What was I, a New Yorker, doing in British Columbia’s Kootenay District?
A year ago I visited a Calgary client who invited me to his family’s country home for the weekend. It’s on the other side of the Rockies.
Hmmm…the other side of the Rockies, I thought?
I was delighted, picturing something like a drive up to the Catskills. Perhaps we’d stop at the local version of the Harriman outlet mall where I could visit old friends like Ralph Lauren, the Gucci family, Mark Cross. Or maybe a cute country store where I could buy knickknacks and the Canadian equivalent of pecan logs to bring home.
Then we drove and drove and nary a billboard.
We started driving west toward the Rockies. No stores. Just before we slammed into a Rocky, we turned south in the sense of interminable south, Rockies on the right and oceans of grass as far as the horizon on the left. Of stores, nary a hint. Of people, only suggestions like smoke from a remote chimney.
Finally we took a right to head west through the Crowsnest Pass, a thin valley, a flaw in the Rockies’ curtain of rock. The main feature here is a gigantic field of humongous boulders left over from a mountain slide a hundred years ago that killed a great many people.
“There’s the mountain,” said my sanguine host, pointing. “Turtle Mountain. They say the rest of it could come down at any time. See those cracks?”
“Why yes, yes I do,” I whispered. “Is this the fastest we can go?” My idea of natural beauty is the Canyon of Heroes on lower Broadway. Somehow we got out of Alberta and into British Columbia, which I had visited many times. Vancouver, BC. Lovely big city. This was not Vancouver. This was pioneer country and I was in a pickup truck with a cord of wood piled in its bed behind me.
Ahh…the great outdoors!
For the next couple of hours, we drove west then north and saw nothing, nada, nicht except a gazillion trees, more mountains, lakes, rivers, deer. Like Central Park on steroids.
Only the whole thing seemed to be on fire. “This will sound silly,” I said, “but aren’t we driving though the middle of a forest fire?”
“Oh, this is nothing,” laughed my host, the lunatic. “You should see it when it really starts to burn.”
“Those deer run away faster, then?” I wondered. “Is that a mountain lion?” Turns out it was a lynx, whatever that is.
No people, no billboards.
Finally, bored to tears, I watched, dubious but cautiously hopeful, as we slowed to pass through a small village (really small) and then came to a log cabin (like Davy Crockett’s only huge and with running water) on Wasa Lake.
It’s beautiful. People fishing, swimming, water skiing, sunbathing, barbecuing, drinking. Mountains everywhere. The whole horizon, all 360 degrees of it, is straight up. Clear blue sky, though, and soft light and there in the lake was a momma duck with all her duckling babies swimming behind her in a neat line, all but one. I called him Jerome.
Over the next few days, I saw Jerome consistently choose his own paths across the water despite occasional admonishing glances from his mother. Somehow he got to where the rest of them were going anyway.
I quietly cheered Jerome on. He was independent, creative and the despair of the duck establishment. How did a New York baby duck wind up way out here?
I always root for the Jeromes, the independent thinkers who do something unique, creative.
Outside the box? What box?
So last week I was speaking to hundreds of travel planners.
I thought of Jerome last week when I gave a keynote speech and several clinics at a travel association convention. I saw 150+ catalogs and only three of them were Jeromes.
Is your direct marketing a standout? Are you creating a great brand personality to endear yourself to your customers? Are you a Jerome or just another duckling swimming along in a line? Let me know what you’re doing that is unique right now. Please comment here. I appreciate it.