Why I’m Not Sold on Apple’s Mission Statement

As any new manager does when they enter a job way over their heads, Tim Cooks cautiously made little tweaks to the company. The whole world was watching him and any monumental change could cause a seismic shift in peoples trust in Apple’s brand. So Cooks thought changing the mission statement would be a good idea.

I mean it’s only an invaluable mission statement right? And the old mission statement was from the 1980’s – so what better way to show the company coming of era right? Wrong! 

Cooks first mistake was the timing of the change. There is no worse way to shatter customers trusts that the management change won’t affect the business than changing what the business was founded on. This shows a disregard for both the company’s history and it’s values.

According to the Economist, Steve Jobs mission statement from the 1980’s was,

“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

This was an aspirational statement that covered Apple’s technical objectives and purpose for being in business. It was also future proof – which is no small feat for a tech company’s mission statement.

Aside from this decision to change the mission statement, the real crime was the new mission statement itself. Hold onto your seats, it is quite a shocker:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

I have been rereading this mission statement for about a minute not sure where to start. There are just so. Many. Things. Wrong. With. It. 

We Sell Sunshine

Don’t get me wrong, it is great when a company is in love with itself. If management has strong faith in the company and is willing to put a lot of effort into it, then they usually provide a fantastic service. But when a company uses it’s mission statement to say they sell sunshine, christmas mornings and all that is good in the world, it just comes off as insincere. 

Perhaps Macs or the best personal computers in the world. Maybe Apple did lead the digital music revolution. And the mobile phone revolution. And the mobile media revolution. But your average Joe Blogs probably doesn’t feel this way. And even more importantly: he probably doesn’t care.

We Sell a Marketer’s Dream

Marketing ingenuity is great. With people having goldfish attention spans, it makes sense to find more creative ways to sell your product. But people should steer well clear of the mission statement as free advertising space. 

Marketing101 teaches the golden rule of advertising space is know where your target customers are. The people reading Apple’s mission statement probably fit into one of these three categories:

  • Apple employees with the mission statement plastered in every tea room
  • Investors or prospective investors
  • Apple enthusiasts

In this case, using the mission statement to promote your products means you’re preaching to the converted or uninterested. This is where I get genuinely confused about Apple’s mission statement. Did Cooks believe someone considering buying an iPhone would reach the mission statement to make a decision? And if so, did he really think a mission statement could influence the decision?

We Sell iPods ©2001

Another big no-no is the mission statement is not future proof. Not in the slightest. Tech products have a relatively short shelf life. They are continuously being replaced by something shinier and faster. Although Apple tends to reinvent the same products with new updates. 

However this does not allow for new product lines or the very real possibility that product lines will be stopped. Tim Cooks admitted that the iPod is a declining business. Furthermore tablets and laptops are at war with one another. But eventually both of these could be replaced by smart objects. And what do you think of becoming of iTunes? In a few years, half of Apple’s mission statement could be irrelevant.

Perhaps after reading this, you have concluded your mission statement is similar to Apple’s. Here are some common mistakes when writing mission statements and how to fix them. Do you think this mission statement deserves the title of the worst on the Internet? Comment what you think down below. 

Update: Apple have now removed this updated mission statement from their investor relations website.  It used to be under their FAQs, but is no longer there. The statement is used on the bottom of Apple press releases, which seems very appropriate given how product-focused the statement is.  

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