Eddie and Bill were sitting at an outdoor table at Scotty’s Landing having lunch last Friday. I had run over to the bayside shack right after my downtown lunch meeting to chat with a potential client and then needed to zip out to check on a video production in Coral Gables. But I had a couple of minutes before I had to be at the edit suite so I finished my meeting and walked over to say hi to my friends.
Bill was in shorts and sporting two days of stubble. Ed was in khakis and sneakers. Ed had a beer. Bill was drinking wine. Neither one was looking at their smartphones. And did I mention that it was 1:30 p.m. on a workday?
“Look at the two of you – happy as pigs in mangos, enjoying a beautiful day with nowhere to go, I said. “Man, I want to be you when I grow up.”
I told them about Starbucks envy.
You know about Starbucks envy. That’s when you go to Starbucks and see those people just sitting there in the sun. Usually they have a bike leaning against their table or they’re there with their dog. They’re reading something on their iPad or thumbing through The New York Times. Not a care in the world and clearly nowhere to rush off to — just enjoying being there.
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They remind me of Satchel Paige’s old quote, “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”
When I go to Starbucks, it’s usually to meet someone on the run — I’m meeting Marcos at the Starbucks in the Grove at 9 a.m. or Kim at the Starbucks on 69th Street at two in the afternoon. We’ll grab a cup of coffee or tea, share pleasantries for a moment or two, and then get down to work — exchanging ideas and layouts, strategizing next steps — and then run off to our next meeting. Of course, while we’re meeting we’re fielding text messages and calls, mostly about where we’re going next, who we’re going to meet, and what time we’ll be getting together.
But just to sit there and take in the scene, with nothing pressing to run off to… wow. My desires might be simple but that kind of takes my breath away.
So anyway, I told Bill and Ed about my fantasy — my Starbucks envy. Ed laughed and told me a story:
“I was walking through Coconut Grove one night and there were a couple of guys playing music on the street corner. They had a guitar case out in front of them and a few people gathered around and they were having a great time. I thought, ‘I want to do that, too.’ So that weekend I went out and bought a guitar and have been taking weekly guitar lessons ever since. I’m not so good yet but I’m giving myself 10 years because I want to be just like Turkel.” ( -PAUSE- Hey wait a minute, that’s me.)
Here’s the funny part. Until Ed mentioned that it was me and my buddy he stumbled upon playing music on that street corner in the Grove, I was listening to his story thinking, “I want to do that, too.” It wasn’t until he mentioned who he saw playing that evening that it dawned on me that I already do that.
It’s more than the old paradigm to “be careful what you wish for because you might get it.” In this case, it’s about realizing what you’ve already got, what the perception is of what you’ve got, and what your perception is of what else is out there. The grass is always greener, indeed.
And it’s not just a good thing to think about when you’re evaluating your life. It’s also a good exercise to do when you’re thinking about your brand. After all, a brand is not what you think of your company, it’s what the employees and your customers — and your potential customers — think about it, and what they feel about it. And it’s very possible that those two viewpoints are not in sync.
Kodak thought it stood for the finest in photography until its customers cared only about digital photography and Kodak found itself in bankruptcy. It might not have happened quite that quickly, but it did happen.
Palm thought its brand stood for PDAs until it realized that RIM’s Blackberry and Apple’s iPhone had stolen its market share.
And Blackberry, who thought its brand was de rigueur for portable communication in the corporate boardroom, is quickly discovering that its customers no longer agree.
Even powerhouse Google, which preemptively purchased YouTube to maintain their superiority in search technology, is now concerned that Facebook and the voice-recognition company Nuance, will take their place in both search and ad sales.
So whether you’re dashing to a meeting, playing music on a street corner or piloting the marketing activities of some of the world’s most important companies, remember that when it comes to your brand, perception IS reality. Even at Starbucks.