Original story posted here

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben


Superman is the Man of Steel. The Hulk has extraordinary size and strength; Black Widow is an expert assassin; and Aquaman can, um…well he can talk to fish (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but it does come in handy sometimes).

Before you can be a hero, you first need to be super. You need to find that one special something that sets you apart.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be from Krypton or get bitten by a radioactive spider. Every person – and virtually every brand – has a power unique to them. It’s just a matter of finding it.

Your Power or “Brand Truth”

Let’s break down the word “Superhero:”

  • “Super” is about where your “power” resides (also known as your “brand truth”)
  • “Hero” is about your “purpose” and manifesting your power in the world

Your brand’s power or truth is a factual, positive statement. It’s something no one else can say, or at the very least something no one else can say with honest conviction. “We stand for,” “we do this better than anyone,” “we have this” – the statements are direct and definitive.

Your brand may still have struggles or even aspirations for another power; this is normal and expected. But part of being “super” is embracing what you do best and forging ahead no matter what the obstacles or consequences. This is what gives your brand those human qualities that create empathetic connections with audiences.

Google’s “super” is search – despite all the other products it makes, its ability to “organize the world’s information” is what gives Google its power and market dominance.

For outdoor clothing company Patagonia, its “super” is more personal. Founder Yvon Chouinard and his band of climbers and surfers discovered that their simple, minimalist lifestyle could translate into a clothing company that reflected their ethos.

Using Your Power with Purpose

All heroes need a purpose, a “why” that defines their beliefs and drives their actions.

Patagonia’ found its purpose in the environment: “Our mission is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,” says its Web site.

A true purpose like this one goes far beyond a simple “mission statement” – it is the reason you exist in the world. And Patagonia backs up its purpose with action, providing environmental grants and support, encouraging activism for environmental causes and championing fair labor practices.

Your purpose helps define who you are – it’s the DNA that runs through your brand and pushes it forward. It’s determines how you will be remembered and whether you mattered.

Be an “Action” Hero

In the big picture, having a power is less important that what you do with the power you have. Put another way, brand superheroes are “action” heroes.

It’s easy to give speeches or publish “thought leadership” pieces like this one. It’s easy to post carefully crafted corporate positioning statements or write formulaic press releases.

But as Tom Hanks, in his role as manager of an all-female baseball team in A League of Their Own, said to one of his players:

“Baseball is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.”

Taking action is never easy. Telling stories is far simpler than living the stories you tell.

But that’s what separates the heroes from the mere mortals. Actions – and holding yourself responsible and accountable for those actions – are what turn a life into a legacy.

Then, and only then, will the “hard” of being a brand superhero make you great.