Why I’m a walking billboard for Dave’s Killer Bread

Guest blog post by Red Slice intern, Suzi An.

It’s 2 a.m and my boyfriend and I decide to do some late night grocery shopping. Normally, I shop at Whole Foods where I buy the same brand of whole-wheat sunflower bread. But because they close at 10 p.m., I ended up walking down the street to QFC.

“Suz, come look at this.” Roger is awkwardly holding a loaf of bread with bold colors on the packaging.

“What is that? That’s not my normal loaf of bread,” I say. I shrug my shoulders and continue to walk down the bread aisle looking for my sunflower bread.

“Suz. Come read this!” Fussy and defeated, I walk back towards him.

I grab the bright yellow bag from him and begin to read: I was a four-time loser before I realized I was in the wrong game. 15 years in prison is a pretty tough way to find oneself, but I have no regrets… Immediately I am hooked. Who is this guy spilling his life story on a loaf of bread? I continue reading and realize that this guy created his whole brand on his incredibly story. He was in and out of prison for drugs, assault, and robbery until he realized he needed to change his life: A whole lot of suffering has transformed an ex-con into an honest man who is doing his best to make the world a better place…one loaf of bread at a time. My heart sunk. I turn the bread around and see “Just say no to bread on drugs!” and I cannot believe how clever and fantastic this is. I see that the specific loaf that Roger had grabbed was called GOOD SEED. How cute. A loaf of bread named after Dave’s change. Ultimately, it is Dave’s story, a story that is personal and inspiring, that will make his business and brand successful. And the best part, his products live up to his brand promise. Heavenly Texture and Saintly Flavor. His bread is probably the most texturally pleasing bread I have ever tasted in my life. I practically devour the entire loaf in three days. I am beyond obsessed. As a strong supporter of the green movement and sustainable eating, Dave had won me over with his organic bread, compostable bags, the wind farms, and only providing the Northwest with his mouth-watering bread. He believes everyone deserves a second chance, so most of his employees are ex-cons as well. Dave, can you be anymore fabulous?!

I follow Dave on Twitter and I try to see him at almost every festival where he is present. I recently saw him at the Bite of Seattle where I bought six loaves of bread, a T-shirt, a coloring book, and had the opportunity to meet the guy behind the brand. I feel like a giddy ten-year-old girl! The only words that came out of my mouth were, “I am a huge fan and I eat your bread on a daily basis!” Really? How did I become a “bread groupie”? At least once a week, I tweet “How can I get on Dave’s PR team?” I have yet to receive a response but they seem to reply to everything else I tweet about them.

It’s brands like Dave’s that reaches out to interact with their customers, creates relationships, and has a clear vision of what it wants the brand to do that will be more than successful. I am proud to be a consumer of his bread and will follow Dave wherever he goes. So when can I start?

Passion for your brand = passionate customers = more $$

I know someone who absolutely loves her job. LOVES it. Even though she’d appear to be in one of the most boring industrues known to man, she talks about customer relationships, and solving problems, and being mentored by her boss. She’s like those ITT Tech commercials, where the graduate talks about how their new career has changed their life, given their family hope for a brighter future, enabled him or her to be the best he or she can be. I chuckle when I watch these commercials, because – on the outside – it looks like this person has just settled into another soul-sucking cubicle gig. But you can’t help but admire the pride in their work, the loyalty to their company and how they are truly the best brand ambasssador for which the firm could ever ask.

B2B companies especially really can suck the creative life out of you. Especially since many of them don’t give a lick about branding or connecting with customers. “We sell a product with more widgets than our competitors at the best price,” they boast. And the conversation and connection stops there.

But this recent post talks about this sad truth and how it can bite a company in the end. If the human beings making the purchase decision don’t understand what the brands of their suppliers really stand for, they might be in for a world of pain. It’s all fun and games to save as much money as possible or make the lowest-common denominator decisions until someone loses an eye – or a lawsuit.

What does your brand stand for? Why does your company exist? Do you go around talking about how your company saves lives, makes the air cleaner, supports sending employees to school, gives money to worthy causes or contributes to the local community?  No?  Maybe you need to rethink your mission and find your brand’s passion – or more importantly, rethink what ensures that your employees, partners and customers will jump up out of bed every morning and sing your praises.

It’s not enough for people to recommend your business or services when they are asked. You need to ensure they can’t wait to practively share – at their next cocktail party or in their next Tweet – something you do that utterly delights them and makes them proud to be part of your tribe.

What you can learn from Virgin America

OK, I have a major brand crush on Virgin America. Huge. I swoon when I see their logo at the airport, thrill when I’m able to fly them on quick trips down to San Francisco, and dream about hanging with Richard Branson over cocktails sometime. I talk about them a lot in my new book, Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget.

There’s a lot you can learn about branding effectively from Virgin America (and Virgin in general for that matter.) And these are lessons you can apply to your own business, regardless of your size or budget. You may not be as big as they are, but you sure as heck can practice these principles to better connect with customers and stand out from the competition.

1) Keep your mission simple, concise and relevant: “Make flying fun again.” Boom. That says it all. And every decisions they make, big or small, is tested against this simple mantra. How inspiring is this for employees? How deliciously irresistible is this to frustrated and road-weary travelers? How different from the other airlines who tout generic, irrelevant platitudes like “best customer service” or “biggest value”? This mission has meaning and even just the wording tells you a little bit about their personality and the type of customer they want to attract. They are not just after those who can afford first-class or private jets who may not share the same flying frustrations as the rest of us. They are FOR the rest of us! Their mission is crisp, clean but still specific enough to their actual products and services. Is your mission something you can actually act on that will guide all of your decisions, or is it some lofty, esoteric statement that is not relevant to customers or employees?

2) Little things mean a lot: They extend their brand into everything from their color scheme that extends to the ticket counters and the airplane cabin to the cheeky wording of their standard airport signs (“While impressive, if your bag is bigger than 24” X 16” X 10”, it must be checked”) to their clever in-flight safety video. Rather than a stiff actor giving me the same instructions we’ve started to tune out on every other flight, Virgin America shows a stylized animated video with all sorts of crazy characters – even a bull calmly reading a magazine next to an anxious bullfighter. The company’s sassy, humorous tone carries over to the script as well: “For the 0.0001% of you who’ve never operated a seat belt before, here’s how it works.” These are simple things (and stuff they need to spend money on to produce anyway), but Virgin makes the most of every single solitary customer touchpoint in order to convey their brand and make their target customers fall in love with them. What opportunities are you wasting to really surprise and delight your target audience? Perhaps well-worded email opt-out policies (If you’d like to unsubscribe, we’d really miss you!) or a memorable voicemail message (We’re out helping our clients be superheroes today) or even a branded email signature can really make a difference. Such hidden delights will surprise and enchant and get people telling others about you, like I’m doing here. Just ensure that these flourishes match who you really are in your DNA and what your brand is all about. If your brand audience is more conservative and formal than playful and snarky, then don’t try to go there.

3) Deliver on your promise: Virgin America directs all its brand efforts on convincing me they will make flying fun again. But if I didn’t experience their confident and polished employees, rapid check-in kiosk process, glorious discount prices, or the private TV’s at every seat that also allow me to order food at any time with my credit card – not just when they decide I should eat – then we’d have a problem. They would not be delivering on their mission and would then suffer from a brand identity crisis. Are you living up to what you are promising to customers? If you say customer care is your number one priority, do I get rapid response to my support issues and easy access to a live person? If your colors and website are all slick, modern and progressive but you only offer the same-old, same-old, what am I to think? It’s worse to go out there and talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk – worse than not promising it in the first place. Don’t just slap a coat of brand paint on your business. Make a promise and ensure your operations, employees, and customer experiences are set up to deliver on it.

C’mon baby, light my (entrepreneurial) fire

How’s your cashflow and your mojo? Does your vision match your reality? Does your brand match your soul?

Danielle LaPorte can help you answer these tough but important questions so you can make your business dream a reality. I’ve loved her brazen and authentic style ever since we first met a few years ago on a client project. I’m thrilled to talk to her in today’s Ask the Expert about her new digital experience for entrepreneurs: The Fire Starter Sessions. As she says in her witty and wonderful way: “It’s an e-book meets video transmission of acumen and love.” Whether you’re in the early idea phase or a well-established rut, Danielle wants to light a fire under your….aspirations.

THE FIRE STARTER SESSIONS is: Worksheets that help you draw conclusions, quick videos with motivational punch, connections to current thinkers, practical smarts, and frank wisdom — THE FIRE STARTER SESSIONS is packed with inspiration that you will put to use. Danielle has worked with 462+ entrepreneurs in her 1-on-1 Fire Starter consults. For CEOs, coaches, artists, retailers, bestselling authors — from site design to big dreams — Danielle’s strategies combine passion with pragmatism to get to fulfillment and cash. And she’s also got nuggets from A-list marketing strategists, pro-bloggers, experts and creativity coaches.

RS: Hi Danielle. Tell us a bit about you and what White Hot Truth can do for business owners?

DL: I’m part strategist, part philosopher. Someone once said I’m a cross between Deepak Chopra and Janis Joplin. Kinda fits. I write about self realization, and I jam with entrepreneurs in my 1-on-1 "Fire Starter Sessions". And after working with hundreds of entrepreneurs to help them rock their careers, I decided to launch "The Fire Starter Sessions" as an online program.

RS: What is this deliciously explosive online experience all about and who is it meant for?

DL: If you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit – this is for you. You: are likely sitting on an empire of content, product, services, and prosperity that needs a spark — or blow torch — to take you to the next level. You: want to rock your revenue streams and do meaningful things in the world.

RS:What one big mistake do you see entrepreneurs making over and over again that stymies their success?

DL: They take for granted how much they really have to offer. So many people are experts, tribe leaders, teachers – swimming in their own knowledge. A lot of what I do is about showing them the value and potential of their natural strengths and experience.

RS: The White Hot Truth brand is especially authentic and attractive. What intentional decisions did you make about your brand early on and can you give us an example or two of how you live it out in practice?

DL: "Especially authentic and attractive?" Why, thank you (insert batting eyelashes.) When I went solo to start White Hot Truth I vowed that I would never dummy down, I would never shrink from my spiritual or intellectual power, I would only put out material that I felt was useful. So far, so good.
Even though I’d been "blogging" for a long time, when I launched White Hot Truth it took me about three months to find my truest voice. I thought I might write about style…but, nope. Relationships… nada. I let myself feel what I really WANTED to talk about, not what I thought would sell. And that’s made all the difference to not only deepening my creativity and quality of work, but the quality of people who are shown up for it.
Passion has a way of doing that.


DIGITAL FIRE STARTER SESSIONS…a digital experience for people with the entrepreneurial spirit.

Pre-ordering opens April 7 with a special sneak peek chapter. Worldwide release is May 12. The program is $150, with $5 from every purchase going to The Acumen Fund or WomenforWomen.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Danielle sparking up The Fire.