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Why your brand purpose needs a story hierarchy

Our Big Audacious Meaning is a powerful story of the difference our brand will make in a life, a community, or even the world. It is a big step to clarify this profound purpose. But then what?

We could frame it and put it on the boardroom wall. Maybe just randomly blurt it out whenever possible. Okay, that’s not exactly a plan befitting something as game-changing as our Big Audacious Meaning. What we need is a structure for when and how we tell the story of our brand purpose.

This is the brand story hierarchy.

The hierarchy breaks out into three stages. Each takes advantage of our Big Audacious Meaning in a different way.

First we want to tell the story of our larger purpose. This helps all those new to our brand to understand the power of our intent.

We’ll look to the statement we created for our Big Audacious Meaning. And we’ll reference the anthem we crafted. Our aim is to evolve these bold proclamations into a conversational tone and create a message that tells the story of our purpose. Think two to four paragraphs.

Along with the long form, we’ll want to create a short form of the story as well. Think of this as the elevator speech of our purpose. It is just a couple sentence and can be delivered powerfully in just seconds.

Creating a long form and a short form helps all your team members understand how the story should adapt to different situations. I’ve worked on brand messaging hierarchies that were even more detailed, establishing a long, medium, and short form of the story. And creating these hierarchies for multiple audiences. In other words, you can make this as in depth as you feel necessary for your brand.

The next step is to create messaging examples that show how our Big Audacious Meaning connects to our offering (product or service).

In these examples, we start by telling the Big Audacious Meaning Story and then use our offering as proof of how we bring that purpose to life in everything that we do.

Once again, we’ll create messages in a long form (two to four paragraphs) and short form (a couple sentences). Leading with our Big Audacious Meaning creates a halo of goodwill that our offering benefits from. It is a powerful way to tap into that goodwill that our purpose generates. A word of caution, though. Our offering must align with the larger purpose. Otherwise, this will appear as manipulative. Going through a full Big Audacious Meaning discovery helps ensure everything is aligned and connected, mitigating this concern.

The final form we’ll look at starts with the story of our offering and then uses our Big Audacious Meaning as support. This form demonstrates how our everyday offering messaging can benefit from our larger purpose. By adding this story as support, we imbue our offering with meaning that separates and elevates what we do for our customers and prospects. Put another way, we detail the benefit of our offering, and then describe the purpose-driven benefit of that benefit. It makes for the most powerful offering story any organization can create.

We’ll create a long form and a short form just like the other messaging examples. If we’re dealing with a more extensive offering, we may want to create sample messaging for each product or service — or, at the very least, for the major segments of our offering. This ensures that we have ample guidance that takes into consideration the entire spectrum of our offering.

The story hierarchy can prove to be an invaluable addition to all our messaging efforts. Most notably because it is the one element that illustrates how our Big Audacious Meaning gets put to use.

It’s why our brand strategy playbook just isn’t complete without the story hierarchy.

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

Written by

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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