will-work-for-foodI’m in Seattle today – walked a couple blocks from my hotel to a salon. In those two blocks I was panhandled six times. Times are tough.

But it got me thinking. This is a form of marketing (and I mean no disrespect to the growing homeless problem). But if you are forced (or is many cases choose) to work the streets for cash, you have lots of competition. Here’s what I saw:

1. A kind of scary looking guy holding out a cup.
2. Two teenagers with a cardboard sign that read “Conducting Human Compassion Experiment”. Clever.
3. A very jovial man who complimented everyone that walked by. Big smile, and holding out the lid of a cardboard box (like the kind printer paper comes in). He loved my hair (told me that coming and going) but it felt weird to “tip” the guy for a compliment. Right?
4. A young girl with career limiting facial piercings and tattoos and wild wild hair (even by my standards) playing the violin that could land her a symphony position. She was amazing! Also had an adorable dog with a red bandana around his neck.
5. Cardboard sign that read: Cold and broke.

I could see all five of these people if I stood in the middle of the intersection (which would not be a good idea) but you get the point.

Again, I am hesitant to write about this, and even ran it by some friends last night who encouraged me to do so – to make a point.

Brand is your reputation. Period. We all have a brand. And in this economy it’s important to figure out what that is – not only for your business, but for yourself.