Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, there’s a lovely little park in front of the Macy’s New York flagship store on 34th street between Broadway and 7th Avenue. I lucked upon a garden table and chair shaded from the sun by a big patio umbrella and cooled by the wind rushing between the buildings. With Macy’s free Wi-Fi and a nice breeze it’s the perfect spot to catch up with the office and our clients between now and my lunch meeting down the street.
The idea that a laptop, cell phone, Internet connection, and relatively comfortable place to position myself is all I need to get some work done isn’t new but I’m pleasantly surprised each time I rediscover it. I can’t even imagine how productive I wasn’t before technology made it so easy to work from almost anywhere.
But today’s revelation comes from something else. I’ve been wandering through New York from meeting to meeting over the last few days and I’m continually struck by how many people, businesses, brands, and ideologies want to stand out, constantly vying for our attention, our time, and ultimately, our dollars and commitment. And at least half of the people I’ve passed are busy thumb-typing away on their smartphones which means there’s a whole mobile environment that’s also fighting for their eyeballs and iWallets.
But the people, too, are all trying to stand out and get attention. There’s a woman with a pink Mohawk. A guy in a Thom Browne shrunken suit. A woman teetering on seven-inch heels. A woman in a Chanel suit and flip-flops.
There go a couple of guys in skin-tight tank tops with enough muscles between them for a whole football team. There’s a woman with a little dog in a stroller. There’s an old man in a baggy suit and collapsed pleather loafers. Even the scruffy folks hoping for handouts try to outdo each other and stand out with their hand-scrawled signs.
And it’s not just the street I’m on. Hop in the subway, bounce along for 20 minutes in any direction and you’ll surface miles away but still smack dab in the same swarm of teeming humanity – all trying to stand out – striving and searching for whatever it is they’re all looking for. Commercial success? Fame? Love? Companionship? Enough spare change to get a bite to eat? It’s a dog-eat-dog world and everyone’s trying to get their bone.
So how do you stand out? How do you make a difference? How do you build your business, sell your novel, promote your website, fund your non-profit, meet your mate, change your world?
If it were only through the function of being good at what you do then you’d have reached your goal by now. After all, you’re already great at your job – an acclaimed professional, a successful practitioner, a skilled technician.
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But it’s not enough, is it? Because in today’s world there are plenty of people who do what we do, all of them looking for their shot, auditioning for their spot, waiting for their moment. Few of them stand out.
And it’s not just on the streets of New York or Los Angeles or London or Buenos Aires, because today’s professionals only have to log on to the ‘Net to find legions of people around the world just itching to sell their wares. Radiologists in Mumbai, engineers in Beijing, web designers in Germany, social media experts in Indonesia. If people only want to buy what you do they can find it anywhere. Lucky for you, they want more.
What they want is you. More precisely they want you and how you make them feel. Even more precisely, what they want is you and how you make them feel about themselves.
For example, all cars can get people from Point A to Point B. But a Toyota Prius can make them feel environmentally conscious. And a Tesla can make them feel environmentally conscious AND successful. You see, it’s not about the function; it’s about the brand identification. A good brand makes people feel good. A great brand makes people feel good about themselves.