It's been over a year since I was in the "middle of the world" on an initial brand analysis exercise for ADSE. An interview by Authority Magazine got me going down memory lane as I recounted the "Aha moment" that revealed a passion in me to teach as an author and brand strategist.
It was two months before COVID-19 turn the world upside down and a localized, but equally devastating situation was turning the world of Ecuadorians upside down. President Lenin Moreno had just decided to remove a four-decade-old fuel subsidies, which crippled the nation straddling the equator as protestors block roads and highways.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS
During the time spent with ADSE and the community she is in, we uncovered three core values that I believe stem from the legacy of five missionaries; Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian. Their martyrdom in 1956 in the hands of the Waodani tribe triggered a wave of evangelistic efforts into the Amazon jungles.
The Mission Aviation Fellowship, through Nate Saint as her first missionary in Shell, had been bringing the Gospel and life-sustaining resources into the jungle through flights, communications, and other logistics since 1948. The work of supporting missionaries, local churches, and villages continues with ADSE since 1986. While the pandemic may have affected and slowed down the organization, I believe that the work God started has not ceased.
My AHA MOMENT
Working with ADSE during the civil unrest has been an eye-opener. As I walked the line dividing different cultures, I learn the importance of contextualizing the universal concept of branding for local relevancy. I love the process of learning about ADSE and figuring out the best way to communicate the discovery and strategy to the leaders and staff who are mostly from a different culture.
I have always enjoyed working one-on-one with business owners as we develop or redefine their brands. Pivoting my approach, many thanks to the pandemic, I want to extend my reach through coaching groups within companies (beyond just the owners) and helping them understand that a powerful and memorable brand is built from within and as a team.
My book, "The ONE Game Changer To Boost Your Business. Use the B.R.A.N.D.™ System to go Deeper so you can go Further" (due to be available early next year) along with online courses (ie. B.R.A.N.D. Ed) will be a couple of ways I hope to achieve that goal.
More importantly, the underlying drive for the work and ministry of ADSE has reminded me of what God has called all His children to do. Whether we are flying planes, developing brands, or formulating marketing strategies, it is ultimately about making Him known. And that work is never finished until Christ comes again.
I decided to use a real advertisement to illustrate a point about branding when teaching a group of youths (aged 18 - 20 years old) who is part of an entrepreneurship program hosted by the Oklahoma City Police Department.
The above print advertisement truly belongs to one of the companies; Nike or Adidas and below is the video revealing the answer and the lessons taught.
ADSE has been in operation since 1986 and with changes in society and leadership, any established business should regularly revisit their vision, mission, and value (ie. collectively known as the culture of a company) to remember what drives her.
Beyond plastering posters everywhere displaying the culture of the company, it takes creativity on the part of leadership to inculcate within their team members the importance of living and breathing those invisible aspects. The invisible aspects of a business are the roots and soil that affects her ability to product delicious fruits and desirable shade; the visible aspects. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
It is also easy for a company to react to needs with new services or products (ie. offering) without seeing if they are in line with her values. While it might appear like “a good thing to do”, doing a few things well is better than trying to balance too many things poorly.
During the 12-day of civil unrest in the country, ADSE’s reaction to the situation shed light on some deeply rooted values that I encouraged the organization to embrace and amplify.
When news that violent protestors were coming through Shell, ADSE was quick to move their team members and immediate family to a safer gated community and away from the main streets.
The first night was spent together with other Christians in the neighborhood, where a meal was shared and prayers were offered for peace and safety. Everyone knew that they can remain in the different homes within that community for as long as it was needed.
Thankfully, Shell did not see the level of violence as experienced in neighboring towns. And since she has an airstrip used by ADSE and other aviation services, several tourists were seeking help to get to the international airport in Quito with hopes to leave the country.
Instead of turning the tourists away because her smaller planes cannot meet the needs, ADSE started looking for higher-capacity aircrafts from other companies to get the foreigners to their destination. Furthermore, despite pressure from various service providers to charge the tourists a lot more money, ADSE refused to take advantage of the situation and only bill sufficiently to meet her operational needs.
ADSE was to fly a tourist to Quito right when the civil unrest began. She was offered refuge at the gated community since ADSE was not able to fly out of Shell. “I feel better being with strangers now than being stranded alone,” commented B when she evacuated ADSE’s hangar with the team members.
As the roads were impassable causing food supplies to grow thin as the situation dragged out, the faith community remained mindful about sharing resources with each other. In addition, some of them made a point to visit and support local restaurants and stores who chose to remain open. As a result, relationships were deepened in the midst of the crisis.
THE VALUES THAT DRIVE YOU
Healthy roots are critical for a tree to continue growing and bearing fruits. Similarly, an organization's values will continue to guide and inspire what she offers, how she behaves, and how customers experience the brand. Values that go beyond profitability should also apply to for-profit businesses.
Would you do business with a company whose sole purpose is to make money? If you put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customers and what they see as important, you will appreciate the power of the invisible aspects of your business.
Defining the core values (keep it to no more than five please) and modeling the behaviors driven by these values will set you apart as an exemplary leader and set your business on the path towards building a community of brand advocates.
Continue with Part 3 as we uncover the roots ADSE.
On the evening of October 3rd, 2019, I was in Fort Lauderdale waiting to see if my flight to Ecuador would be cancelled as protests and riots in the country flooded the national news media. The nation straddling the equator was crippled as protestors blocked roads and highways in response to President Lenin Moreno's decision to remove of a four-decade-old fuel subsidies. Read more about it here.
Flying into fire
This was probably the worst time to visit the country known for her diverse landscape stretching between the Amazon jungles, the Andean highlands, and the coasts including the famous Galápagos Islands.
However, having planned this trip since June of 2019 to conduct an initial brand analysis for Alas de Socorro Ecuador or ADSE (pronounced as "ARD-ZEE"), getting front row seat to Ecuador’s 12-day of crisis became part of the agenda.
With the reopening of the country’s airport and the airline continuing her scheduled flight on October 4, I flew into the heart of the protest on the outskirt of the nation’s capital, Quito.
Since the roads were still unsafe for the planned 5-hour drive to my final destination of Shell, I got a chance to experience one of ADSE’s offerings; charter air service via her Cessna 206 propeller plane.
Prior to making this trans-continental journey, I have learned about ADSE between multiple conversations with a staff and a few hours of research via the Internet including perusing the organization’s website. While ADSE is an affiliate of the Mission Aviation Fellowship, I recognized that her operations will vary since she is in a different country and culture.
While I may be the expert in brand design and strategy, I am never the expert in my client’s industry. And that's the mindset whenever I start an initial brand analysis exercise with business owners and leaders. During the 20+ days of living and working with the people from the organization and the community of Shell, I have gained important insights that led to the fine-tuning of ADSE’s Brand Story.
I used to explain the components of a powerful brand with an illustration of an iceberg. However, for the team members at ADSE, I changed it to a tree as a more relatable metaphor to achieve the same goal. And that has formed the foundation to many of my material as a brand coach.
Watch the video below to learn how thinking of your business (and even of yourself) as a tree is helpful in understanding your brand.
Continue with Part 2 as we uncover the values that drives ADSE in their day-to-day.
FROM CLUBS TO CLEATS
Ryan Ellis is a friend I got to know in college when I decided to complete my senior year on the campus of Oklahoma City University. Shortly after we graduated, Ryan got more involved in marathons and triathlons and started excelling in endurance sports.
As a former All-American Collegiate golfer, Ryan combined his competitive spirit with his newfound love in nutrition and coaching, and Conquer Training was born.
FAST FORWARD 10 YEARS
We have both come a long way since; from my approach to brand design to Ryan's philosophy in running a business. When I was interviewing him for my upcoming book "The One Game Changer to Boost your Business", we walked down memory lane about corporate logo since we had worked on the ones for Conquer Training.
"No," Ryan answered matter-of-factly when I asked him if every company needs a logo. "The only person that really cares about a logo is the business owner."
This is not to discredit the work of professional logo designers ('cause I am one of them) but more of a reminder to business owners that we shouldn't get too hung up on needing a swoosh or some golden arches.
"It (logo) is cool but it doesn't generate revenue," Ryan Ellis
"Understanding the difference between branding and marketing was challenging at first," Ryan admitted but is now able to make the distinction.
While Conquer Training and Ellis Endurance Lab are promoted (ie. marketing) differently because of the variations in products, services, and customers, Ryan's brand as an expert in the endurance community carries across his two businesses.
IS IT AN EXPENSIVE HOBBY?
Ryan is always about living a healthy and active lifestyle, which allows him to resonate with his customers; whether they come to him wanting to break a personal record at the next Ironman (eg. a desired condition) or with a road bike that is not providing the most comfortable ride (eg. a pain point). Ryan's interest and knowledge in endurance sports are thus, part of his personal and business brands.
That's an important place to start when considering starting a business. Are you passionate about the industry you are going to be in? Are you interested in it enough to continue learning and growing in your knowledge about it?
Consider the 'N's in the B.R.A.N.D. System and ask yourself these two questions:
Defining your personal B.R.A.N.D.: What are you NATURALLY good at?
Developing your business B.R.A.N.D.: What is your NICHE in the market?
Understanding your brand will make the difference between a profitable business and an expensive hobby.
Stay tuned for Part 2 as we dive deeper into the other aspects of Ryan's B.R.A.N.D..