Explore culture, media, creativity and critical thinking. Subscribe now!

Goodbye to Marketing Ugly

ugly

“You need to massage the pain…” he said.

That’s standard marketing advice, depending on what you sell and the crowd you run with.

I had written a short ebook and was working on the sales pitch.

I shelved the project.

Not because I believed I couldn’t sell the book any other way, and not because I found myself in the wrong crowd.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to question online marketing culture in general, and in turn, where I fit in the spectrum. What I was seeing wasn’t pretty, and I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Say the word, “marketing” and you hit a wall piled with baggage. People react with suspicion. Everything is seen as a technique, designed to manipulate, to persuade customers to give up their money, often in an underhanded way.

Even if you simply say what you mean, it can still be perceived as a tactic.

Share a personal story, it looks like a tactic.

Cynicism goes with the territory.

In the online world, we’re bombarded with pop-up windows, endless sales pages, and sales pitches posing as blog posts. Some websites are so packed with ads and affiliate links it can be a struggle to read the content.

I’ve seen artists encouraged to follow that model.

I’ve also seen advice that could be called Academic: A Symphony in Five-Syllable Words. Or an approach that’s so Off-The-Assembly-Line (read: deadly dull, presentation sensibility circa 1995) it makes you think maybe a 9-5 job really would be better.

It’s ugly.

Small wonder people are so reluctant to dig into their own marketing.

But the crowd isn’t always right. The thing that’s loudest isn’t necessarily the best, and what works for someone else might not work for you.

The temptation to mimic someone else’s success can be hard to resist, even if their methods make you a little queasy.

Sometimes you need to learn that the hard way. Sometimes you buy in before you realize what’s happening, and you have to backtrack.

Sometimes you can spot the Ugly and run.

It takes guts to turn away from something that’s popular. Or at least what seems to be popular.

Questioning what appears to be conventional wisdom will lead you in the right direction: just who does this work on? Are these my people? Is this who I really am? And if not, can I play that role long term?

Formulas are fine—up to a point. The commonplace can be a starting point for where you need to be, especially if it doesn’t feel right. Rejecting someone else’s way can point you in exactly the right direction.

So go your own way. Learn the basics, ask the hard questions and trust your gut. There’s more than one way to do damn near anything.

Creative Commons image credit: Kevin Dooley