I originally wrote this article on April 22, 2014. It was a year and a day after I lost one of my dear friends, Jon Latta. He offered me a lot through our friendship. I am a better person for having known him. The most important thing he gave me was a perfect example of a brand principle. I will share this article every year at this time in his honor so we may all continue to learn from his example.
Yesterday was a difficult day. I often see and experience examples that I can use to educate people on the B + C + S formula — the alignment among the brand, culture, and strategy. There’s been an example of a brand principle I have known for a while but have been reluctant to write about it. Until now.
A brand principle is one of the brand drivers in our iceberg analogy that, simply put, is a statement on how the brand will be conveyed. Many times it is a tagline that is actually lived. For instance, one of the best cultures I ever experienced was at AltaOne Federal Credit Union where their tagline was “Reach New Heights.” That became more of a tagline in that it was used internally such as, “We will help our employees Reach New Heights with our new training program.”
Most B + C + S principles also apply to personal branding. Therefore, the best example of a brand principle came from my late friend, Jon Latta. Jon played an integral role in the engagement and wedding for my wife and me. He gave a great toast during our reception. Just weeks later he was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer.
The first time we saw Jon after our wedding he already knew his time on this earth was limited. He handed me a wrist band that I wear as I write this article with the words “Live Laugh Latta.” Jon lived his life to the fullest and he was going to go out that way. He wanted to make sure others would hear that message as well. Thus, the importance of the wrist bands.
“Live Laugh Latta” weren’t just words. They were a true brand principle as he lived that way. The last 16 months of his life were lived the same way he had lived prior for over 50 years. He worked hard in his business, He worked hard to fight cancer and stay alive for as long as he could. And he lived life to the fullest. He went scuba diving. He skied. He golfed. He sailed. He traveled. He had big parties with his close friends, of which I was honored to be one, with plenty of laughter and plenty of libations.
On the last trip I had the pleasure of spending with him in March of 2013 I remember tons of laughs even though he was so sick. He dressed up as a leprechaun and a bunch of us partied past midnight on St. Patrick’s Day on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. A few days later, the last day I saw him, he was telling stories about past trips with me and a number of other friends surrounding him. We laughed almost uncontrollably.
As I left and said goodnight I hugged him. “I love you, Jon Latta.” He responded. “I love you too, Kenny Bator.” I drove away both laughing and crying. About a month later on April 21, 2013 he passed away.
During his memorial service, I can’t even count how many stories were told. There were a lot more laughs than tears. Even though he died at a young age in his mid-fifties it was obvious he lived a full life and touched so many people. And that wasn’t obvious just simply because the hall was packed. “Live Laugh Latta.”
Yesterday on April 21, 2014, a number of us celebrated Jon Latta Day. We told more stories, many I never heard, around his memorial bench. People talked about what they did personally over the past year to honor Jon and to live his brand principle: “Live Laugh Latta.”
Brand principles aren’t just words on paper. They are words to live by. How will your brand be conveyed…even if you aren’t around?
I love you, Jon Latta. I will always miss you.