Reigniting the Champion
After an hour, I had gone through the findings from all my interviews, captured the results of the workshop and crystallised it all in a set of brand strategy recommendations. I was exhausted, happy that I had given the assignment my all, but then dismayed as I watched the client, without a word, leave the room.
This was not normal. But then again, nor was the client.
For the last 30 years, Dean Cycon, founder of Dean’s Beans had been using coffee as a vehicle for change to deliver a real and lasting difference to small farming communities across the globe. Dean’s razor-sharp mind and deep commitment to the plight of some of the world’s most marginalised communities had lit up the lives of coffee growers and drinkers the world over.
Put simply, Dean is one of the most remarkable people you will ever come across!
However, Dean does not follow the crowd, and by definition nor did his coffee brand and so, early on in the assignment, it became apparent that if I was to get to know the brand I would have to get to know the man. The values of the brand were in effect the values of Dean and so my role was to get under his skin to put some order to how the brand’s values were expressed.
The first value came at me like a stampede of wild horses – his charisma! His presence and sheer energy could fill a room full of people in a heartbeat, and in that room he could hold each individual’s attention as if it was just the two of them. A gift it may be, but at its root is a heartfelt passion for the underdog, care for other people, and a granite-like belief that it’s the right thing to do.
He was a radical. Dean’s innovation and inquisitive intuition came from fresh thinking, not burdened by “the way we do things here”. It’s a simplicity of thought that always goes to the heart of the matter, by more often than not listening to the people most important to Dean – the coffee farmers. He believed traditional development practices boxed in the farmers’ thinking by maintaining the belief that change only comes from the outside, creating a reliance on others with no sense of ownership. He coined the phrase People Centered Development to describe a paradigm shift he wanted to deliver – to open the box to a world of possibilities.
That radical approach came from another of his values, that of being connected to the farmers. He believed it was the communities themselves that knew what was needed, and not the aid organizations or governments. Dean would always spend time with the farmers, and by seeing with his own eyes and listening to the communities he used his expertise to steer a “solution” to a “problem”.
But there was a significant issue. Dean was tired. Because of the incredible energy that he put into the business and because it was all on his shoulders, he was running low. Through the process I had seen this and had been intentional about using the brand strategy as a way of attempting to rekindle the spark that had lit up the coffee world for so long.
At the core of my recommendations was the brand positioning of ‘champion’. This reflected Dean’s passion to champion the cause of small farmers, to be a champion for young people, showing them how they could affect real change, and of course, a champion for a decent cup of joe! His passion, as displayed in his values, was to open the eyes of farmers to their own potential, and open the minds of consumers to a better cup of coffee. It was the thread that ran though every single part of the brand.
After a what seemed like an eternity, Dean came back to the meeting room, tears rolling down his cheeks, a huge smile splashed across his face, and told me our work together had reignited his passion for the brand and that was, in his words, more valuable than gold.
Postscript: That reignited passion burned for a few more years before Dean retired. But before leaving, in typical Dean style, he sold the company to his team and so now, Dean's Beans, as well as being a B Corp, is an employee-owned cooperative with all the commitment needed to keep the passion for farmers and good coffee burning brightly.
If you want to explore how brand strategy can help re ignite your passion for your brand, why not join me for a complimentary 2 hour taster workshop, you can find the details here.
I founded the specialist brand strategy practice The Brand Arrow® in 2009 and have delivered over 120 assignments in Europe and North America in a variety of sectors across B2B and B2C.
I regularly speak at conferences, business schools and facilitate workshops. As well as that, I’m an accredited Vistage CEO network speaker and a Course Director for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.