Corporate DNA

Know what you’re made of, so you can make something of it.


Companies are like people

They are organisms that reflect their creators, their environments, their obstacles, and their strengths. They carry a core instruction set that informs actions and outcomes of their work. In short, they have DNA. And just like people, companies that understand who they are at their core are better prepared to leverage their DNA to yield winning results.

DNA Types

There are 3 types of companies in the world, each with its own DNA:



MOTHERS are customer-oriented. They measure success by retention, satisfaction, and loyalty in everything they do—from the way they target a particular market to the way they train and compensate their employees. Mothers are motivated by customer needs and their relationship with those customers.

EXAMPLE: Amazon: “Earth’s most customer-centric company.”


MECHANICS are product-oriented. They are determined to build the best products and services and bring them to the masses before anyone else does, with success measured in terms of market dominance. Whether or not the customer enjoys the experience, though not insignificant, is less important than selling as much as possible to as many as possible.

EXAMPLE: Walmart: Bringing value to customers and communities by selling more for less.


MISSIONARIES are concept-oriented. They are dedicated to changing the world and delivering ground-breaking, life-altering innovation. Motivation comes with creative vision and bold ideas.

EXAMPLE: Starbucks: The “Third Place” between work and home, which disrupted cafe culture and changed the way people buy and experience coffee.


Why does corporate DNA matter?

In order to succeed today, it’s about who a company is, rather than what it does. Authentic brands win by identifying their role and relevance in the market—their position—and leveraging it to create genuine differentiation. People buy and support brands they can trust. It’s not enough anymore to make unsubstantiated claims because they’re trendy and sound good on paper. Your marketing efforts and business strategy must be aligned with your corporate DNA.

For example, if a Mechanic company, focused on product development, creates a marketing campaign around a promise of outstanding customer service but doesn’t align itself with this new position, the campaign will not ring true and the company won’t gain a foothold in the market. Yet if a company positions itself in alignment with its DNA, it will resonate authentically and establish its role and relevance even in the face of a major competitor.

It’s all about knowing what you’re made of, so you can make something of it.

Positioning with corporate DNA in mind leads to better marketing,
— DAVID KELLY; Founder, chairman, and managing partner of IDEO