Eye

It’s 6 p.m. and I’m driving home. And thanks to a Marquette detour, I end up in front of the Greyhound Bus Station. Sitting at the light, I look in; I briefly study the crush of humanity and begin my analysis. I fantasize that the woman with the backpack is a nursing major traveling home to see her boyfriend. The dark figure next to her is an elderly man who smells of tartar sauce. We all make snap evaluations — it’s a psychological defense. And we do the same when shopping for the stuff we buy. Do you see where this is going?

Yes! Advertising 101. Each one of us Milwaukeeans is a “brand” — from wide-eyed Mayor Barrett to that curious fellow who drives around in the decorated station wagon. In other words, we’re all walking, talking products. There’s little difference between you and a box of Tide. You both represent a personality, a position, and values, not to mention a unique, fragrant scent. You’re all in the business of “branding,” whether you like it or not. And sure, it may just be the latest trend in marketing, but its wonderfully complex structure mimics the nomenclature of our own human psyche.

And it’s the way businesses should approach their own products and services. Try to see your storefront, boardroom or warehouse on an emotional level. Would you want to hang out with this “person”? Would you like your widgets if they could walk and talk? Example: Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles — it sells freedom. And likewise, you should look at yourself and ask, “Do I like the product I see? Do I reflect a defined set of core values? Am I projecting a strong and appropriate brand identity? Am I appealing to my audience? Why am I wearing fishnet stockings with hot pants?” To thine own self be true.

We all could learn something from business — and they from us. Because the cold truth is, on an emotional level, we place people and product on the same plane. Not that we objectify people, but that we humanize products. You can look around and bear witness to strong, human-like brands: Harley, Trek, Kohler, Alterra. You could also look around and see self-actualized folks who outwardly reflect the truth that lies within. The take away? Let your freaky-flag fly, my friends. Assuming you can find the damn thing.