As you’ve likely heard, North Carolina (where Angel Oak Creative is headquartered) and South Carolina took quite a hit from Hurricane Florence. The storm wreaked havoc, causing significant damage, flooding and most sadly, the loss of life. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected, for comfort and a speedy recovery.
One of the outcomes of the storm was a heart-warming television spot from Allstate Insurance featuring the Angel Oak in Johns Island, S.C. This amazing tree, which some contend is 1,500 years old, is frequently described as the “oldest living thing in the country” — or at least on the East Coast. This tree has inspired countless photos, stories, poems and people over the centuries. And yes, as you’ve probably already guessed, this magnificent tree that’s withstood centuries of destructive hurricanes and threats of being cut down, inspired our very own founder, Caitlin Clinard, as a young girl and then as an entrepreneur and business owner.
Angel Oak Creative was founded in early 2012 with a vision for helping build nonprofit brands that stand the test of time, just like her namesake.
The same characteristics that’ve helped sustain the Angel Oak for centuries and allowed it to inspire generations, can also help you grow your brand.
It’s obvious to any viewer that the Angel Oak must have deep, strong roots in order for it to grow like it has. The trunk itself is nine feet in diameter! For a brand, developing strong roots means building the brand strategically and maintaining it with integrity. Clearly defining your mission, vision, audience, uniques, voice, messaging, visual identity and standards is critical to provide the necessary environment for deep roots to grow. And just as a tree’s roots give it integrity, so does communicating your brand consistently, based on clear guidelines that are followed by all those who utilize the brand. Without the roots of strategic brand definition and integrity, your brand is susceptible to being toppled by a slight breeze.
Lightning strike plan
One of biggest threats to the Angel Oak is lightning. To protect it from this natural disaster, caretakers placed lightning terminals at the top of the tree to conduct the strikes away from the tree and to the ground. Brands are subject to lightning strikes as well. They usually come in the form of failure — by a product, organization or representative. We’ve seen this with brands like Tylenol, McDonald’s and BP. While your organization may never risk tampered pills or major oil spills, in today’s world where social media rules, even the smallest “fail” can explode into a major crisis. So, what can you do to prepare your brand for a potential lightning strike? The best first step is a crisis communications plan. This will help you identify what strikes could happen, strategically plan how to mitigate the damage and not be caught off guard if/when one hits. Secondly, create a culture of transparency and trust in your organization. Honesty is still the best policy and will go a long way in building up equity for when you do have an issue arise. With these two steps, you’ll be well on your way to directing that lightning strike away from your organization and into the ground!
Sunlight and water
The two most critical elements needed to grow a healthy, vigorous tree like the Angel Oak are sunlight and water. Cue all the 6th grade science memories. Trees get their energy from water and sunlight. That’s why the wilted plant that used to be in the dark corner of your office started thriving when your green-thumbed colleague gave it water and put it on your window sill instead. Its leaves started turning green again and growing toward the sun. That’s how it is with your brand! It needs to be watered and taken out into the light to be shared with others. That’s where it gets its energy. Brands are meant to be shared. Think about the big brands you see every day and how they communicate. Target, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola aren’t shy about integrating their brands/visual identities into their communications – everywhere! Don’t keep your brand in the dark. Take care of it and let it shine.
In 2004 and again in 2013, builders set their sights on developing the area around the Angel Oak, and simultaneously, threatened to cut the tree down. Thousands of supporters raised their voices (and wallets) in opposition and came to the rescue, saving the tree and preserving it for centuries more to come. Are you building an army of ambassadors for your brand? During the good times ambassadors can be your cheerleaders, helping spread the word about your important mission and positive impact. In the bad times, they’re there to help you overcome the obstacles and threats. Every brand needs an army around it to protect and champion it. If you’re not cultivating ambassadors, now is the time to start.
We appreciate Allstate for drawing attention to one of our country’s most amazing living landmarks and giving us a chance to reflect on our roots and be inspired all over again. Angel Oak Creative may only be six years old, but she’s in it for the long haul. She’s weathered many a storm but remains steady and grounded, partnering with more and more North Carolina nonprofits to help them build their brands to stand the test of time, just like her namesake.
North Carolina, we’re also humbled by your strength. Nonprofit neighbors, we’re here to help in any way we can.