Mantra for within. Motto for without.


"Everyone in this place knows what we stand for." Really? Well, when I just spoke to them, they all summarised it differently. If you stand for different things to different people then that is the recipe for confusion.

"Branding" is the management of meaning - so how can we better ensure that everyone knows and can communicate, why we exist?

In this post we reveal a neat little solution.

Brand Mantra vs Brand Motto

Do you need a Mantra or a Motto? Some people make this an either or. My view is that both are helpful brand tools.

Both a "mantra" and a "motto" are a short, descriptive phrase about the brand. They should be no more than five words long. They represent a set of beliefs, ideals or an ethical stance that the brand takes. They both will explain "why".

Some examples of 'life' mottos or mantras: “A penny saved is a penny earned”, “No pain, no gain”, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

But - whats the difference between a mantra and a motto? Here's my definitions:

  • Mantra - It represents the brand to the staff and suppliers of the brand.

  • Motto - It represents the brand to the outside world - to prospects and customers.

In other words a Mantra is for "within" and a Motto is for "without". These pithy sayings can become very powerful tools in a business. Two sides to a whole. Lets take a peek at them one at a time.


The power of Brand Mantras

A mantra should define everything a brand is and will ever be in one short, snappy and memorable line. It should do this from the perspective of the staff of the company.

It helps all employees and suppliers understand on what they need to focus on in order to deliver the brand experience effectively to the brands audience. They help to filter out non-essentail behaviours and keep everyone on track.

A mantra should be short (between 2–5 words) and encapsulate 3 key things:

  • An emotion - this will be born out of the 'why' of the brand story

  • A description - this will loosely define 'who' the brand serves

  • A function - the 'what' of the brand boiled down into one word

Typically they would not explain what the brand does in terms of product, sector or service. Your Mantra and Motto are bigger than that. This is not detail. This is the stuff of brand dreams and aspirations.

A brand mantra is not something you use publicly. Your mantra should be a rallying cry to others who believe what you believe. The mantra should cover everything. It should be the guiding principle by which your people operate.

The power of Brand Mottos

"Think different", "The king of beers", "Finger Lickin' Good", "Because I’m worth it", "Make believe", "The Ultimate Driving Machine".

These mottos represent brands to their audience. The power of them is obvious. They encapsulate the emotional meaning of the brand, drawing and attracting customers to their rallying cry.

They might be used internally in a company but their value is in connecting external communications together. A consistent promise which is uttered over and over in tv-adverts, websites, social media and in any other communication there is from the brand to its audience. These little sayings get into the heads of customers and stay there. They help people remember you.

Mottos should again only be 2-5 words long and have at least one of these things at their core:

  • Memorability

  • Be emotional and resonate with the goal, challenge or dream of your audience

  • A message which suites the brand story and archetype

Once you have a motto which summerises the why of the brand attach it to every communication you can. Place it under your logo. Ensure that you scream it from the roof tops and most of all make sure you live it.

The example of Nike

The famous sports brand, Nike, is a good example of a brand which utilises a motto and a mantra.


Photo by Paul Volkmer on Unsplash

The Mantra; “Authentic Athletic Performance”.

Emotionally "authentic", it serves "athletes" with the function of better "performance". This mantra guides and focuses its people.

Nike's advertising motto “Just do it” evokes the 'hero' archetype, rallying it's audience to it's cause. The phrase resonates with people who are looking to succeed in fitness and sports. It allows them to join the brand cause. It speaks to their hearts. It is the essence of why the brand exists - to help people achieve success.

Here is a brand who knows how to utilise a mantra and a motto. One, (the mantra) is internal the other (the motto), is external. One is the outward manifestation of the internal rallying cry.

The example of McDonalds

The fast food chain McDonalds plays on it's 'innocent' archetype really effectively.


Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

The Mantra; “Fun Family Food” is how it represents the brand internally. Emotionally "fun", it serves "families" with the function of "food".

The Motto “I’m lovin’ it.” encapsulates what the 'fun family food' should mean to its customers. The fast loveable of food and the love of spending time with the family is what this brand 'means'. Its why it exists to customers from an emotional aspect.

Create your brand Motto and Mantra

How do you create a powerful brand Motto and Mantra? This comes with serious work and also the joining up of your leadership team.

Mottos and Mantras are the tip of the brand iceberg.

First you need to know your brand story, the why, who, what and how of your existence. You need to know character your brand and the emotional appeal of this to your audience. You need to know what you mean to your audience.

This all takes research and a logical process so that the leaders of the brand can take each step together. WARNING: Do not attempt to create a Motto or Mantra without having done this ground work!

If you have done the initial steps of discovering and defining your brand then I always ask the individual within a leadership team to go away and, using no more than five words attempt to summarise this and create a Motto and Mantra based on the brand story. Gather the group back together and see what everyone has got. Debate and refine accordingly.

Have fun and come back for more articles on branding tips and tricks.


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