What Is a Manifesto and Why is it A Must-Have for Your Brand?

What do you stand for?

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What do you stand for?

What do you stand against?

These questions are crucial in understanding where you position yourself in the world. The challenge is, it’s not always easy to articulate your answers to these questions. What do you stand for? What do you stand against? These are big, meaty questions that define and articulate a world view.

But don’t worry, we’ve figured this one out so you don’t have to.  There’s a clever tool that is simple in principal and only slightly more complicated in practice.  A manifesto.

Whether you’re an individual or a company, a manifesto is a way to state your purpose, goals, and what you stand for. 

Do you stand for your beliefs in a way that you’re willing to risk your career and reputation?

Do you stand for environmentalism in a way that you will tell your consumers not to buy your product?

WHAT IS A MANIFESTO?

According to Dictionary.com, a manifesto is a “public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

Although my favorite definition is from Luke Sullivan, author of the well-known advertising book,  “Hey, Whipple, squeeze this”:

“A manifesto is your brand’s Magna Carta, Rosetta Stone, and Declaration of Independence all rolled into one; it’s the halftime locker room speech given by the CEO; the words of the founder heard on the mountaintop before bringing down the stone tablets. Reading a great brand manifesto should make you wanna run out and try the product. You should feel the brand fire in your bones.”

Those are the brands we want to associate with. Those are the kinds of products we can relate to, that fire up our amygdala, that feel good in our gut.

For example, here is a manifesto from the car manufacturer, Fiat:

I’m not really into Fiat, but when I first read this, I felt it. It got me excited and I could feel that Fiat brand in my bones. When I read this manifesto, it makes me rethink, “Should I at least consider them? Am I a Fiat person?”

Having a manifesto does all the heavy lifting for you. It shares why you exist to ignite the brand fire in your customers’ bones. It answers crucial customer questions like, why do you exist? Why should I care? Why should I buy your product?

Beyond this, a manifesto even lets your employees know who you are and what they should represent as well. As you all know, once a brand becomes greater than its founder and core employees, relaying a consistent and succinct message to the people can be difficult. A manifesto can be the instant North Star lightning rod when onboarding new employees to clearly articulate what you stand for beyond your products and services.

BRANDS BUILT ON PURPOSE WILL WIN OVER THOSE THAT ARE NOT

Yep, you read that right. 

You can bet that in the next five years, if not sooner, brands built on purpose and beliefs will win out over those that are not. However, this is not a unique idea. 

Well-known author Daniel H Pink talks about how holistic thinkers and storytellers will get ahead over those that don’t prioritize purpose in his book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”. 

In “The Dream Society”, author Rolf Jensen details the future beyond the Information Age, in which consumers are more interested in the experiences and story behind a brand than the products themselves. Mind you, this was also written almost 20 years ago.   Jensen’s vision for a Dream Society has already come true. The only question to ask is are you going to be a part of it or be left behind?

So what role do marketers play in this?

Well, a recent study from Adweek analyzed how marketing has evolved since the pandemic. It shows that “68% of respondents said the role of marketing has been elevated in the past three months” and “business leaders are more responsible than ever for being change agents.” 

Marketers are more accountable than ever for driving the authentic communication of their brand purpose externally, which means that they need to be involved in ensuring that the brand purpose aligns with their company values internally, as well.

In other words, marketers need to make sure their companies walk the talk if they are going to get consumers on their side.

For instance, let’s look at PepsiCo.’s annual report. On page 2, they express that their vision is to become a global leader by winning with purpose and on page 4, they dedicate the entire page to list their progress in sustainability. This is coming from a large, worldwide manufacturer. What do you think they know? 

Perhaps it’s that brands must not only have a purpose but they must lead with purpose in order to appeal to customers, shareholders, and stakeholders.

HOW TRUST AFFECTS PURCHASING

Edelman is one of the largest communication companies in the world and every year for the last 20 years, they’ve been doing a report on trust called the Trust Barometer

It should come as no surprise that trust is integral to the future success of any business. According to the study, ethical drivers including integrity, dependability, and purpose are three times more important to company trust than their actual competence. (Competence defined as the ability to do and deliver on whatever it is you do) Three times more! This means that consumers care more about who you are than your actual abilities.

If this is true, then how are you presenting your brand to the world?

So, consumers expect us to be authentic. Why should we care?

Edelman also found that 87% of those surveyed agree that stakeholders, not shareholders, are most important to long-term company success. These are your employees and the outside world, including your customers, and these people are expecting you to act.  They are expecting you to say something. They are expecting you to share what you believe.

In fact, 64% of consumers are belief-driven buyers. Think about that. A majority of your consumers believe that their wallet is their vote, and they are voting for you to represent them and take a stand on societal issues. Now that’s trust.

YOUR LIZARD BRAIN IS A SALES FUNNEL

If the goal is to build trust, then let’s do it. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? 

In theory, no.  But we all have this little thing called our brain. Sorry, didn’t mean to call your brain “little.”  We all have this magnificent organ called our brain.  Our brains are powerful and complex but they also evolved over the years. And in the beginning, it was a little brain and really focused on our basic survival.  This part of our brain still exists and is often referred to as the “lizard brain”, otherwise known as the amygdala within the limbic system, which is in charge of the most primal urges driving our behavior and emotions. 

The amygdala is most commonly synonymous with processing fear, but it also determines what is significant based on what you care about in that particular moment, from a biological stance. More simply put, your instinctive emotions help you filter out what means the most to you. 

Applied to marketing, the lizard brain is a tough sales funnel to navigate. Did you know that the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing, yet the conscious mind can only process 50 bits per second? 

The amygdala is in charge of processing the emotional value of that stimuli. It says, “Why should I care?” 

Now think of when you’re scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform. We’re getting hit with every type of signal because these platforms are made to grab your attention. How do you think your brain reacts? It starts wide and quickly says “no, no, no, no” because that is in our pre-disposed nature. Our lizard brain funnels what’s most important to us. It’s designed to say “no” in order to protect us.

So what about if the world was rid of labels? How do you know which car to buy? 

Replace this image with running shoes, backpacks, socks. How do you know which one is most important to you? 

STORYTELLING AND THE BRAIN

The good news is, we can also use the brain’s built in functionality to our advantage.  The human brain has also been conditioned over the past 100,000 years to connect with stories. ‘As marketers, when we tell stories about ourselves or our brand, our brain naturally understands and connects.  The brain pauses and is receptive to our message.

Storytelling allows the listener to process your story in their own experiences, thus forming connections known as neural coupling. This allows for mirroring, meaning that our neurons fire in the same patterns as the storyteller. Not only that, but your brain also releases dopamine when engaged emotionally in a story, so it can better remember the instance in the future. 

It can better remember your brand in the future.

WHAT EVEN IS A BRAND?

If you prefer an in-depth explanation, I have another blog post titled, What is brand and branding? (link) but for the sake of repetition, I am going to bring up two important definitions. 

One is by branding expert, Marty Neumeier. I had the pleasure of interviewing him on episode 031 on the Baby Got Backstory podcast (link) and he emphasizes that branding is not a logo. It’s not a corporate identity system and it’s not your product. He defines a brand as a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. 

A very similar definition from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, states that a brand is what people say when you’re not in the room. 

You can’t appeal to everyone. In reality, if you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.

- Marc Gutman

So deep down, how are you making customers feel about your company? What do they say about your products when you’re not around? Or your mission statement? Do they believe it’s authentic? 

Well, the best way for people to see your point of view is to tell them what you truly think. Consumers may or may not agree with you, but at least they know where you stand. 

The best way to do that is by using a business tool called a manifesto.

BUILDING A MANIFESTO

If at this point you’re interested in writing a manifesto, the good news is that we have it all figured out for you. 

In fact, we have a freebie called the Perfect Manifesto Builder worksheet.

Download the Manifesto Builder Now

Get your Perfect Manifesto Builder with Bonus Mad Lib Builder AND video help for FREE!

 

If you join us, you’ll also get a bonus resource where you can find out what Mad Libs mean to us and how integral they’ve been in writing manifestos. Here, I am going to give you the exact questions I use for my clients when creating a manifesto. The best part? All you need is your phone.

So when you begin to write your manifesto with these resources, how can you get your audience excited without sounding arrogant? It’s not enough to try to beat people over the head with your mission, you need to convince them to enroll. You need to give them that feeling, that anthem, that excitement when they rush out after halftime, ready to be part of your brand. 

Here’s a little checklist to help you get there:

Manifesto Checklist

  • Are you inspired?
  • Is it bold?
  • Does it make you feel something?
  • Is it uncomfortable or even scary?
  • Does it talk to your target audience?

When you read your manifesto, does it excite you? Is it bigger than you? 

Most importantly, is it uncomfortable? When I wrote the Wildstory manifesto about apres, it was scary to show the world. It was scary to rally around. 

I encourage you to lean into that feeling because that is where you’ll find gold. 

YOUR ORIGIN STORY

Another area of insight when writing your manifesto is your origin story. 

Where do you come from? How far have you come?

Most businesses are founded out of one or all of three key drivers:

  • Inspiration
  • Desperation
  • Frustration

With Wildstory, I tell the story of how I was inspired to start this company and why it’s important to love my work and help other businesses have purpose. I also believe that as business owners, we have the power to do something great and impact the world.

Look, there’s no one right answer. There’s just your answer and why you think it’s right. Explore your truth, define your unique perspective, and above all else, have fun.

- Marc Gutman

So what’s your origin story? What do you stand for? 

I challenge you to think about what you stand for beyond what you do or what your industry does. Personally, ask yourself, what is your worldview? And then think about your family. These things are not mutually exclusive; they’re all related to how we do business and show up in our business.

These key drivers can resurface core emotions and values that will remind you of the foundation on which your company stands. Steve Jobs, the mythical founder and leader of Apple, once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

WHAT IF I’M NOT A GOOD WRITER? 

So now you have all these fantastic resources and your mind has been brewing with amazing ideas for your manifesto. The stars are aligning and your vision is clearer than ever. There’s only one small problem.

“I’m not a writer.”

First, I want to assure you that your manifesto is not about being a great writer. Your manifesto is about vulnerability and finding your “why” so that your employees and world around you can understand what matters to your business and ultimately, form that shared connection with you. 

Of course, you can always work with a copywriter or different agency that will help you out, but if that doesn’t interest you, then you’re in luck.

I present to you, the visual manifesto.

At the top left is my personal manifesto, but we have Wildstory’s and our clients’ shown as examples as well. These were actually created with our bonus freebie Mad Lib exercise that you can grab here.

The best part is that this visual format is, well, visual! Which makes it perfect to display in a variety of formats.

WHERE CAN I USE MY MANIFESTO?

Here at Wildstory, we proudly display our manifesto everywhere because we want people to know where we stand and find alignment with our brand. It’s front and center on the main navigation page of our website and on our menu if you ever want to refer back to it.

Here are some more ideas:

How to Use Your Manifesto

  • On your website
  • Emailing prospects/proposals/capabilities
  • Advertising
  • Script for your brand video
  • Brand book
  • Onboarding new employees
  • Physical space/office/trade show
  • Packaging
  • Get people excited about your brand and your mission!

What’s great about the manifesto is that when you show who you are, it’s easier for others to decide if they’re a good fit for you. 

When you put it in your advertising or on your website, you excite consumers. When you put it in your proposals or as part of your tradeshow booth, you entice clients or partners.

But what would arguably be most important is educating your team of employees. 

You can do this by printing it in a large format for your office, placing it on a conference room window, or handing it out to employees as plaques. Express it however you please. I say this because it means nothing to tell everyone who you are if your brand doesn’t actually embody the values. You need to ensure that what people get is what they signed up for. 

A perfect example of an open manifesto for both employees and customers to see is Lululemon. 

The bag calls out to you its values. Also, visual manifestos look super appealing as a design. If this is out of your budget, get creative! You can print your manifesto as the stuffer within your packaging or as a sticker. 

These are just some ideas to fire up your creativity. Regardless of how you decide to present your brand, the important thing is that you get people animated and recruit the right ones for your tribe. 

YOU CANNOT APPEAL TO EVERYONE

Writing your manifesto can seem like a daunting task. It’s easy to get stuck on, “I need to get this right.”

Look, there’s no one right answer. There’s just your answer and why you think it’s right. Explore your truth, define your unique perspective, and above all else, have fun. 

As I said before, sharing your truth can be scary. Maybe there are things you haven’t shared in your business because you feel like it will alienate some customers. You can’t appeal to everyone. In reality, if you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. If you are too broad, no one will identify with your message. With that said, what do you genuinely believe in? What hill are you prepared to die on? 

By telling your customers who you are, you tell them who they are. There is power in that. 

These are companies that have identified their power and used their impact for good. The companies shown above have all banded together to boycott Facebook to take a stand against hate speech and injustice. They know who they are, and what’s better, they are willing to show it through action. To some, taking a public stance like this can be scary, but it’s authentic. 

Think back to the belief-driven buyer. If you are The North Face and you have pledged to boycott Facebook, you are telling that buyer that they are aligned with that mission as well. There will be people who don’t agree with that mission and may choose not to buy from North Face again, and that is okay. 

If anything, that means you’re on the right path. Why? 

Because once you attract your kind of customers, you’ll begin to form your community. These are the customers we all dream of, the ones that are our friends, the ones that do the selling for us, the ones that are willing to almost, if not literally, tattoo our brand logo on their body. Equally as important, you will repel the wrong customers and get rid of the noise. We don’t want to waste our time and resources on that anyway. Everyone knows exactly who you’re for and who you’re against. It’s like magic.

All in all, if you remember anything on how to build a manifesto, remember this: Don’t be right, be you.

SUPER AWESOME MANIFESTOS

As we close, I want to leave you with some awesome manifestos that may ignite that brand fire in your bones. 

If you remember the Think Different campaign from Apple, there were pictures of Amelia Earhart, Picasso, Einstein, and other icons. Because I own an Apple product and because they told me who they are, all of a sudden, I am that too. I’m a crazy one. I’m a genius. They make tools for people like me because I’m changing the world.

This is amazing from a company that sells outdoor equipment and connects it with a bigger mission. 

If you haven’t noticed the pattern, I just showed you the manifestos for companies that sell computers, outdoor equipment, and denim. 

What do these all have in common? They are all inanimate objects. They are just tools and accessories. Just plastic and metal and fabric.

But you felt something. 

Through story. 

That’s powerful.

Now I challenge you to use your power, tell your story, and ask yourself:

What do I stand for?

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up next:

What Is Brand Strategy and Why Do You Need It?

“Ta-da!” I had just finished the pitch of my career.   

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