If you haven’t played the game Draw Something yet, it’s essentially a digital, online Pictionary, where you are given words to draw and send to friends. What’s fascinating about the game is that in many cases, what we draw isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the dictionary definition of a word. Quite the contrary – we tend to draw based on memes, on concepts and ideas that help our brains figure out difficult words.

Think about the myriad ways you could draw mouse as a word. What images do you come up with? Which resonates more? Some people would put down the fuzzy gray critter, while others would draw a computer mouse. What I’ve noticed in my own play is that I draw using imagery, icons, and ideas. For example, the word straight just came up. I paired a straight line with the symbols for a heterosexual couple to create two different representations of the idea, two visual memes that together give an increased chance for the other person to guess correctly.

Here’s a fun challenge for you: apply this idea to your marketing. Take your mission statement or equivalent corporate boilerplate and condense it down to 140 characters, the length of a tweet. Then pick the key words out of it that are important to you, that define your company, and make a Draw Something style exercise out of them.

Drawing

For example, the corporate tagline I came up with for WhatCounts, a company used to I work for, was “Find and Grow Your Email Marketing ROI”. For find, I’d use a magnifying glass. For grow, maybe a plant with a watering can hovering above it. Email marketing would be an envelope, and ROI might be a circle of dollars. I can come up with a series of visual images that convey our mission very clearly. I could probably even condense that down to one or two drawings, like a flower pot with a dollar growing out of it and leaves made of email messages.

Now take some of these gems, scooped from Fortune 500 companies (source):

  • Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment. (AGCO)
  • To build shareholder value by delivering pharmaceutical and healthcare products, services and solutions in innovative and cost effective ways. We will realize this mission by setting the highest standards in service, reliability, safety and cost containment in our industry. (Amerisource Bergen)
  • Dana will grow profitably in the world’s vehicular markets and provide industry leading shareholder value. (Dana)
  • Our goal is to be the leader in every market we serve, to the benefit of our customers and our shareholders. (Dover Corporation)
  • Graybar is the vital link in the supply chain, adding value with efficient and cost-effective service and solutions for our customers and our suppliers. (Graybar)
  • Undisputed Marketplace Leadership (Hershey)
  • We will continue to build a corporate culture that respects and values the unique strengths and cultural differences of our associates, customers and community. (Mutual of Omaha)

How easy are those going to be to draw something? More important, how will the drawings reflect the company? Are they what you or I or others will think of when we try to invoke that company’s name or mission? For example, when you or I say Hershey, chances are we’re drawing something chocolate. We’re not likely to draw a picture of undisputed marketplace leadership, if you could even draw such a thing. There’s a serious mismatch there between what the customers think Hershey is doing versus what the organization thinks it’s doing.

If you did this exercise with your customers, with your employees, or with your VIPs, what would they draw? Would it reflect all of the efforts you’ve made in marketing to convey a message? If not, then you have some work to do.

Think about all of the buzzwords that litter the business landscape. How would you ever draw core competency, innovation, best practices, quality, shareholder value, and other trendy but empty words? If you can’t draw it, maybe it shouldn’t be in your mission statement.

While using a game like Draw Something to clarify your mission statement or marketing campaign might be a bit of oversimplification, the point is nonetheless valid: if you can’t concretely capture the essence of what you’re supposed to be about in a sketch or two, then you’re not going to be able to communicate that to anyone else easily.


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