Friday, November 8, 2013

The New Brand Me: Lessons Learned on Michigan Avenue

When I walk down Michigan Avenue to and from work, there is one rule I never, ever break. 

I always wear my sunglasses. 

I always wear my sunglasses, even when it is cloudy outside (I should note that I do not wear my sunglasses at night). I wear my sunglasses for two reasons:

The first reason is this. Despite my friendly, extraverted exterior, I am actually quite the Introvert. Living alone again has reminded me of this. I require long blocks of time by myself to just think quietly and recharge my batteries. What does this have to do with wearing my sunglasses? Part of being an extroverted Introvert means that I have to hide a mild problem. I suffer from a consistent, low-grade claustrophobia when I am amongst large crowds of people. Sunglasses aid in blocking the people out while walking through a crowded city.

And then there is point #2: 
Famous people always wear sunglasses.

If you happen to see me walking down Michigan Avenue, I will be dressed well, wearing one of my nice pairs of Cole Haan shoes, carrying my real Kate Spade purse, sunglasses on and headphones in. 

(Here in Chicago, everyone walking on the city streets has headphones in. Well, not the tourists, but like 85% of everyone else. I once asked my friend, Nicole, why people do that and she looked at me and smiled, "To listen to music, of course!")

I think that having headphones in also cuts down on my claustrophobia because I can tune out the word and listen to my Passion Pit or Hot Chip or just talk on the phone with my mom.

Back to my snobby-sounding comment about my brand name shoes and purse: I was not always this way. I did not always see the value or the power behind iconic (and expensive) brands.

But now, after living in the heart of the Magnificent Mile for three months, Michigan Avenue has taught me a few lessons that have helped me build some self-confidence.

Lessons from Michigan Avenue:

Lesson #1
Look, Susan, even if you want to feel comfortable and you just worked out at the gym, do not, under any circumstances, wear matching grey sweatpants, sweatshirt and slippers while walking on Michigan AvenueBecause, the reality is, you will match the look of the homeless people, and other people will look at you and wonder. I know that is a harsh reality, but it is true. And listen, you are fragile right now. So, you need to dress nicely and avoid matching the look of the homeless people on my street, because looking homeless is fine, but for you right now, looking homeless is not your brand.

Lesson #2
Do not underestimate the wisdom and value of the homeless people. This is their city too and try to appreciate the man who tells you, "Have a wonderful morning and make it a great day, sister!" every, single day. But, at the same time, be careful of your boundaries around the homeless people, because they have an agenda too. Like, remember that time last week when you gave $20 to that homeless monk and signed his peace treaty and he gave you a wooden bead bracelet and amulet for your desk at work? Yeah, that guy. He will continue to ask you for more money for his monastery in Tibet, and you will have to keep explaining to him, daily, that it was the only time you've given cash to someone asking for money on the street and you do not plan to do it again any time soon. To prove a point, you will show him that you have no cash in your wallet (because you spent it on a 30% off pair of Cole Haan shoes).

Lesson #3
Your job as a brand strategist is not meaningless and it is not "bullshit" as you've been saying to yourself for the past year. Because brands do matter. Not for what they stand for, but for how they make people feel. Think of how amazing you feel when you slip on those Cole Haan shoes, or when you slide your hand inside your soft, Kate Spade leather purse? Think about the amazing smell of Aveda and Kiehl's products, the Tiffany blue that brings you delight, or your experience working out at an Equinox gym. These are the gifts a brand can help you regain: Confidence, joy, delight and a sense of self-worth.

Lesson #4
Remember that day you sat by the Chicago River at the Vietnam memorial fountains and you cried? That was the day you really felt like your future brand looked cloudy. It was because you didn't get that Tiffany ring. You hid behind your Ray Ban sunglasses and just sobbed. But, guess what, Susan? I've been watching you walk up and down my street and I'd say you are looking pretty good. Sure, you work late some nights and I think you listen to your music too loud in your headphones, but, you know what girl? You live in Chicago, along the Magnificent Mile, and if you ask me, your personal brand is looking mighty fine.

So, that is how I think. I think about these things as I walk past Coach, Rolex, Cartier... I think about how yes, brands are just brands, but at the end of the day, it is your Personal Brand that counts. So you need to do whatever it is that makes you feel fabulous and makes your brand shine bright.

So don't shit on your personal brand, Ok? Don't criticize yourself in front of others. 

Would Tiffany point out that her bracelets clink kind of loud and annoying? No, because that is what Tiffany bracelets do. And would Nike say that it needs to lose a few pounds? No. Because Nike supports 400-pound runners and anyone else who feels like an athlete inside.

Be your Brand. Don't say shit about yourself, and you rock that walk on Michigan Avenue. I'll see you there, with sunglasses on.

1 comment:

  1. babe. missing you so effing hard right now.