The Worst Mission Statement Of All Time
It might not mean that much to you, but 55 Regent Street is one of London’s most iconic retail addresses. It’s the building facing Piccadilly Circus, formed of a wedge between Regent Street and Piccadilly.
It was the department store Swan & Edgar until 1982. Later it was Tower Records, then the Virgin Megastore, until that become Zavvi. Now, it’s a clothes shop called The Sting. And in the window of The Sting, on the Piccadilly side, is displayed the worst mission statement of all time.
This window affords The Sting an extraordinary opportunity to communicate with hundreds of thousands of people a day. And they have chosen to do so with this message. It’s a kind of manifesto. A statement, in place of a traditional mannequin display, carried on a backlit board, that’s seemingly meant to explain the shop, where it comes from and what it stands for.
It’s absolutely terrible.
Let’s go through it:
THE STING WAS BORN FROM THE SIXTIES, BOUTIQUES, HIPPIES, POP MUSIC, FREEDOM.
I see. Your shop espouses the progressive, free-living values of the 1960s.
NAMED AFTER THE 1973 FILM ‘THE STING’
If I can just stop you there for a moment. You have literally just said that your shop was ‘born from the Sixties’ and inspired by hippies and boutiques. If you wanted to name it after a film, you could have chosen Blow-Up. Or Performance. Or Easy Rider. Barbarella. The Graduate. Films from and reflecting aspects of the culture of the 1960s, the decade that you said a few words ago The Sting was born from. But instead, your shop is named The Sting, after The Sting, a film from 1973, which is set in 1936.
STARRING PAUL NEWMAN AND ROBERT REDFORD.
Yes. They were in 1973’s The Sting.
FUNNY, CHEEKY, SMART, FREE, NO NONSENSE, CODE OF HONOUR AND UNEXPECTED SUCCESS ARE STILL THE PARALLELS THAT TYPIFY AND APPEAL TO THE BRAND.
OK, I’m going to ask you to pop your coat off and pull up a chair because we have an awful lot to get through here. To review:
FUNNY, CHEEKY, SMART, FREE
All right, this seems to be a list of adjectives intended to contribute to an overall impression of the brand.
Now, you see, ‘no nonsense’ is pretty much the direct opposite of the other things you just said. ‘Funny’, ‘cheeky’, ‘smart’ and ‘free’ suggest charisma, a kind of creative vivacity. ‘No nonsense’ suggests severity, austerity and rejection of the frivolous. You’re trying to personify the brand — OK, well, picture someone who is funny, cheeky, free…and no-nonsense. It’s hard, isn’t it? So what adjectives are next?
CODE OF HONOUR AND UNEXPECTED SUCCESS
Not ones, is the answer. Not adjectives. Having abandoned consistency of meaning, you’ve now abandoned consistency of form. ‘Code of Honour and Unexpected Success’ are not descriptive. They make no sense in this list. ‘Funny, cheeky, smart, free, no nonsense, code of honour and unexpected success’ is a train that hits an obstacle on the track, jumps the rails and then becomes a boat. It’s a spew of raw thought, scribbled on a notepad in a meeting, that has somehow, unrefined, become public branding. Also, why is the success unexpected? Of course, I’m assuming at this point that this list is intended to describe the brand, but we haven’t yet reached the end of the sentence.
ARE STILL THE PARALLELS THAT TYPIFY AND APPEAL TO THE BRAND.
The parallels. These are still he parallels that typify and appeal to the brand. The parallels. If something is a parallel, it is analogous to something else. Why are these things parallels? What are they parallel with? In what sense is ‘cheeky’ a ‘parallel’? What is ‘code of honour’ parallel to? What are you talking about? Why have you chosen this word? There is no dictionary definition of ‘parallel’ that can even remotely explain its use in this context. You might just as well have said ‘…code of honour and unexpected success are the soffits that typify and appeal to the brand’. Or ‘the langoustines that typify and appeal to the brand’. Or any other word at all.
THE STING IS HEADSTRONG, WITH ITS OWN VISIONS AND ITS OWN PERSONALITY.
OK, though you might mean ‘vision’, as ‘visions’ suggests a possible brain injury, which would at least explain much of the above.
THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED WITH PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE.
Eh? What can? Being headstrong with one’s own visions and personality can only be achieved with patience and perseverance? Why can personality only be achieved with patience? And isn’t being headstrong part of personality?
THE STING HAS CHARACTER. THAT’S WHY WE’RE PROUD OF THE STING.
But you are The Sting.
ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE CONFIDENCE.
I thought it could only be achieved with patience and perseverance.
THE STING FOUNDED AUGUST 27th 1982.
Born from the Sixties, named after a 1973 film set in 1936 and founded in 1982.
The Sting is a Dutch company, so the statement may have been written by someone whose first language is not English. But the Dutch are good at English. And in any case, if your mission statement is going to read by hundreds of thousands of people in England, it would seem sensible for it to cross the desk of at least one employee whose first language is English.
I don’t know how this sign happened. I don’t understand how people sat around a table, read it through and approved it. But someone did approve it. Someone painstakingly assembled it and displayed this, the worst mission statement of all time. I’m sure someone, somewhere within The Sting organisation knew this was absolutely terrible but said nothing, because everyone else seemed so pleased with it and someone senior signed it off. But it’s not too late. The words can be changed. You can still go to the boss and tell him. Tell him it needs to be changed because it’s the worst mission statement of all time.
All it takes is a little confidence.