Business isn’t always about numbers. Actually, it rarely is. It’s about people, and emotion. What about the dollars? The cash flow? The share price? Don’t kid yourself. Those are the by-products, the results. Anyone who is truly sophisticated about business recognizes this essential truth.
You can throw a lot of money around. Say you’re Pepsi and you’re trying to prove your relevance to a new generation that isn’t yet a Pepsi generation. You hire Kendall Jenner and create a TV commercial that tries to connect drinking soda with timely issues like multiculturalism and police relations. And . . . it fails, miserably. It feels forced. It falls flat.
Or you can take a different kind of risk. You can open up a Starbucks in ravaged and underserved Ferguson, Missouri. You can expose yourself to ridicule (that community really needs a $4 latte?), but persevere to create jobs and provide a foundation of stability in a neighborhood with far too little of it. And rather than crow about it with TV commercials, you can open other stores in overlooked neighborhoods, while also hiring tens of thousands of veterans and military family members, as well as refugees. And guess what? All this authentic do-goodism doesn’t end up hurting the bottom line. It improves it.
If you read only one Fast Company article this month, make it “Starbucks Digs In,” an insightful and emotionally resonant piece by Karen Valby. It demonstrates what we all hope in our hearts to be true: that business can do good in the world and also do well.
But please read more. Because our special report on “Building a Brand That Matters” is rich with many other insights, lessons, and, yes, emotions. Nicole LaPorte’s profile of TV impresario Shonda Rhimes illuminates a personal brand that is dedicated to not just entertainment but empowerment; “Why Casper Can’t Rest” shows how teamwork drives a breakthrough startup; and “23andMe’s Comeback” goes inside a crisis that could have killed the DNA-testing company but instead made it stronger.
What makes “brand” so important? It describes the emotional connection that consumers, employees, partners, regulators, and everyone else has with an organization. Once upon a time, a brand could be constructed independently of a product, of the working conditions at facilities, of environmental and cultural impact. Those days are over. Today a brand stands for something, organically, reflected in social media engagement and societal dialogue. Nothing is insulated or off limits–even politics and religion. The burden on business leaders has grown, and so has the opportunity.
That’s why we’ve initiated our own list of brands that matter now with the help of our Most Creative People in Business community, as well as brands in peril. And why we asked a coterie of top execs to anonymously–and thus candidly–address six critical topics for today’s decision makers. We hope it all gets your blood pumping, your mind whirring, and your emotions flowing. That’s what our brand is all about.