Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter, brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.
This week’s article is written by Alvaro Luque, President & CEO of Avocados From Mexico. It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future titled Avocados: When Produce Produces Innovation which premiered on October 31, 2023.
Link to the entire interview:
This year, Avocados From Mexico celebrates a major milestone — 10 years of fast, exponential growth. Our company was created to do two things: build a brand for Mexican avocados, and drive avocado demand in the U.S. In our first decade, we’ve tripled brand preference, becoming by far the preferred avocado brand in the U.S., and doubled the volume of Mexican avocado imports. All this while generating an economic output of more than 11 billion dollars.
Innovation and a passion for performance have been the driving forces behind our success story. By reinventing the way produce is marketed in the U.S., we have created a visible brand in a brandless category that is now considered a staple in the Super Bowl and have driven consumption to almost 9 pounds per capita in the U.S. Today, 8 out of 10 avocados in the U.S. come from Mexico.
I am incredibly proud of the team that we have built and the hard work that has gone into expanding the avocado market in such an unprecedented way. Since our founding, we have developed a long-term strategy to accomplish the goals of building a brand and driving demand, and we have successfully implemented our company programs following a disciplined business model approach guided by this process:
- Let STRATEGY be the igniter. First and foremost, in this company, we believe that everything needs a why. I love risky marketing ideas, but I firmly believe that strategy is king. A good strategic vision and a solid insight are the north star guiding you to the results you want to achieve. Always, always start there, and don’t let shiny objects distract you along the way.
- Stay in your lane and DISRUPT everything around you. Once you identify the why, the strategy allows you to set the playground where you can be creative. At this moment, go crazy and break the mold. Be as disruptive as possible and try to do what no one else has done, but always within your playground. I believe in innovation that matters — creative ideas that have an impact and drive results.
- Have a PERFORMANCE mindset from beginning to end. Measure, measure, measure. Creativity always needs accountability. Ideas can’t just be strategic and disruptive; they need to move the needle, and everything can be measured if you pre-define well your success metrics. Concentrate on the biggest opportunities in front of you and then bring the results.
- Repeat, improve, and build a CULTURE around it. Following this formula creates a discipline that sparks the innovation and brings results. Now, be sure to do that in a way you can enjoy yourself and collaborate with amazing people around you. That’s culture. I like to say, “Work hard and have fun,” and I believe that perspective helps keep our team motivated, bringing the results while having a good time. At Avocados From Mexico, the essence of our culture and brand is Mexicanity, our term for the celebration of meaningful good times. That’s the spirit we use to celebrate our innovative, high-performance programs that have built this brand in a brand-less world.
I’m a big believer in balance. I am a marketer, I love creativity, but with accountability and a strategy behind you that delivers results. If you can manage that balance between these two worlds and make them work seamlessly day by day, you are going to be successful. As the leader of the company, it’s my job to make sure that we’re moving the needle, but at the same time, I’m committed to fostering an environment where new ideas are supported. I must wear those two hats and be good at them simultaneously, but in the end, it is not only me that will drive this organization. It’s this group of highly engaged and effective people we have been fortunate enough to bring together at AFM. As their leader, it is also my job to offer my team the tools they need to be successful.
With that in mind, I’ve been developing some tools in each of the four quadrants of our thinking model to help our team execute our formula and foster a culture of innovative thinking and high performance:
- Strategic Framework and Planning Process. We developed a detailed strategic framework that we have kept very consistent throughout the years. The framework defines very well our main targets, campaigns, channels, and strategic pillars. Every department in the company has its own framework that ladders up to our main one. That’s how you keep your company aligned and consistent. With a good framework in hand, we worked on a disciplined planning process that follows our thinking model, sets a solid foundation for creativity, and defines the goals we want to accomplish. We’ve been implementing and refining the process for years.
- Innovation Ecosystem. We nurture our innovative spirit in everything we do. Disrupting is part of our DNA. To get to that mindset, you need to invest in it. One of our big priorities is training, so our team is constantly pushing the limits and thinking outside the box. We have identified within AFM “innovation champions” to make sure we continue thinking differently, and we have promoted innovation through our planning exercises and our own innovation awards that highlight our best ideas, always using the balance of creativity and accountability at the same time. We like to call that Brandformance.
- Performance Platform: Measure What Matters. Tracking progress is just as important as the activations and ideas themselves. Using OKR thinking, we created our own customized digital platform where we track our growth. With this system, the whole company is measurable and visible to everyone. The process also inspires team members to consider clear goals and objectives that are defined from the bottom up not only to empower and encourage advancement but also to foster innovation and collaboration and serve as a place to ideate new ways to improve business. We even use this performance platform as our daily recognition tool to highlight our best work.
- Develop a Culture Map. Our Culture Map defines our company’s purpose and the values we have as an organization. And because we are obsessed with performance, we develop our own operating guidelines for each value so we can operationalize our Culture and be sure we walk the talk.
After 10 years, I believe Avocados From Mexico’s thinking model is successful for a variety of reasons. Not only do we prioritize bold strategies and creative ideas, but we also understand that our creativity needs to drive results. That’s what modern marketing is all about, creating Value and Growth for our organizations.
I am optimistic about the future of AFM — and the future of innovative marketing as a whole. If we as leaders have a solid strategy, a good thinking process, and a true commitment to think differently and drive results, you will ultimately be successful at anything you do. That’s how I’ve built AFM and how we will continue thriving for the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alvaro Luque has transformed the produce industry by delivering innovative marketing strategies that not only defy established paradigms but also deliver impressive results. With more than 28 years of marketing experience in the CPG and produce industries, Alvaro has successfully built a brand in a brandless category. Under Alvaro’s leadership, Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has led the growth of U.S. avocado consumption to more than 2.5 billion pounds per year, and today, 8 in 10 avocados in the U.S. come from Mexico. Alvaro’s vision for making AFM the first fresh produce brand to advertise in the Super Bowl is one of many industry firsts that have positioned AFM as the most preferred brand of avocados in the U.S. and one of the most innovative produce companies in the world.
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