I began my career in marketing/PR for municipal government. Community building in the literal sense. A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to a couple super smart City Planner types talk about exactly that as my city began the process of creating a new “Master Plan.”
While the focus of the talk was physical communities, so much of the advice was relevant to community building and brands.
You can admire someone else’s success, but you can never replicate it by repeating the same tactics. Nor should you want to. Building a great brand is not a matter of cookie cutter thinking. A + B does not always equal C. Great brands are successful because they do the hard and honest work to uncover who they really are. And who you are is not the same as who you wish you were. Not everyone is going to be an Austin or a Portland (or a Zappos or Dove) — and that’s okay. Those brands built empires on self-awareness and honesty. And that IS something we can all do in our own way. There’s something special about every brand. It’s not always obvious, but it’s there. 99.99% of the time, that sense of specialness will reveal itself in the people who love you — internally and externally. Talk to them, ask them questions, look to them. The truth doesn’t reveal itself while you’re sitting behind the table in a boardroom brainstorm; but it will almost always reveal itself once you start having real conversations with real people. Educate yourself on the things other brands have done. Be inspired. Take notes. Then let it go…and just be you. You won’t find your magic trying to recreate someone else’s magic. We can’t all be Apple. It doesn’t make sense to plop San Antonio’s River Walk in Alberta, Canada if you can only use it a few months a year. Don’t try to be someone else’s victory. Create your own. That requires a certain sense of courage. But don’t most good things?