Yesterday was the TEDx Mile High 2016 event. The theme – Make & Believe. It is there that I encountered Richard Cooke and his instruments that have no wrong notes for the second time. Richard and his team create outdoor instrument parks for all ages and abilities.
Discovering a Hidden Gem
I wouldn’t really have believed it was possible to build an instrument with no wrong notes except for my first encounter with one of Richard’s instruments in Centennial, CO. I was at the playground with my daughter and I heard this wonderful improv music coming from the other side of the playground. I craned my neck to see past the play structure to see an 7 year old making the music.
Well of course my daughter and I had to go try it for ourselves. It was intriguing at first and then plain captivating. I got to connect with my 5 year old by making music together. She is only now learning the basics of reading music. But with this instrument – it didn’t matter. She could just listen to her inner music and use the instrument to play it for the rest of us to hear. What an incredible gift to receive both from my daughter but also from the maker of this instrument.
A Commonly Overlooked Element of Branding
So what in the world does this have to do with branding and marketing? EVERYTHING. At the core of every brand should be the authentic story of the founder. For Richard his personal journey with music is what drove him to innovation. He had an intense drive to express what he felt and heard inwardly when he was a child but could not easily express outwardly without an enormous amount of practice and discipline. His drive turned into a completely new kind of instrument and a profitable business.
From Good to Great
Richard Cooke is a Grammy Award winning musician. That seems pretty great, right? But there are plenty of exceptional musicians. That’s not what makes Richard especially valuable. It’s his story. It’s one everyone one can relate to. He brought his unique story and passion to his profession. And look at the results. He has awards in multiple fields from music therapy to professional organizations. He’s been featured on multiple TV shows and his music parks are installed nationally. He has brought the joy and freedom of playing music from the soul to thousands of people who otherwise would be too intimidated to find the right notes or even try. He has bridged the gaps between race, gender, age, and economic differences. Now THAT is what I call great.
Your Unique Story
What if we all have gifts we were uniquely designed to share with the world? And what if when we choose to blend in and suppress those things that make our journey unique we are actually withholding something the world needs?
Make no mistake, being your authentic self and intentionally choosing to infuse your business with your unique story requires focus, discipline and bravery. There is no set course to follow. There is the chance of rejection and failure. But what if you have something important to share? What if that “something important” is what takes your business from good to great?
Taking an Honest Look
In my experience the only thing stopping most of us is fear. Fear comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. But if you boil it all down it’s all just fear. Let me suggest that the opposite of fear is love not courage. That may sound strange at first but think about it. Consider some of the fears you’ve overcome. More times than not it was probably love. Kind and encouraging words from a friend or loved one. Perhaps it was a mentor who showed you the way one step at a time.
If you want to move from good to great you must do it out of love. Love for others and self. To be clear on two points. One, I am not talking about singing Kumbayah in a circle where we all drink the Kool-aide and talk about peace and love.
I mean acting out of a sense of purpose to serve others because that is fundamental to the human experience. Mutual respect and service to each other is primary to our personal success because that is when we become our best selves.
Two, self love is very different from selfishness. Self love recognizes and values your unique traits and naturally wants to share those with others. Selfishness hides and hoards what it has from others.
Consider a less obvious source of selfishness. We all grumble about the short comings of others we encounter in life. Examples are not difficult to find and it is easy to blame and point fingers. But what if not being yourself fully is just as bad as those who commit the more obvious offenses? What if not being yourself is at it’s core selfish? Isn’t that the source of all offenses people commit?
Sharing Your Story
Stop for a moment and consider. What makes me unique? Why am I in business for myself in the first place? How does that make me especially good at what I do and what gift do I offer to my clients or customers. Does your brand express your story? If you want to make the leap from good to great it should.
We will be posting more stories about business owners who are boldly sharing their stories. And tips and tools for telling your own story through your brand.
So this week I found myself needing a reliable mechanic for my second car. I consulted Yelp. One place in particular caught my attention. Then I started reading the positive reviews. Now I was more interested. Then I read a negative review and the owners comment. He actually apologized and offered to refund the money spent. That was worth a phone call to see if they had time in their schedule.
So here are the three things that got my attention beyond the obvious good reviews:
They had 37 reviews and still had 4.5 out 5 star rating. It’s easy enough to get a handful of good reviews but statistically speaking more reviews means more accurate.
They had a picture of their entire staff out front dressed in their brand’s “green” t-shirts including the business owner’s wife and kids and token dog. The picture showed personality. The staff appeared genuinely happy and they looked like a tight knit group. Then with the dog and family they appeared respectable and trustworthy. This place is a family owned business. I respect that. Then to top it off the bright green t-shirts popped up my phone’s screen.
They offered a special deal. These guys knew one of my primary pain points – cost. I do not enjoy spending more money on repairs then my wardrobe thank you very much. They made it a little easier to choose them over 100’s of other options.
Important Take Aways:
- Social media is a powerful extension and expression of your brand. When leveraged intentionally it can attract and get business you otherwise would never find through traditional networking or marketing.
- In today’s market its critical to be transparent and yourself. Bringing your unique qualities to your brand is actually an asset. Don’t be afraid to show a little personality.
- It’s extremely important to get into your audience’s shoes. You need to know what really matters to them and how you can improve their life.