The other day I went to one of my favorite people watching spots: Starbucks.
Now, Starbucks is different from other coffee shops because it doesn’t just attract weirdos like your normal indie coffee shop. Starbucks also attracts trophy wives, middle school girls, work-at-home dads, and the aforementioned weirdos.
This one guy walks up to the counter, “I’ll have a tall black coffee please,” he says. Respectable enough. Normal. Expected.
And then another guy walked up. The Starbucks employee goes:
“Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get you?”
Weirdo: “Ohhhhhhh my god do you guys have that new cool little coffee thingy machine?”
Weirdo: “Cool!! I’ll have a coffee can I used my gift card?”
Employee: “This is a circuit city gift card, sir.”
Weirdo: “What? Why wouldn’t you take this?”
Employee: “What do you mean? -.- ”
Weirdo: “Ok I’ll have one of those cute little cakes too. And some mints. And OHHHH this little thing.”
And the conversation went painfully on for way too long.
After I laughed to myself for a while, I casually thought about what makes some people stand out and become memorable while others are invisible.
Here are some revelations from my short Starbucks session, on standing out:
1. Be a weirdo
Being weird is a funny thing, because weird can be both good and bad. You can be weird in a creeper stalker way, or weird in that idiosyncratic kinda dorky genuine way.
But either way, weirdos always have some undertone of lower self confidence to them. Standing out for a weirdo just means doing something so off the wall that people will definitely give you attention, but it’s not guaranteed to be attention you necessarily want.
For example, an employee at Whole Foods asks how you are when you are checking out (they are required to), and you reply 2 ways:
1. Fine, thanks.
2. OMG SOOOO FANTASTIC I just had this yoga session.. blah blah
You definitely are a weirdo answering like number 2. It’s just not expected. You’ll be memorable but it’s up to the person interpreting it whether or not you’re memorable in a good or bad way.
Business tool? Do something totally off the wall. Make something like a Furby, Tickle-me-elmo, ass-less chaps, or chicken diapers.
2. Use an Accent
Sometimes when friends and I get bored we play the accent game. Along the lines of ordering coffee, I was once in a Starbucks in New York and had an accent when I ordered.
This old guy interrupted me while I was paying and said: “Wow that’s an incredible accent you have there, where are you from, Norway?”
Norway? Are you fucking mad? [ It was Australian ]: “Uhh no sir, I’m American.”
Old guy now hitting on me: “Wow, that’s fascinating. You’re an interesting young lad!”
Business tool? Take a slight spin on something already there. A dust pan with prongs so you can scrape the broom, a power outlet that can be molded and shaped, a utensil holder from a washing machine put in women’s purses (All have been multi-million dollar ideas).
3. Be Ridiculous
One time my boss asked if I could pick up a coffee for her. I hope she reads this so she knows how insane I must’ve looked ordering it, being a straight guy:
Double mocha, caffa-lappa-frappa soy milk 4 sugars half decaf half regular whipped cream organic non-fat 195 degrees. (The 195 degrees was just for confirmation, mind you)
Naturally, the people at Starbucks found it entirely normal (Stepford wives was filmed in my area, that should tell you something), but I was mortified and probably lost any respect I had after writing how to be a badass for business men.
Business tool? Be so niche-specific that anyone who isn’t familiar with your niche would laugh.
Like dressing up as a smurf and dancing to Numa Numa? Perfect. Make a fan club.
Enjoy combing your Trolls’ hair? Excellent. (Need a reminder?) Blog it.
Have a fascination with the mating habits of Monarch butterflies? No one cares. But seriously, it’s specific enough that you can get a highly targeted, pre-qualified audience that is ready to buy something from you (or at least be interested).
Respect comes more quickly in a niche, as does establishing pseudo-authority.
We live in an exceedingly strange world, full of people who ended up where they are due to extremely unusual circumstances.
Maybe some people act weird just to stand out and be memorable, while others do it because they are… well.. just weird.
But at some point you have to see it like this: at the end of the day, the Starbucks employee is not going to remember very many of the 500 faces she served coffee to today.
Is your face going to be one of them?