What does “doing good” mean? Why does being “different” matter?

“Doing good is part of our code” conveys to eager eyes what Mozilla is on the Mozilla homepage. “Different by design” and “proudly non-profit” do the same on the Firefox homepage. (Note that “Innovating for you” and “Fast, flexible, secure” are no longer, by themselves, market differentiators in the technology industry.)

The challenge with a branding phrase is that it means something to the person saying it but that value may not be easily understood to the person receiving it. So the question is, how might we understand a brand’s key differentiators in a way that makes sense to those who don’t know the brand?

Enter one of my biggest frustrations: “non-profit” is not a brand differentiator because it leads to the question of why does being non-profit matter? and why does it matter specifically in this industry? As well, “doing good” or “don’t be evil” are not brand differentiators because they lead to the question of what does “good” mean for this product? I want to be clear that I value “non-profit” and “doing good” but those are values of a company, used for how the organization makes decisions; they are not brand differentiators because they are vague.

One of my favorite examples is TOMS. The TOMS brand differentiator is, “one for one.” It is not, “doing good with shoes” or “walk in different shoes” or “giving shoes.” Why? Someone understood that people need tangibility with do-gooder-ness. Tangibility is visceral, not intellectual. I don’t have to think much about what “one for one” means when I am holding the shoe in my hand next to a picture of a child in need getting a pair. Were it “doing good with shoes,” I would have to try to make sense of what buying “good” shoes can do and how that relates to this picture I’m seeing. It’s simple, “don’t make me think.”

To compound “doing good” ambiguity, add a layer of abstraction by using it for technology. The only reason “think different” worked for Apple is because Apple showed people what it meant with commercials about “the crazy ones” who change the world and posters featuring those people who “thought different.” That made it tangible.

So what does “doing good” mean for Mozilla? Why does being “different” matter? Why does being non-profit matter? These questions frame the challenge in such a way that it becomes difficult to answer. How about we approach this by attempting to understand: what impact does Mozilla want to have in the world? (This is more of a tangible question.)

I am no expert and I cannot speak on behalf of the whole community. I don’t have a one-liner for Mozilla’s brand differentiator. But, as I see it, Mozilla is out to create opportunity for people interested in technology. Those people make Mozilla. It’s a start.

The Mozilla Mission: “Our mission is to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web.”

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