Brands, countries, causes and foundations typically present a motto that best represents what they stand for, or what their goal is in a brief and memorable way. Nike has “Just Do It”, L’Oreal has “Because You’re Worth It” and M&Ms(owned by a family, by the way) has “Melts In Your Mouth, Not Your Hand”. All of these are memorable, relate to what the company offers or stands for, and is a part of their image. When it comes to creating a family motto, there are many similar elements to those that companies use.
While your Dynasty isn’t a company, the way to present yourself and inspire the members of your family is equally important, if not more so, than it is for a company. By forming a motto that your family can rally behind, and present to the world, you create another essential piece of the culture that will rally your family together for generations.
A family motto is a deeply personal affair, and as such it entirely up to you to discover what is going to suit your dynasty. What I can do, however, is point out the factors to consider in formulating your own, and the pitfalls to avoid.
Uses of Your Family Motto
A motto is a part of your family culture. It gives a phrase of solidarity to the members of your family and should provide inspiration. This isn’t to say you should be chanting it like some sort of creepy cult, but when read on a plaque, or on a letter head it should give the warm feeling of nostalgia and rouse memories of home. A family motto such as “On each other we lean.” or “The Hearth is Family” are example of this. However…
Your motto is also a part of your family’s branding. Whether you intend for your family to be public facing or not, your family motto should be written in such a way that it can be re purposed for a family brand. Imagine if some point in the future, your family decided to get into private business lending either of the above slogans would be highly inappropriate. And as your social capital is a large part of where you draw true family wealth from, it would be bad form to leverage your family reputation, only for your family motto to claim you lean on your customers. Instead, “In you we trust.” May be more fitting as it speaks to each person individually, but also to any outsiders you may have dealings with as well.
However you plan to use your motto now, do consider, as you are building a dynasty, that it will not be just yours. Your children or grandchildren that use your family motto. In time, those descendants of yours you will never even meet will turn to your family motto as well, so keeping versatility is one of the key elements in motto creation.
Where you place and present your motto is important too. Most old money families put their motto in their letterheads, and on plaques which hang over the thresholds of the family sanctuary. You may also choose to implement your motto into your family symbol to some effect, as is found in heraldry.
You may choose to pull your motto into your business dealings or have it inscribed on heirlooms. The uses are countless, but incredibly important.
Consistency is key when it comes to your family motto. Firstly, you need to create a motto that is consistent with your family culture. It is no use having a motto like “Take every chance” when your overall family strategy is safe and conservative, focusing on known methods. Sticking with family culture, you don’t want to create a motto that encourages distance, such as “Miles apart”. Your motto should bring people together. You’ll also want to create a motto that can be read multiple ways, that speaks to one and to all, but more on that later.
Secondly, you’ll want consistency with your family emblem, family color and family symbol. It’s no use saying “Swift as a fox” and having your symbol be a rabbit, or have your family motto say “Going for gold” and your family color is red and blue. Consistency is key, all pieces int eh creation of your family emblem need to fit together and compliment one another.
Speaking to One and to All
Your family motto will benefit from being able to be interpreted in multiple ways. The goal is to make it personal and inclusive, while simultaneously avoiding being exclusive. Sound hard? It should. This is going to be the most difficult part of creating your family motto.
The best way to demonstrate this is through example. “Standing together” is an example of a motto that implies solidarity of many, but it could also be phrased as “Standing with you”. Notice how the latter is talking to a person, while still implying that there is a together to be stood with. It’s a subtle difference, but completely transforms the weight it carries.
Wording Your Family Motto
The wording you choose for your motto should be short, simple and to the point. You don’t want to have anybody that isn’t in the loop to have to pull out a dictionary, you don’t want to have it take up a significant portion of a page and you don’t want to have to translate it for everybody your family comes across. Compare Nike’s “Just do it” to a more elaborate “Go ahead and do what you set out to”, one is concise, while the other bloated but they both say the same thing.
It should be in the language you use and your family will continue to use the most. If you want to respect your roots(such as using Latin, or your native language), then that’s perfectly fine. But if you’re using phrasing from a language because it sounds good, but has no relation to you at all, then its a bit silly.
The elements above outline the path to memorability. Keep it concise & use simple language. If you ever feel like pulling out a thesaurus to add or swap a word in your family motto..stop there. Three words is proven to be the most memorable. Not entirely necessary though.
It can also help to use things like alliteration as well, if you can avoid sounding silly. You don’t have to use a phrase. Three words in quick succession can prove very effective in forming a family motto.
Keeping your family motto as something that will outlast any modern context is key. Reduce the frequency of change in your family culture’s core, and increase the likelihood your dynasty is bound to last. You don’t want to rely on anything that will fade out of existence. One example is Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” motto. Technology evolved past this common occurrence and thus they had to change their slogan. For your family, having something like “Swiping right on family” isn’t going to last. Once the world moves on from this culture and bond-destroying aspect of modern life, swiping right will be forgotten. You want your family motto to be as reliable as the sun rising in the sky tomorrow, or a stone falling to the earth.
Finally, your family motto should be able to stand on its own legs. You shouldn’t have to explain it to everybody who hears it, and it should be self contained in its meaning. It helps to leave it open to a little interpretation. This also makes people think about it rather than just skim it, and helps solidify it in people’s memory.
Key Elements of a Family Motto
A summary of the key elements are:
- Consider the implementation of your Family Motto
- Consistency with your Family Value, Emblem and Culture
- Keep it short and simple
- Use your primary language
- It should be timeless
- It should be able to stand on it’s own.
By building your family motto with these elements in mind, you are well on your way to creating some key elements on your human capital that will last for generations to come.
If this is your first time reading Dynastus or coming across dynasty building in general, I highly suggest you read the mega post on the subject, which will give you a framework to begin establishing a family empire. On the other hand, if you’re interested in more on family visual elements or if this is the last post you’re reading on the series of the family emblem, its best you head over and review the post on creating a family emblem.
And as always, thanks for reading. Yours,