Ignite Your Brand with Humility, Curiosity and Passion

Ernie Harker is a creative branding mastermind. He recently published “Your Brand Sucks,” a book that reveals why most companies get branding wrong and reveals the step by step formula he has used to assist dozens of companies define a clear image and personality for their brands. One of his greatest successes was to help revitalize an old-western retail chain into a $3 billion high-energy adventure brand. He leads workshops, gives presentations, and offers an online masterclass to help organizations define and develop remarkable brands.

Self-diagnosed with Hyperactive Productivity Disorder, Ernie loves to draw, trail run, compete in triathlons, wake board, do yoga, lift weights, camp, mountain bike, watch movies, eat junk food, and spend time with his family and 7 brothers. Asked him what his real life allergies to exercise on the TV travel show he hosted.

Buckle up because his dynamic personality and passion for brand development will have you racing to build your brand. His friends call him Ernburn, so call him Ernburn!


  • Could you share little bit about their journey and how you got to where you are today. Could you share that?
  • Could you maybe share with us three important things you think our company needs to have in order to really have, at least gives off the impression of being a brand that is for their customer?
  • Are there maybe two or three personality traits that you think an employee or a leader needs to have in an organization in order to really develop a brand that is highly associated in a positive way?
  • Could you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • Could you also share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or even one that you read recently, but it has a great impact on you.
  • We have a lot of listeners who are business owners and managers who feel sometimes that they have great products and services, but they lack the constantly motivated human capital. If you’re sitting across the table from that person, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them to have a successful business?
  • Could you share with us what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about? Either something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote, it kind of helps to get you back on track or get you back focus if for any reason you get derailed.


Ernie’s Journey

Ernie shared that like most of our guests, they always start on the path that never seems to be like, if I were to rewind my life; I never would have thought I would have ended up where I’m at. He wanted to be an illustrator or an animator when he was a kid. And so, he was an illustration, he drew all the time, and studied illustration at the university. And when he got out of university, he got a job for an Ad agency. And he was doing concept development and that’s just pre visualization of either TV commercials or print ads, or online ads or whatever. He would sketch out what a creative director or an art director would have in mind and then they would show those drafts, those pieces of art to the client.

And what he learned is that he learned to become really good at visualizing language. He wasn’t a writer and so he had to clearly communicate and very quickly communicate an idea visually. And so illustration led to storyboards, which led to TV commercials, radio commercials, interactive design, then print design. And so, now he was all over the place doing all kinds of creative development stuff. But that led him into brand development because branding is such a visual experience, we often think of branding as like colours, and logos and graphic design and things like that. But it’s also a lot more personality conveyed through language, visual language, and verbal language, tone, vocabulary and things like that. And so, that’s kind of how he started as an illustrator, and developed into a branding guy. So it took a while.

Three Important Things a Company Needs to Have That Gives the Impression a Brand is For Their Customer

Me: Now, branding is very important to customer experience and your brand as you said, it’s not just from a marketing perspective, the image that comes out in your advertisements, or any form of posts that you put up on any social media platform, but could you maybe share with us three important things you think a company needs to have in order to really have, at least give off the impression of being a brand that is for their customer?

Ernie shared that he’s so grateful that Yanique is championing the customer experience because so many businesses focus on their business and not the customer experience, their business will be fine if they just focus on the customer experience. And so, congratulations and thank you for doing that.

There’s a singular lens. Every brand should have a singular lens that they use to focus the customer experience and those are all the touch points that a customer would see, hear, read, notice, anything like that. So, those are all touch points. Well, the customer experience is a conscious decision to filter all those touch points to reinforce a specific personality of the company.

So really, we’re trying, with all these customer experiences, we’re trying to engage and attract a customer, make them fall in love with a business, you can’t make anybody fall in love with the business unless there’s a personality associated with that business. And so, defining what your brand lens or personality is really about, will then help you choose the visual elements, the pictures, colours, textures, all those kinds of things.

And the verbal elements, the language, vocabulary, the tone to give that customer the glimpse into the organization’s personality, they go, “Oh, my gosh, I love this company,” not just “Oh, I recognize the company.” which is a lot of branding oftentimes, as he can differentiate between one company and another company, visually, but it needs to be more than that, it needs to be more of a personal, emotional connection, like “I really am attracted to this company.” And that’s done like for a convenience store chain.

He was in involved a convenience store chain business for a long time. And what’s neat about the convenience store business is that it’s one of the very few businesses that have customers come in on a daily or multiple times per week. Like banks don’t do that, retail locations don’t do that. Even McDonald’s, well, maybe some people that go every day, but convenience stores like they’re buying fuel, customers are buying fuel, they’re buying snacks, they’re buying drinks, whatever.

And so the environment needs to be inviting. What is it about the walls, the floors, the interior design, the extra design that reinforces the personality of the business? And then of course, you have the person behind the counter, that Maverik, the convenience store that he was developing a brand for. They called them adventure guides because they had an adventurous personality; they wanted to make it feel like people were going to the great outdoors when they would come to a store. And so, they’d call them adventure guides.

So titles, the way customers were greeted. So you have this visual experience when people come in and then you have the vocabulary of like a greeting and you meet somebody who is an adventure guide instead of a clerk, or a teller, or a whatever. And then of course, all the marketing and advertising goes on top of that customer experience. I hope that answers the question in a roundabout way.

Three Personality Traits an Employee or Leader Needs to Have in an Organization in Order to Develop a Brand

Me: Oh, definitely it does. So there are quite a few things that you mentioned that I am definitely 100% on board with. I think sometimes also when people hear the word brand, it’s like brand is highly associated with marketing, not necessarily customer experience. Are there maybe two or three personality traits that you think an employee or a leader needs to have in an organization in order to really develop a brand that is highly associated in a positive way? Because your brand can have a negative image and your brand can have a positive image. But what are some key things that you would need to ensure or would you say it should be linked to your core values? And if that’s the case, what should be your strategy where recruitment is concerned?

Ernie stated that there are 3 things he’s going to say off the top of his head. One is Humility. And what he means by humility is oftentimes organizational leaders or employees think they know best. They have their own personal opinion and they think their personal opinion is stronger than anybody else’s opinion or research. So, humility.

Curiosity is the second one. Like he wants to know what their customers really think. He wants to learn as much as he can. So, humility gives us opening in our brains and our hearts for change and curiosity leads us to find the material to fill in that empty space that’s relative, that’s applicable.

And then the third thing is, he thinks Passion. There’s so much boringness going on in the world today. He wants to be surrounded by people who are enthusiastic about what they do. It doesn’t matter what they do, he could care less, but he cares about the enthusiasm and the passion by which they’re engaged. So, there’s too many retail locations or retailers, with employees who are completely disengaged, they are there counting the minutes between breaks, can’t wait to get home and so the customer experience is a huge, like empty space in those locations, those businesses. So enthusiasm, he just wants to feel some love, some passion. He doesn’t care if he’s ordering a Big Mac, he wants someone to be excited about it for him. So those are the three things humility, curiosity, and passion or enthusiasm.

App, Website or Tool that Ernie Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Ernie stated that Photoshop. He’s learning to use HubSpot because he’s been terrible as a CRM guy. He needs to do a better job with that. But he does so many things in Photoshop, because he’s image oriented, whether it’s illustration or even graphic define online, banners, video thumbnails, and all those. If he didn’t have Photoshop, he’d be a stick in the mud.

Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Ernie

Ernie shared that the book that has had one of the most profound impacts on him is The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss, and he has referenced it so much that his wife gives him a hard time about it. On his nightstand, he has a set of Scriptures, the Bible, this is his go to, that’s his big go to book. So, he got his scriptures, and he’s a faith based person, very religious. But next to that for years was Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek and so he would wreck ideas from The 4-Hour Workweek and his wife would say, “Oh, are you quoting brother Ferriss again?” Because it’s like he’s almost like a prophet. But some of the things that he talked about that are profound to him is the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule, becoming more efficient with your time.

He also talked a lot about multiple careers instead of retirement, and working for the future, we’re designed to be very creative people. So, why do we work like crazy in one career, and then hope one day we’ll retire and not have to work, that’s crazy. He doesn’t ever want to stop working; he wants to keep doing fun, cool stuff. And so, the idea of multiple careers and mini retirements. Well, he could talk for a whole hour about Tim Ferriss and his teachings. But that was the most profound book.

Advice for Business Owners and Managers to Have a Successful Business

When asked about advice he would give to business owner or manager to have a successful business, Ernie shared that he would love to be able to incorporate employee compensation with customer experience so that the employees are rewarded, their compensation is structured on  how much the customers enjoy their interaction, how much they appreciate the interaction. So that instead of like sales based, like always commissioned based, play the long game of, “I want to hire people that are compensated when customers or potential customers have a really good experience with them.” And then also provide that employee with the resources to wow their customers. Like being able to send a note, being able to send a very small inexpensive gift, things like that. So they’re empowered and they’re compensated based on their customer experience, because he knows that there will be people, that the customers will always come back to a really good experience.

What Ernie is Really Excited About Now!

Ernie shared that he has been going bonkers over a YouTube channel that teaches kids to draw. So he created a YouTube channel, he spends way too much time on it. But he gets to produce, he gets to do the drawing, he does the lesson. And then he edits the video. And so all the fun things and creative production that he enjoys, as well as kind of inspiring and igniting the excitement of drawing which is affordable to everybody. It’s within the reach of the poorest of poor people, get a piece of charcoal and a log, and you can draw. Pencil and paper, it’s super, super inexpensive. But the ability to express creativity with pencil and paper, and an iPad and procreate or whatever is just so empowering for him. And so, he’s done 100 episodes in the past 2 years and the channel, it’s like 4000 subscribers, it’s not very big but it has been so much fun to make these videos and just have fun being creative in the YouTube world.

Where Can We Find Ernie Online

LinkedIn – Ernie Harker

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Ernie Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Ernie shared that he was writing his book, Your Brand Sucks, which was very, very hard for him, he has ADD and so kind of staying focused on that was really, really challenging. And he’d often want to give up. He’d been involved in multiple businesses, a lot of entrepreneurial businesses, and none of them met the financial goals that he had, like he wanted to build these businesses and have it sell millions of dollars worth of product or whatever, but most of the time, they just kind of broke even.

And while sharing his disappointment, his frustration with a co-worker of his, an executive with him. He was listening to him (Ernie) talk about like his TV series didn’t work out; he took longer to run his iron man than he thought he should, his children’s book didn’t sell very well. He like looked at him like, “Dude, you get credit for trying.” “You get credit for trying.” And what he thinks is impactful to him about that little mantra is that it kind of reshapes his definition of success, of not relying on success of things he can’t control.

Like, for example, if he wrote a book, he has very little control whether or not it sells a million copies, if it gets popular, if Oprah loves it. But he has 100% control whether or not he finishes writing the book. So, if he were to focus his success, his definition of success on things that he can control, then he could be very productive, he can write the book. Because the temptation is he’s going to give up because nothing that he’s done so far has met his definition of success so why even try? Instead, he did that. And so, he can do it again. Even though the sales or whatever, the financial numbers aren’t spectacular, he can look back on his life and go, “I did a lot of really great stuff that I was passionate about whether or not it made money or not.” So, you get credit for trying.

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