” and they address the audience as a collective “you”.
It’s not necessarily because they’re trying to be informal. They could very well be addressing a serious topic in a formal setting. However, it’s much easier to listen to a storyteller or lecturer when it sounds like a one-on-one conversation instead of a corporate document.
Glo’s brand manifesto page is a good example because it shows you the contrast in language used for the vision and mission statements compared with the brand manifesto.
At the top of their manifesto, Glo outlines the following:
“VISION — A world that comes together to heal.
MISSION — To connect people through self-care.”
The manifesto is summed up as:
“OUR WHY — We connect people through self-care so that, together, we can heal ourselves and our planet.”
It then immediately jumps into the full manifesto, addressing the reader as “you, the seeker”. Without this kind of familiarity and warmth, it would be hard for readers to connect on an emotional level.
06. Stay consistent with brand tone
Regardless of your brand manifesto’s style, it should always maintain the same tone and carry your brand voice throughout. Consistency is key and should be considered for the words you choose, and the overall visual identity of your brand. With a clear brand style guide you can outline all of your brand assets, including your manifesto in one definitive place.
Here’s a great example of brand consistency in Moleskine’s manifesto. Moleskine creates paper and writing products. Its brand manifesto is clearly representative of this.
For starters, the image on the right is the perfect visual representation of the beauty of handwriting. The written manifesto itself has an artist’s flair:
“We celebrate the solemn, thoughtful and meditative gesture of the pen gliding across a blank page; the romance of crafting a personal story to record a lifelong memory and leave a distinguishing mark in all its unique beauty.”
It’s not every day that you find two statements paired together with a semicolon on a web page. This is a more popular linguistic tool in narrative writing than copywriting.
Small details like these that communicate a lot about who you are and what you want to accomplish will make a big difference in how your brand manifesto is received.
07. Be authentic
At the core of your brand manifesto, authenticity and transparency are key. It is an opportunity to shed light on your brand’s motivations and enable your customers to get a thorough understanding.
For example, we know from Accenture’s report that 62% of consumers want brands to have a cultural, social, political, or environmental cause they’re invested in. But you can’t force your brand to tout any cause, especially if it has nothing to do with your business. Nor should you jump on a cause just because it’s trendy to do so at the moment.
Let’s use the example of Opal, a digital mindfulness app. Their brand manifesto highlights the pros and cons of spending time online and, specifically, in apps. This is the problem Opal set out to address with its distraction-blocking app.
The manifesto takes it a step further:
“Every one of us deserves control over our lives — and our time.
With more control over how we spend our time, we can become our best selves. Whether that is a better friend, lover, parent, musician, financier, athlete, or chef, that is up to us.
When we take back control over our screens, we will have a powerful tool to fulfill our potential each and every day.”
While Opal addresses the negatives of excessive app use, it doesn’t take its manifesto to an unrelated extreme, like advocating for an end to online bullying. It stays within the realm of what it does and what it’s capable of doing.
Again, if you’re feeling the pressure of trying to set a lofty goal, just look at the examples we’ve shown you today. These companies have written brand manifestos and selected causes that are well within the realm of possibility. Stick to what you can do and what you’re truly passionate about and others will follow you.
08. Look good
Now that you’ve crafted the perfect brand manifesto, spend some time making it look as good as it sounds. Keeping things aligned with your brand style guide, which includes your brand colors and typography scheme, will make your manifesto not only aesthetically pleasing, but also consistent.
For an example of a brand manifesto that is effectively designed, Kia’s manifesto includes a one-minute video version at the top of the page. The rest of the page carries on with the story, explaining how movement inspires ideas. The large font size, strong color contrast, bolding of critical phrases, and the spacing between paragraphs all contribute to a good reading experience.