It’s an exciting age for consumers, marketers, and companies alike when it comes to creating unique and soulful brands. Companies with real purpose and vision are able to open their cyber doors far faster than they may have been able to in a more traditional brick and mortar retail model. The direct-to-consumer brand movement is flourishing, and rightfully so.

Take brands like Everlane or Thursday Boot Company for example; two companies built on foundations of transparency. They both preach, in their own way, that combining quality products with transparent pricing models will educate their customers on the value they’re getting during online checkout.

Everlane’s mission statement can be found right on one of the main pages of their website – We believe we can all make a difference. Our way: Exceptional quality, ethical factories, radical transparency. Their mission statement is profound because it goes beyond telling their buyers, “hey, we have morals” – they actually intentionally engage their customers in a 2-way interaction challenging them to do the right thing along with them.

Great delivery!As another example, Thursday Boot Company, a brand I came across a few years ago, has expanded and thrived with this mantra: Our philosophy is simple – you deserve it all. Comfort, versatility, durability, & honest pricing. Though slightly different, both companies engender trust in the consumer by doing the following:

  • Allowing their customer to make an educated choice about quality of the product they’d like to consume.
  • Being transparent about their pricing structures and manufacturing processes.
  • Engaging the customer in a dialogue about values and consumer/company responsibilities.

And these aren’t the only companies taking this approach. Look at Article, a furniture company that delivers premium mid-century modern furniture at a lower price by cutting out the middle-man (warehouses and sales teams). Or Byrant Coat Company, a New York-based men’s outerwear D2C company, that believes in sourcing the best Italian fabrics in small batches to bring its customers premium coats at a fraction of the brick and mortar cost. This philosophy matters to everyone!

If you’re reading this and saying, “well I’m not a direct-to- consumer retail marketer,” then you’re missing the main message. Consumers are demanding a new kind of brand experience from the companies they’re buying from, and this trend is only going to grow over time. I’ve spent the last year leading a research project that surveyed hundreds of millennials across the globe about their vision for the future of the workplace. The one message that popped most? Millennials are calling for authenticity in their companies and leaders. As marketers it would be a mistake to miss the boat on this movement.

Stepping Up Our Marketing Soul

It’s our responsibility as marketers to protect, nourish, and grow our company’s brand and millennials are going to hold our feet to the fire on this. It’s no longer about making sure your company recycles or donates to charity – at this point those sorts of ethical responsibilities are table stakes. What’s really going to lead to growth is when we as marketers, and as organizations, adopt the mentality that our brand needs to be soulful in 2018 and beyond. And this doesn’t just work for retail companies. As a management consulting firm, we spent over a year nailing our company’s mission statement and landed on “helping leaders shape the world.”  It still gives me chills when I really think about that as my purpose for sitting at my desk every day. A soulful brand and mission not only rallies the troops internally, but makes the customer feel like they’re a part of something special.

You don’t have to be the CMO of your company to influence the kind of change that is going to resonate with modern customers. Want to inject some soul into your 2018 marketing plan? Here are some tips and tricks:

Start with Your Attitude toward Learning and Culture

To tackle the innovation challenge, you must create an environment where people feel safe to experiment, participate and learn. That starts with leadership. Lead meetings where everyone feels like their ideas are heard and accepted, create time for learning and play for the people on your team, and share stories that allow people to connect to your mission and vision in a meaningful way.

Our research reinforced just how important these characteristics are to millennials to motivate and engage them.  When people feel like they belong, they’ll do incredible things for your company and your customers. And without the trust of your team, you’ll never earn the trust and create engagement with your Millennial customers.  Marketers have the unique perspective to bring together the employee and customer experience – make that a core of your plan to deliver on the change.

Engage Your Customers in Dialogue

They expect that in the digital age. When it comes down to it, the social media revolution has created such a tectonic change in the business world because it’s changed the way customers expect to connect with brands. In a demand for Authenticity, Millennials, and really all customers, expect to feel included. They want to know your story, they want to feel like you’re accessible and responsive to their needs, and they want to feel educated on who you are. Marketers have the opportunity – and the imperative – to reshape and share their companies’ stories in new and deeper ways to begin the conversation. How will you pick up the baton?