(Latin) The spirit which activates a person or institution.
Animus can be one of the defining features of a company. It is the way a company thinks about itself and the way it presents itself to the public. Animus may originate with the founder of a company and develop throughout the company's history. It may also be a relatively recent introduction which reflects the perceived interests of the customer base.
A company can express its animus, the motivating force behind a company, in a mission statement or a slogan. British Petroleum introduced the tagline 'Beyond Petroleum' in 2003 to emphasize its commitment to green energy. Since 1997, Apple has used 'Think Different' to highlight its innovation. It can identify the business with an interest beyond mere profit.
An important aspect of a stated animus is that the motivating force behind the company is explicit and known to the public. Consumers and employees will soon know if a company fails to live up to its philosophy, so the animus behind the company becomes self-reinforcing and strengthened through public scrutiny.
Animus Real World Example
An example of animus that came with the founder is Facebook. Mark Zuckerburg was a young student of computer science and psychology at Harvard University when he helped launch the forerunner to Facebook in 2003. The popular social network platform rapidly grew until it had 2.7 billion users in 2020 and an estimated net worth of nearly $280 billion. Much of its success is due to the popularity of its easy-to-use platform and an aggressive business strategy. This strategy ultimately leads to the acquisition of competitors offering a complimentary product. This product usually appeals to a different demographic—Instagram is an example of this. However, an effective business strategy is not the entire story. Facebook has been very successful in communicating the animus which drives the company.
In 2021, Zuckerburg explained Facebook's animus in this way:
"Our full mission statement is: give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. That reflects that we can't do this ourselves, but only by empowering people to build communities and bring people together."
Most people would agree with this philosophy. People who commented on his speech were overwhelmingly in favor. One or two pointed out that Facebook was primarily a business with one aim: making a profit. It is, of course, true that companies seek to maximize profits but associating a business with a social objective is good for the business and good for society. The animus behind Facebook comes from its founder. But it is communicated to all stakeholders of the platform, both employees and users.
History of Animus
In 19th century English, "animus" had a negative connotation akin to hostility. In psychology, Carl Jung associated animus with conscious (in men) and unconscious (in women) masculinity. However, it still retains its original Latin meaning of an activating or motivating spirit. It also refers to desire, courage, and mental powers. It is this original meaning which we discussed here.