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Without a unifying idea, you’re punching your one-way ticket to brand oblivion.

We are all faced with a deluge of information that seems to grow every day at an ever-increasing pace. It makes it a challenge to know what to hold on to and what to let go of. It feels like our heads are right at maximum capacity.

With this onslaught of information and the feeling that our cognitive abilities are being stretched thin, we have put up our defenses. We now make decisions quicker than ever before on what deserves our attention and what we disregard. That may explain why some studies have reported that our attention span has dropped by about a third since the explosion of information that came with the digital revolution.

Needless to say, this creates a challenge for brands. We have to be focused, clear, and compelling if we hope to have a fighting chance. Those we hope to engage need to understand immediately what we’re about. More importantly, they absolutely must understand why it is important to them — or, why they should care.

So why do so many brands seem to miss this?

Organizations spend a lot of time and effort defining who they are and what they’re about. They develop a vision. They craft a mission statement. And they create a list of values. But very few stop to really ask, “What does all this mean to those we hope to serve?” They simply don’t identify how this rolls up to that most crucial of ideas — their purpose or Big Audacious Meaning. This is the difference they hope to make in a life, a community, or even the world.

Oh, you mean our tagline.


We have a tagline.

I’m not talking about a tagline.

Are you sure?

I’m sure.

Because it sounds like you’re talking about a tagline.

Okay, what is your tagline?

Oh, I don’t remember.


A Big Audacious Meaning is not a slogan. It is a powerful idea that communicates why those you hope to serve should care. It demonstrates the difference it can make — or even help them make — in a life. It busts through those defenses that are protecting that little bit of space in the brain that our prospects have. And it delivers an idea that is so compelling that it makes them want to have your brand as part of their life.

A Big Audacious Meaning unites all those internal facing foundational elements (vision, mission, and values). Distills an idea that expresses why those ideas are relevant to those you hope to serve. And then delivers it in a compelling form that inspires them.

Without this unifying idea, you’ll find that efforts fracture. Sales interprets it one way. Marketing another. And HR still another. And the cacophony that hits your prospects’ ears makes them tune out. And ultimately, throw you on the ash heap of forgotten brands.

The insidious thing is that it is too easy to tell ourselves that we have something special because we have a vision. Or a mission. Or values. Or all three. But until we turn it outward and really make it mean something to those we hope to serve, we’re just talking to ourselves. And how many of your prospects do you think want to listen to that?

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 — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

Originally published at on June 13, 2019.

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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