Have you ever set two people up you thought would be perfect for each other? Then you see them meet. You see the spark. The human connection. Have you ever seen a meme and thought about someone, sent it to them, and they message you back saying they are so happy because it made their day because it said exactly what they had been thinking.
For me, that’s what marketing is. It’s about helping bring people together. It’s about human connection and community. Within the indie creative community, it’s about helping people connect over the expression of the majesty of the human experience. It’s the moment where people say in concert I get you/you get me.
To help bring people together in a sea of possibilities, you have to understand how people navigate this life and the world of communication in order to help soul mates, writer and reader, together.
I’m trying to do this in two ways. I’m building a community of creatives to help them know that they are not shouting into an empty and uncaring void. I want to help expand the stage for voices that have gone unheard. I want to build a community of collaboration and cooperation to help in this endeavor.
I also want to help those who are trying to build a business make the most out of their endeavors.
I have struggled with how to live out my passion and still pay my bills. There are writers who are passionate about their stories and still want to get paid to do it. Why do I feel guilty that I want to be able to pay my bills doing something that I feel passionate about?
Marketing has an aura of lies and manipulation. Just mention the Fyre Festival. Mad Men. The prepared food industry. Fast fashion. What do you think about? Fraud? Manipulation? Conspicuous consumption and waste? I do. During the 1960s a famous marketer coined the term guerilla marketing to describe a strategy and collection of tactics that radically shifted how marketing was done. The term itself was borrowed from psychological warfare used during the Vietnam War. This term coming from war makes my heart ache, because it is the exact opposite intention for relationship building that I endeavor to pursue. It makes the consumer the enemy to trick into betraying their country, their homeland, their people, their values, themselves. That’s not the kind of relationship that I want to foster, even if there is an exchange of money.
That’s where I think that the problem that I have gets gnarly. Money. I agree that worshipping money and having it be the sole focus of your life doesn’t lead to happiness. I do think that if your focus is on gaining money through deception, manipulation, fraud, and theft is immoral. I don’t think that a fair exchange of resources, be it barter of product and services or for currency, is bad. Money isn’t the problem. Money represents resources. It makes it easier in exchanges of resources. Pay your landlord rent in chickens or money. If the landlord doesn’t need chickens, but actually needs something else, converting chickens to the something else isn’t as easy as converting money to that something else. If the exchange of resources is fair, then that exchange isn’t immoral. It’s just an exchange. It’s a way to live in the world without having to be a hunter/gatherer.
If I’m just exchanging my expertise and experience (a resource) for another resource, why do I feel guilty about it? I know I’m not trying to be unfair in the exchange. Those who have gotten and used my advice have found it valuable. Do I have a knee jerk reaction to undervalue what I have to offer? Sure. Or is it that I’m feeling guilty for commodifying my passion for connecting people together? To be honest, I think in large part that’s it. Here’s the rub. I have no ideological or ethical problem helping creative people live the best life by commodifying their passion, their creativity. So why is it different for me?
I think it gets back to my unchallenged perception of what marketing is and can be. I think that I have the perception that marketing is fluff, is manipulative, is just trying to trick people, is based on empty ideas and theories about what makes people tick. In the 60s sitcom Bewitched, Darren was an ad man. He was forever coming up with catchy jingles to win people over to some unnecessary product. Guerilla marketing was designed to infiltrate the personal space of consumers and framed those consumers as enemy combatants. And that’s where I’m stuck. I feel like I’m in a no win battle against this perception. That every time I promote my webinar I’m just like those unhelpful marketing advice writers who sell a service that doesn’t really help but is filled with meaningless platitudes and unactionable suggestions.
I have been reading marketing advice books like a man who had been trapped in the desert drinks water. I keep hoping that the marketing book will give me some insight that I hadn’t thought of or hadn’t run across in the behavioral science literature. To my dismay, the advice is not good. Ranging from problematic application to based on faulty understanding of behavior to contradicting itself to the point of being nonsensical advice. The only marketing book that I am finding at all solid is the Cambridge’s Handbook on Consumer Behavior. The problem with that book is that it’s not written for the layperson. It’s written for the advanced marketing scholar, who has had at least some coursework in psychology. So there’s a lot of theory to sift through and little to no application.
I find the theory of consumer behavior fascinating. How do people find things for their daily lives? Why do they choose this over that? What people consume is a peek into their everyday lives, it is a slice of life, a snippet of the human experience at its very core, it’s very basic. What we eat, drink, and use to take care of ourselves is the foundation of our experience as humans. And this captivates my imagination.
As much as consumer behavior captures my imagination when I share this fascination with others is like a drug for me. When I share this knowledge and they get it and can apply it, I feel a high without a hangover. And if I can help people to appreciate this mesmerizing glimpse into what it is to be human, then that is bliss.
Marketing to me is not what the Mad Men did or the promoters of the Fyre Festival. It’s not engaging in infiltrating the consumers private space as an enemy combatant. It’s about understanding one sliver of what it means to be human. And it is the human experience in action, where humans can connect with their soul mates. I don’t want to add to conspicuous consumption. I just want to help people find things they will cherish or that will add to their lives. I’m matchmaker.
Do you want to find the story of your brand that is authentic and speaks your truth? Do you have a creative project that you need help marketing or do you need help branding the project, contact me for a consultation and personalized marketing strategy plan. I would love to help you discover your story and to help you find your soulmates—your audience.
Line editor Claerie Kavanaugh.
©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved.
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