Perhaps the real challenge for organizations looking to find their unique personality is figuring out how to convince clients that newly discovered personality isn’t yet another marketing trick or sales tactic.

When I joined The LEGO Company in 2001, the makers of those ubiquitous plastic bricks had all but flat ignored the adult LEGO fans (AFOLs) for decades. These talented enthusiasts were artists, choosing an odd medium to be sure, but artists nonetheless. Because LEGO was a kid’s toy company, most colleagues didn’t see much reason to support this small market segment. But with the rise of internet and online community, they had begun to collect and connect and their minority voices were carrying new weight.

Almost immediately after I started, I began building a relationship with the adult LEGO fans (AFOLs). I sat in rooms around the world with small groups and large groups hearing complains and concerns about the way they’d been treated for so many years.

As we used to say, “turning a battleship doesn’t happen quickly” and despite my best efforts to make big change happen fast, changing decades of corporate behavior didn’t happen quickly. But change was happening, I just had a hard time getting the AFOLs to believe my claims to that affect. Unless they met me in person, and even then, there was a commonly held and completely untrue assumption that every positive thing I did for the community had ulterior motives.

In 2003, I created a series of comic strips to showcase the mindset, issues, and interests of the adult fans for people inside the company. It was a fun and comical look at some fairly complex issues, distilled into four-panel strips and complete with punchlines. Eventually we took the comic into print form and distributed them to the AFOL community. Our main goal for that print run was to give the AFOLs a tool that they could use to engage “sleepers” (adults interested in LEGO building but who weren’t yet part of the community).

But distributing the online and print versions had a strange side affect: AFOLs started to show increased public and private support for my activities. Within a relative short period of time my trust level within the community took a serious leap upwards. One enthusiast told me, “I wanted to believe what you said, that you had good intentions; but now there’s no question.”

If this project taught me anything, it’s that personality is more than just telling customers what you or your company are about; personality is showing that you’ve learned something and doing something about it.

(You can find a PDF version of the comic in several languages at http://www.legofan.org/links/links.html)