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The dormant army of evangelists right under your nose

What happens when a brand purpose gets handed off to the uninitiated? Here’s what I mean. A leadership team goes through the process of developing a compelling brand purpose. They declare how the brand will make a profound difference in a life, a community, or even the world.

All those involved agree that this is momentous. There is an incomparable feeling of accomplishment and hope for the future.

Then the brand purpose is handed off to the next level of management. A group who has no ownership stake in its creation. Yet, they are charged with bringing that brand purpose to life in everything that the organization says and does.

Immediate disaster? No. More like a slow, torturous sucking of the soul.

I’ve actually heard this said from that next level of management as we began to express the brand purpose. Here’s the really sad part. It’s happened more than once.

Yes, you’re right. If this brand were a person (which is a great way to think about a brand) we would want someone who has “toned down the personality”.

Just like when I meet people. I don’t much care for those authentic and engaging people. Give me someone who is noncommittal and forgettable. Just like this guy I met the other day. What was his name? Give me a minute. It will come to me.

Nope. I got nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s hard to blame that next level of management. They weren’t engaged from the get go. They haven’t been inspired by the incredible vision of the profound impact the brand could have on its believers.

With no inspiration and no bold ideals, they do what they have always done. They return to the safe harbor of corporate speak and middle-of-the-road blandness that is easy for committees to approve and won’t cause the legal compliance team to have to do something difficult. Like think.

My apologies to those of you in legal compliance review. I know you work hard to keep the organization out of legal hot water. But wouldn’t it feel good to be part of something evolutionary and meaningful for the organization rather than to continually cement your role as the roadblock of fresh thinking? There I go again.

As I’ve preached, you have to engage your team members from the start. They are the most powerful set of believers you will have. When they truly embrace your brand purpose, things will accelerate.

So before you begin the process, engage them. And I mean really engage them. Accept the fact that they may add a point of view that you hadn’t anticipated. Don’t squelch it.

They will know if you’re just paying lip service to their ideas (that’s a guaranteed way to ensuring your efforts never take off).

Embrace their ideas. Incorporate their thinking. This does two things. First it will give you ideas from a very valuable point of view. Ideas that will make the entire effort richer. Second, it begins the buy in process. You can do this with a wide range of folks across the organization. At the very least, you need to do it with a smaller group of stakeholders that represent each part of the organization and (this is a big one) are respected by their peers. These folks can be the standard bearers for your new, awesome brand purpose.

Whoops. You didn’t engage your team members before starting. That’s not ideal, but it doesn’t mean you need to throw out everything and start over. It does mean going back to your team members (or creating that team member stakeholder group). Be prepared. They may add some things that will mean making some changes. But, believe me. It’s well worth it. You will reap the benefit in the momentum that you will feel when you roll out the new brand purpose.

The great thing about a brand purpose is that it is infectious. When done well, it’s brimming with meaning for everyone who has been included. It’s virtually impossible to contain it. Everyone connected to it will want to share it.

Why? Because it gives meaning to our days. It declares how we will make a profound difference for our fellow human beings. Imagine having a stake in the emergence of that. Imagine feeling ownership in something that powerful. As opposed to being handed something that you didn’t help form and being told to make it come to life.

There is an army of evangelists waiting to be activated. They just need to be included.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and 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

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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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