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Let’s do something extraordinary (a brand call to arms)

I’ve long been a fan of the Starbucks brand. I’ve loved how they pay attention to all aspects of who they are. There are a number of places where I can get a great cup of coffee. But Starbucks doesn’t stop there. They pay attention to design, creating inviting spaces where it feels great to hang out. They build cool merchandising and populate it with interesting offerings that complement that design. And then they add music.

I remember the first time I really noticed. I was standing in line and a really great song was playing. I’m a bit of a music nut, so I was intrigued that I would first hear a song that I loved while standing in line for coffee. If that weren’t enough, when that song ended another great one took its place. When it was my turn at the counter, I asked the barista, “Who was that singing?” My barista held up a finger signaling for me to wait and then disappeared to the back, emerging a few seconds later with an oversized CD holder (those were the days when they loaded up a multi-disc player with CDs that the home office sent them.) He pulled a playlist sheet from the binder and found the song I had asked about. He was as excited about sharing that song with me as I was in hearing it.

What was it that made the Starbuck’s brand magnetic to me? Did I just happen to have exceptional baristas at the location I frequented? Was the manager there that good at hiring? Did they experience one of those lucky convergences when the merchandising people created something cool while at the same time the architects and designers were creating this great space and the people curating the music also happened to be at their best?

Could you chalk it up to kismet?

There is something greater at play. Something that is intentional that can be found at the very heart of the brand. Starbucks claimed a Big Audacious Meaning that laid the foundation and set into motion all the things that led to me becoming an extraordinary fan. Here is how they talk about it:

To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

They could have said they would provide exceptional shareholder value. Or, be leaders in customer service. If you’ve read most mission statements out there, you’re probably familiar with how they are littered with these platitudes. But Starbucks didn’t say things like that. They declared that they were here to inspire and nurture the human spirit.

Starting with such an awesome purpose is what allows their brand to create the feelings and moments that I experienced. When everyone in the organization understands and shares that purpose, amazing things happen. Perhaps the most exciting thing about all this is that this opportunity is available to every brand.

Our brand can be the most emotionally engaging and compelling aspect of our organization. It holds the potential to surprise and delight those we hope to serve. If we take the time to clarify what difference we can make, we can create that catalyst for our organization. The catalyst that ignites exceptional success for our organization by capturing that Big Audacious Meaning. And embracing the opportunity to foster something extraordinary for everyone who engages with our brand.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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