Community over mainstream

(May 29, 2020)

Last week, I talked about how the future of online businesses is about not marketing to the masses, but building a community, just like you would have if you owned a corner store 100 years ago.

But building relationships online is more challenging.

For one, there’s more competition who are vying for people’s attention. Also, you have to work a lot harder to build trust.

After all, any hustler online can hide behind a virtuous guise to disingenuously persuade people to buy.

People know that, too.

This is a shame, of course. Genuine businesses have to work twice as hard to show that they are creating meaningful change.

So, how do you build trust?

Well, you need to be hyper-specific about who you are and who you’re here for. Business owners may intuitively know these things.

But here’s the thing.

The world is quite unforgiving. Customers are hard to find. The day-to-day tasks of running a business are stressful. Then there’s financial uncertainty. And the difficulties of attracting the right talent.

Often, in the face of that, we (as small business owners) can end up undermining the integrity of the company’s founding principles for an extra click, an extra sale.

In doing so, we alienate our true fans, the original adopters, and panhandle to the masses, diluting the very difference that made us stand out in the market in the first place.

The opportunity is not to panic. But to remain grounded in the company’s original message and work hard at not attracting everyone but seeking the few forward-thinkers who will be with us for life.

That is one reason I created the Brand Story Intensive: a thorough guide to a brand’s audience, origin story, values, personality, and tone of voice.

This way, a company can have a framework to discern what is strategically important for the brand’s future, and what isn’t.

You can discern what your marketing strategy is, who you hire, what your content should centre around, how your company should sound.

This is not centred around selling but creating a company people want to identify with.

This is about resisting the mainstream and creating a community.

Over time, drip-by-drip, you will create a culture and build a niche market and attract other like-minded folks.

This may be a slower build. And you may not get rich quick.

But you will build resilience. And it will be a lot more meaningful.

A case study 

Dave Chappelle, at 28, was one of the most successful comedians the world has ever seen.

This was on the backend of creating the Chappelle Show.

Before that, he, like many comedians, was an underground entertainer.

But by the end of the second season, he was a worldwide success and Comedy Central offered him 50 million dollars to do a third season.   

Chapelle, though, walked away.

He’s never overtly disclosed why he walked away. But he has hinted that when he broke into the mainstream, the nature of Hollywood showbusiness forced him to compromise the reasons why he became a comedian in the first place.

If he remained in that system, he said he would have to reposition his material to the masses and, in turn, lose the very audience that supported him as an underground artist.

Needless to say, Chapelle pissed off Hollywood and, because Hollywood had all the power, he disappeared from the public eye for 12 years.

But now, Hollywood is losing the game to Netflix.

And now Chapelle is back, creating Comedy Specials for Netflix for far more money than what Comedy Central offered him 15 years ago. His material is contentious, intellectually provocative, and challenges the mainstream social structures, which was something he did before the Chapelle show and something he wouldn’t have been able to do if he chose to become part of that system.

In 2019, Chapelle was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American humour and is regarded among critics and contemporaries that he is at the top of his game.

Who would have thought walking away from 50 million was the best career move he could have ever made?

So, how can you create frameworks so you can stay true to your company's purpose?

Virtual elbow bumps, 


. . .

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Brew Copy, a storytelling studio that helps you build your brand—with words. Contact me at Stay in touch on Instagram. Or on Linkedin.