The delicate act of playing piano at a Starbucks

Piano Magic

I’ve learned something valuable about positioning and messaging in the three and a half minutes since I’ve entered my neighbourhood Starbucks. Let me walk you through my experience:

The best-selling author
This particular Starbucks is located on the second floor of a bookstore. Upon entering through the front doors of said bookstore, I was immediately absconded by an incredibly aggressive visiting author who was obviously making up for the lack of traffic around his display table. He abruptly plunked a copy of his book in my hands and began telling me about how emotional and powerful it was. If memory serves me well (and it was only three and a half minutes ago, despite every effort to block it out) he started by asking if I’d ever heard of him. There’s no easy way out of that response: “No, sorry”. My urgent need to be anywhere but at that display table had to be obvious, yet he showed no sign of letting up, replacing the book with a leaflet of “journalistic” testimonials and praise for his previous best sellers. I must admit I admired his confidence, but I’d clearly had enough abuse and with a quick “good luck with that,” I bolted for the Starbucks.

The piano player
Just as I’d made my escape I was delivered into a world of honkey-tonk, jazz and Rhianna all gone wrong. Three teenage girls were crammed on the stool of a babygrand, hammering aware at the keys. Perhaps they were hoping there was a talent scout nearby—incognito, sipping a latte and making plans for the trio’s debut album release. But I’m guessing there wasn’t.

A quick scan of my surroundings made me aware that I wasn’t the only one put off by their playing. The room was mostly filled with students, seniors and other professionals (nose deep in laptops). They squiggled and squirmed, frequently shooting over-the-shoulder glances towards the instrument that would have sounded much better if it were still an elephant. It was a disturbance to all. Oddly enough no one complained to management. And I can’t surmise why. Or for that matter why I didn’t complain myself. But that’s another blog post perhaps.

It got me to thinking about the platforms themselves. The bookstore provides the display table, the Starbucks supplies the piano. Obviously they both want people to use these devices. I’m sure both companies feel that the benefits being embraced freedom of expression, enhanced conversation, camaraderie  and an uptick in sales. But all that really comes down to how that platform is used or as in my examples, abused.

In business, we all are afforded a platform by which to engage customers. It may be our websites, social media platforms or even public (not that social media isn’t public) settings. The real task lies in how we position ourselves within these environments: If the message  (we could substitue with ” the product” here) rocks, but the delivery blows, you’ll be lucky to close the deal; if the message sucks, but the delivery sparkles maybe someone will buy your sucky product. But if both the message and delivery bombs—than guaranteed—no one will buy it. They’ll just stare awkwardly at the ceiling and contemplate ratting you out to management.

Magic piano image courtesy telobonjor, used under Flickr Creative Commons License.

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Carson D. Samson

I do stuff. All kinds of stuff. And I really, really like Star Wars.