If it is your job to differentiate and grow your business, you own a tall task.

Trust in companies and institutions has plummeted over the last two decades. At the same time, the number of choices in the marketplace has skyrocketed. With so many options, a growing number of consumers are examining the greater meaning of their purchases and affiliations. What is the story behind the company? What is its carbon footprint? How does it impact the local and global communities?

Just as information and technology superseded manufacturing as the core of innovation and economic growth, we are entering the age of the “Purpose Economy,” according to author Aaron Hurst (and others), where purpose and mission will become the new currency of value creation.

Conscious capitalists and purpose-driven brands like Whole Foods, IKEA, Costco and Zappos are laser-focused on delivering meaning to their customers, employees and stakeholders. They understand, according to Hurst, “that to build loyalty and value they need to play a core role in all three areas of meaning creation for their stakeholders: relationships, impact and growth.”

The book Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose, shows how some of today’s best companies “get it.” They go beyond corporate social responsibility and aligning stakeholders’ interests to making the world a better place.

These companies are becoming the ultimate value creators. “They’re generating every form of value that matters: emotional, experiential, social, and financial. And they’re doing it for all their stakeholders. Not because it’s ‘politically correct’ but because it’s the only path to long-term competitive advantage.” They are helping to address this desire for meaning, making a profit and having fun doing it.

If you want to compel people to choose your brand and attract today’s workforce, you need to stand for something more meaningful than simply “selling stuff to make money.”

Today, more than ever, successful branding is not just what you as an organization claim it to be; it must align with your core values and culture as well as the greater impact you have in your community.

We all know that your brand is not what you say it is, but it’s what your stakeholders feel about you. It must authentically shine through in your visual identity, marketing and customer service practices. But it’s far more intricate than that.

Branding is about knowing what you stand for and how you convey the values and character of your product or service. Your brand helps facilitate your relationships, which, in turn, facilitate your business. So you must be crystal clear in how you communicate that brand.

  • Keep it simple. With so many people, services and products vying for attention, clean design and concise language stand out. The strongest brands are successful because they’ve found a way to reduce a meaningful difference into a simple, clear and cohesive thought.
  • Know your purpose. Some people call it their brand manifesto. Some people say it is the culture. Know your “why” (if you haven’t heard Simon Sinek’s famous TEDtalk, spend 18 minutes to do so). What is that thing about your brand that provides meaning and can be embraced by your employees and your customers?
  • Get real. Until you connect on an emotional level, you will not be remembered. The emotional centers of the brain are where all decision-making happens. Really.
  • Be distinctive. People will notice more when you are different. Tell your story. Try not to be like the others.

Be bold and stake your claim. When you can stand behind your meaning and purpose, these are genuine and powerful differentiators for your brand.

Wendy Baird is president of Insight180 Brand Consulting & Design located in Ellicott City. She can be reached at 410-203-0777 or wendy@insight180.com.