The 4 stages of branding — Stage 4: The difference you make

In previous posts, we covered three of the four levels of branding. In Stage 1, we looked at branding that hadn’t progressed beyond describing who you are. In Stage 2, we examined branding that emphasized what you do. And in Stage 3, we reviewed branding that advances to focus on what you do for prospects.

At Stage 4, we investigate the ability to reach the highest level of branding. We discover the power of incorporating a profound purpose.

The highest level of branding asks, “What difference will you make in a life, a community, or even the world?” This is your Big Audacious Meaning.

This orientation is light years away from the neophyte’s “necessary evil” view of branding. And it is the full evolution of the advanced brand.

Here, the brand is steeped in a profound purpose. That means all positioning of the brand is founded in purpose as well. That’s important to note for a couple of reasons.

First, a brand’s position will need to adapt as competitive pressure and other market forces change. A brand founded in purpose can move quickly and confidently to an advantageous position. There is no anxiety that comes with feeling like we have to rethink the brand. We have our core established. The repositioning is just a strategic maneuver guided by our Big Audacious Meaning.

Second, our positioning gets stronger. With our Big Audacious Meaning at our core, we free ourselves from quibbling with competitors over whose functional differentiation is superior. Because we have something much more meaningful and relevant behind our position. We have purpose.

Most of all, we create a brand that does more than just differentiate. It inspires. It inspires team members as well as prospects and customers. Unlike all the other levels of branding, it is the one that has the greatest potential for turning those team members, prospects, and customers into advocates and even evangelists.

It is natural for brands to move along the spectrum. It’s okay to find ourselves at Stage 1, Stage 2, or Stage 3. But if we want our brand to reach its full potential, we have to aspire to Stage 4. It’s where our brands go beyond what makes us different to demonstrate the difference we can make for the world around us.

That is the heady territory of the most advanced brands.

Dan is the creator of the Big Audacious Meaning. 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. He regularly shares his insight here on Linkedin and at

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.