Sunday, May 13, 2007

 

Creating Community (in the real world)

Marketers, product planners and entrepreneurs across the globe are working feverishly to create more effective, relevant communities of consumers online. Many are looking to complex consumer behavioral studies, deep online usage patterns, and other research tools to determine the right products to engage and retain consumers in a meaningful, profitable relationship.

And while new data and research can teach us plenty, the offline world has a few lessons for us as well.

Take for example, the city of Kirkland, Washington. Kirkland is a suburb of Seattle, and has its fair share of rainy, gloomy weather during the late fall, winter and early spring months.

That's why the summer months, which up here in the Pacific Northwest can be spectacular, are so important to building and sustaining community.

Each year, the City of Kirkland's Parks and Community Services team puts together a wide variety of events, festivals and other community gatherings, but this year they may have outdone themselves.

There are food & wine festivals. Car shows. Outdoor movie nights for families. Two different weekly farmer's markets in different corners of the city. Baseball tournaments. A summer concert series, spanning two nights each week on the downtown waterfront. A triathlon specifically designed for kids.

And the list goes on and on.

These isn't just a gathering of random public events, publicized together. The city staff studies their constituents, has a master plan for the community they want to create, and does a great job with execution.

Maybe I'm a little biased, as I both live and work in Kirkland. But I've lived in several places around the Seattle area, as well as in California, and I know this level of breadth, coordination and planning is quite rare.

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