What I Learned On My 800-Mile Trek Across Texas Interviewing 85-Year-Old Widows

If you're a regular reader of PositionistView, you're well aware of our brand position philosophy -- employing a differentiating idea, a strategy of differentiating your brand against your competition in all of your marketing messages. It's about living your brand position.

But why stop there? To be truly effective in "engraving" your brand position in the minds of your customers, incorporate your brand position into every aspect of your business. Create a 360º brand position strategy, if you will ... from the way your receptionist answers the phone, to the speed of your e-mail responses, to the way you treat your staff, your corporate culture should reflect your brand position.

Who would believe a bank that claims its brand position is unbeatable customer service when half of its tellers take a lunch break during the busiest hour of the day? Or a luxury homebuilder who drives around in a beat-up pickup? Or an airline that touts "friendliness" in its ads, but its employees treat you like a number, not a person?

It's rare to find a client willing or able to weave this brand position idea into his or her company fabric, but we know of one who definitely has.

GuideStone Financial Resources, based in Dallas, has been a client of ours for several years. The company offers retirement and insurance plans for church ministers and their staffs. Going beyond the above-average performance of its investment returns, GuideStone adds the benefit of not investing in certain industries that are contrary to biblical principles. Thus, the "Performance Guided by Values" brand position is embodied in the tagline, "Do well. Do right."

That's a lot to live up to. Not just as a promise to its customers, but also as a corporate mantra. Could GuideStone live up to its brand position?

I had the opportunity to witness it firsthand recently. GuideStone has a supplemental income program for retired ministers and widows of retired pastors who have served in mostly small-town or rural churches and haven't had the opportunity to build a sufficient retirement package. Many of these elderly couples earned less than $100 a week throughout parts of their ministerial service, so wealth accumulation wasn't really in the picture (or part of their plan, for that matter). This program, called Mission:Dignity, is often the difference for some of the recipients of choosing between groceries or prescription medications.

This spring, I accompanied the Mission:Dignity crew across the back roads of Texas as we videotaped interviews of several 85-year-old (plus) widows about the significance of this program. I listened as they told their heart-warming stories of the sacrifices they had to make throughout their husbands' ministries. I was amazed that each widow knew the names of the Mission:Dignity staff. (Obviously, they had talked one-on-one many times before.) I was humbled to have the recipients offer us lunch or a snack when I knew they had so little. And I was touched to see each widow give the director of the program a thankful hug as we left her home.

These thankful widows weren't just customers. They were friends. The folks at GuideStone know how to "live" their brand position. Well done, GuideStone. Keep on doing well and doing right.

Jeff Monter is Innis Maggiore's Principal Creative Services.