I’ve come quite a ways regarding marketing. This tweet from four and a half years ago pretty well sums up my prior feelings:
I would have summarized this revulsion as follows:
- Companies compiling my (meta)data is creepy
- The endless methods of scraping evermore information about consumers as means of maximizing profits is greedy
- Secretly studying people, for the sake of appealing to their tastes with advertising techniques, is despicable (akin to sneakily learning everything about a desired romantic partner to convince her or him you have loads in common, as in the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).
- Mindless profit increase—in the name of “fiduciary responsibility”—and the accompanying increase of resource consumption, degrades the soul and the planet.
Frankly, I do still feel those aspects of marketing are “gross,” and if anything these vile efforts have only ramped up since I expressed my disgust years back.
Supposedly, back in nobler times, advertising was considered so shameful that it was looked down upon to even display a sign above one’s place of business—that eagerness to part with the results of one’s craftsmanship indicated the seller knew he or she had created a lousy product and couldn’t wait to pawn it off on some passing rube.
Whether or not such an idyllic time ever existed, it would naturally be useless and naive to pine for a return to such standards, when there’s arguably more momentum behind marketing than ever. As of 2013,
[American] Financial services companies spend about $17 billion each year on marketing. That works out to about $54 a person per year.
…As a nation, we spend only about $670 million dollars on financial education, about $2 a person per year.Laura Schlachtmeyer and Irene Skricki, “How much money is spent on advertising financial products?”
Individual protest cannot affect that powerful capital whatsoever; I may personally sleep a little easier at night knowing I’m not personally contributing to the rabid consumption, data collection, and job destruction of Amazon, but the company itself will hardly notice.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…
…study ’em? Learn how to compete with ’em? Influence ’em? I can’t say I’m sure yet.
But I am sure that an individual is merely an individual, no matter how idealistic he or she is. Collectivization and collaboration are the only means of affecting change in the face of a powerful conglomerate. If I, or anyone, want to impact our current marketing/resource consumption/materalism paradigm, an “army of one” is insignificant.
Regarding the importance of digital marketing, for me, the personal is the professional. My idealism is the basis for my entering this field. It remains to be seen whether my talents will help accomplish the type of influence that I hope, or, hey, if my talents simply get co-opted by a company, or even if I have my idealism pacified by a decent paycheck. Alas, I’m officially giving it a shot!
Artistry and Strategy
I’m a millenial, but growing up in the ’90s I soaked up a lot of the (then, at least) ethos of Generation X—particularly their notions of authenticity. I fell hard for the flannel-draped philosophy of Not Selling Out. In my creative career, and particularly my music endeavors, I strove for trend-shirking expression, following my own muse, proudly ignorant of what’s popular.
Similar to my overall opinion of marketing, my opinions here have evolved as well, as in, I still hold my former beliefs, but I have better—and perhaps more maturely—contextualized them.
An example of how, well, limited my view once was: when I formed a band back in the halcyon days of MySpace, I refused to make a page on that site, thinking it would corrupt our pure artistry by diverting creative energy from music to cultivating some corny profile page. So for at least six months, we had zero presence online—meaning precisely no one had access to our schedule. And I legitimately thought that was the right thing to do.
While I still understand such romantic, if quixotic strategies, they’re largely self-defeating: what good is a band—authentic or not—if no one knows about them? This evolved mindset then extends to marketing at large.
I still hear bands complain about self-promotion, and I do get it; they’re afraid their going to scare off their muse. But the best way to break through the discomfort of marketing (one’s self, or otherwise) is to view it as a necessary evil that must be overcome, lest a band, company, cause, etc. be perfectly ignored. (Perhaps the best example of needing to “get over it” can be found in lonely adults who refuse to utilize online dating.)
I have come to appreciate the importance of digital marketing on personal and professional grounds. Inspired by personal objections to current marketing practices (with results that negatively reverberate through society), and as means of overcoming reluctance to marketing by embracing it, I am seeking to understand digital marketing, and to leverage that understanding to improve marketing practices from within the field.