What is a brand manifesto, why you need it, and tips on writing your own!
READING TIME: 5 MINUTES
Do you know why you do the work you do each day? A great brand manifesto can help you crystallize and communicate it with clarity, confidence, and focus—setting exactly the right tone for your brand.
When you create a brand manifesto, you put yourself out there in a way that’s powerful but also vulnerable. You’re telling people exactly what they can expect (and what they can’t), what you stand for (and what you don’t), and why that matters in the world. And, unlike the watered-down mission statements you see everywhere, brand manifestos are memorable. They capture the imagination. They feel personal. They inspire.
If you haven’t created a brand manifesto yet, here’s a quick primer on what it is, why it matters, and how you can start writing your own.
What is a brand manifesto?
A brand manifesto is a “magnetized statement” that connects with people on a visceral level, and it carries tremendous impact per word. It doesn’t talk about your service or your product: instead, it conveys the spirit behind why you do the work you do.
As Chris Ames at Emotive Brand puts it, “A brand manifesto is the incandescent energy source propelling you forward. It’s inspired, creative, motivating, an appeal to pathos.” Your brand manifesto can both reflect and set the tone for your culture. It has the power to motivate employees and inspire customers.
Brand manifestos feel personal and aspirational. They take a stand. They convey your perspective on what’s what. And they make your audience a part of that story, inspiring them to rally behind your vision for the world, too. That’s the power of a great manifesto.
Example: Nike's Manifesto
Why do you need a brand manifesto?
You need a brand manifesto not just because it looks great on a poster (though that can be interesting). You need it because it tells everyone, from customers to employees, who you are and what you stand for. It gives them a glimpse into your cultural mindset.
Today, brand building is about more than just getting your name out there: it’s about creating a personal connection and leaving an impression with a compelling vision and vivid storytelling. Consumers now care less and less about the status symbols and slogans that have traditionally defined a brand, and more about its mission and the people behind it. Companies who know this, like Airbnb, Nike, and Warby Parker, attract the most capital, customers, and talent.
Your manifesto can be a lightning rod to the hearts of those around you: your clients, your employees, and anyone within striking distance. But it’s also a valuable tool for you. That’s because writing a manifesto spurs you to clarify your thinking and reconnect with the reasons you’re in business in the first place.
Where do you start?
Writing a brand manifesto can be either terrifying or thrilling, depending on how you look at it. But be prepared to put in the work: dig deep and get real about why you do what you do, why it matters to the world, and how you can capture that in a few simple yet powerful words. Here are some tips for getting started:
Start with why. If you haven’t already, check out Simon Sinek’s talk, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” His wisdom rings true: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” So when you write your brand manifesto, always start with that essential question: why? If you’re struggling, here’s a simple fill-in-the-blank formula: “We are X, we believe in Y, and that’s why we do/build Z.” That’s it: who are you, what do you care about, and why do you show up for it day after day?
Paint a picture of a different world. Manifestos convey a vision of the world as it could be. So what does that world look like, exactly? To find out, start by ranting: write down everything you don’t like about how things are right now. Then, flip it around: list everything you think should be different. With this simple exercise, you’ve started to build a vision of the world that people can believe in. That’s the beginning of your brand manifesto!
Make it your rallying cry. A brand manifesto is not a meek or watered-down statement. It is charged with energy and it doesn’t shrink back. Embrace this spirit and be bold with yours. I love how branding expert Mark di Somma explains it: “Don’t write a piece of prose. Write a rallying cry with: the anger of a placard; the commitment of a doctrine; the beauty of a story; the hope and excitement of a vivid dream; the sense of a philosophy and; the call to action of a direct response ad.”
Pull people into a story they’ll care about. You can’t get people to care about your brand manifesto if you don’t also care about them. Do the research it takes to understand your customers. This will help you speak to their challenges and aspirations, and use those insights to create a vision they can believe in. Finally, remember to write in a collective voice, using pronouns like “you,” “we,” and “them” to tell a story about who you are as a brand—as well as who we are as people.
Use words to stoke imagination. Use words that excite, engage, and spark emotion. You want to inspire action and awaken the imagination, so don’t be afraid to use poetic language, rhythm, alliteration, and metaphor. Finally, stick to an active voice that conveys the energy of your perspective.
I hope that these tips spark some ideas and get you excited about creating your manifesto! How will you change the world for the better? I'd love to hear about it.