If you read only one Fast Company article this
month, make it “Starbucks Digs In,” an insightful
and emotionally resonant piece by Karen Valby
(page 78). 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”
(beginning on page 56) is rich with many other
insights, lessons, and, yes, emotions. Nicole LaPorte’s profile of TV impresario Shonda Rhimes
(“Shonda Rhimes Flips the Script,” page 66)
illuminates a personal brand that is dedicated
to not just entertainment but empowerment;
“Why Casper Can’t Rest” (page 72) shows how
teamwork drives a breakthrough startup; and
“23andMe’s Comeback” (page 86) 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 (page 58) with the help
of our Most Creative People in Business community, as well as brands in peril (page 60). And why
we asked a coterie of top execs to anonymously—
and thus candidly—address six critical topics
for today’s decision makers (page 62). We hope
it all gets your blood pumping, your mind whirring, and your emotions flowing. That’s what our
brand is all about.
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.
TRUST YOUR FEELINGS, NOW MORE THAN EVER
FROM THE EDITOR
Jenner ad was
hokey, and then
it took a turn for